A touch of the exotic comes to The Groundlings Theatre later this month as Club Cairo brings its spectacular show, The Serpent Slayer, to town.
The show tells the touching story of two sisters on a magical quest, showing how hope can shine through the darkest skies. The cast of seven dancers and five musicians combine poetic verse and multimedia projections to create a world of magic and fantasy.
As Club Cairo's founder, writer, director, choreographer and dancer, Carmen Jones is the creative power behind the show.
'The Serpent Slayer is like the drama piece of the evening, which creates new fusions with dance and theatre,' she explains, 'and then in the second half we have a belly-dancing extravaganza with a live band, which is a very different vibe, it’s much more light-hearted. I’ve been a belly-dancer for many years, but with the theatrical side I’m trying to branch out in to new areas and create something fresh which kind of pushes the experience within the genre – it’s my unique take on it all.'
While Carmen wears several hats, she's quick to praise the rest of the team: 'I’ve got a great crew around me and we all pull together. They ‘re all very dependable and talented. It’s a major undertaking, but I’m so passionate about making it happen and to push things forward with this collaborative theatre that I am determined to do this.'
It was her father's love of Arabian music that first got her interested in the region's culture: 'It always resonated with me, I was really drawn to it, and I’ve always loved dancing as well, and the two came together in my early 20s and it hasn’t stopped since.'
And she's been able to tap into fellow grassroots belly-dancing groups.
'There is a scene. You don’t see it on every street corner, but if you go on social media there are groups all over the country and it’s a social thing for a lot of women. It doesn’t matter what age you are or shape, it doesn’t discriminate, it’s very inclusive. That’s one of the beautiful things about it.'
Carmen has been running belly-dancing events in her hometown of Bath for the past eight years, and created Club Cairo three years ago.
'I get a real multicultural mix of people coming to the events, it’s always about dance and live music – feeling the vibration of the instruments, it’s a real experience, I try to keep that alive and the traditions and the positive aspects of the Middle East. All too often you hear about the downsides and the darkness, but there’s a lot of positivity and joy there.
'As part of our show as well we’re trying to raise money for the Amar Foundation, which supports those caught in the crisis in the Middle East and helps to restore self-sufficiency to the people.'
The group's events has even helped change perceptions.
'I think what we do has changed a lot of people’s minds. Before they come they kind of think it’s something a bit titillating or whatever, it’s got that image, but then they see it and the work involved, they see the effort and the artistic abilities you need to dance in that way. It’s definitely a sensual art, there’s nothing sleazy. It comes down to the beauty of the feminine aspect – the sensual, not the sexual. It’s been really positive.'
The Groundlings Theatre, Portsea
Saturday, April 21