Celia Buchan teaches adult & teenager classes in Egyptian bellydance in Peebles and organises a hafla there on an annual basis.  (There was talk on the night of there being an April Peebles hafla too – I’ll add more info about this when I get it.)

I wasn’t sure what to expect, but had heard good reviews about past haflas in Peebles.  I wasn’t disappointed.

There was a lot of non-traditional music choices, which made for a nice mix-up of the aural stimulation and is something that I particularly enjoy. Tamsin from Edinburgh Uni performed a modern fusion dance to ‘Kiss’ by Prince while Tigerlily performed to a song that I think was one of Bjork’s.  A number of Celia’s students (Cara, Holly, Eileen and Roisin) performed to new metal songs, Louise (another of Celia’s students I believe) performed to ‘She Wolf’ by Shakira, Scarlett and Doris (also Celia’s students) also performed to non-arabic pieces if I recall correctly. Miranda performed her sword dance to what I think was a Loreena McKennitt song and the second to last performer, Eleanor, danced (in full modern cabaret outfit) to Ace of Spades by Motorhead.

There was also a fair amount of more traditional music choices – Catherine, Elspeth, Susanna (aka Habiba Dance), Celia, Phoenicia (a very late replacement for a missing performer, who was able to put a costume together from other people’s bits and pieces and pull off a lovely, gentle performance), the Helwa Hurdies (Elspeth’s group), Catherine’s group, the Daughters of Isis (sadly plagued by technical problems with their music that cut their performance short) and veteran dancer Meg all performed to arabic tunes.

Meg was last on and wowed everyone with her confident, accomplished performance.  There was nothing overly complicated in her movements or choreography and yet she held us all captivated.  It really reminded me of the way the ‘classic’ bellydancers performed – which is quite appropriate as Meg’s stage name is ‘Nagwa’  (as in Nagwa Fouad).  Here’s an old black and white clip of Nagwa Fouad dancing:

There was a huge mix of ages, abilities and shapes on the stage (one of Celia’s students, Scarlett, couldn’t have been older than 10 and was amazing!).  All were accepted and cheered on with gusto from the crowd.  It was beautifully inclusive.

As an added bonus and very nice bit of variety, right before the interval Celia arranged for a local didgeridoo player to perform with a local drummer.  They’d only met that night and had had 30 minutes to practice beforehand.  They jammed really well together and made a beautiful mix of sounds.  Celia dragged me and others up onto the performance area for a boogie and I must say I really enjoyed dancing to that music.  It reminded me of the below video.

(How impressive is Lauren Chesccio, playing didge and drum!)

The variety was something that I really enjoyed.  I think Celia planned it out really well, having different styles performing after one another – it means that, for me at least, as an audience member you don’t get bored with any particular style.  The other benefit is for the performers – it is much less intimidating to go on because you know the audience can’t make a direct comparison between you and the last act due to the difference in styles.

All and all it was a good night and I am grateful to Celia for organising, the various performers for doing their thing and very grateful to Zoe for driving me there and back home!

PS – If you want a giggle here’s a clipping from a Paisley newspaper with Meg and myself posing with a local dignitary back in June 🙂