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So this Saturday is my ‘workshop day’ – 3 workshops in one day, what was I thinking!?!  Still, I am quite looking forward to it.  I love the sound of the Ayoub, I particularly love being in a room full of people beating the rhythm out together.  It’s magical. Dancing or simply moving all together to that rhythm is very powerful too.

In between those two workshop is a Mothers & Daughter’s bellydance workshop.  I’ve always had a real giggle when I’ve done these in the past, so I’m looking forward to that too but in a totally different way.  There was a bit on an American TV show called The O’Reilly Factor recently where the producer went to a bellydance competition in LA.  You can see it for yourself here. This show is a right-wing, conservative show so they had a fairly negative, stereotyped take on bellydance, with the show’s star commenting afterwards that bellydance should be “sixteen and up for that sort of stuff”.  Seemed to like an excuse to show some female skin and then condemn it to me at least.

I do take issue with the idea that girls shouldn’t learn bellydance – obviously, running the Mum’s & Daughter’s workshop I disagree with that sentiment.  I wouldn’t go so far as to say that bellydance is not sexual or sensual because I believe that it absolutely can be.  I don’t think it always it – for example Zoe Jakes’ performances are not ‘sexual’ to my eyes, though they are powerful, as are all performances that I think of as ‘good’, sexual or not.  It’s this power that I think is of benefit to women and girls to learn to tap into.  It’s this power that I think is threatening to some people.  It’s morally repulsive to imagine a 12 year old girl performing a strip-tease for a male audience, but learning to isolate and control the movements of her hips, ribs, shoulders etc. and showing that off in a performance?  More power to her for learning to work with and appreciate her body.


The Hafla for Haiti was a lot of fun and best of all has raised, so far, £845 for Children in Need’s work in Haiti! Well done to Irene Hogg for organising it, Revolution Bar for hosting it and all the performers and audience members for coming along!

There was bellydance of all different types – Raqs Sharqi, Modern Egyptian, Classic Egyptian, Tribal and Tribal Fusion. There was also burlesque (two strip-tease artists), a poledancer, a flamenco dancer, a salsa couple and a couple of comedy bellydance/burlesque acts. It was really great to have such variety.

Here’s a clip from the night of Elspeth’s stick dance (very sassy!)

Also, it seems we’re not the only place to have this idea. Chattanooga – my home away from home – had a benefit night called ‘To Haiti With Love’ on Saturday. Like the Edinburgh event this had a broad variety of performers including musicians, poets and bellydancers with the lovely Mirabai troupe performing. Go bellydancers!

In other news… We’re having a hafla for Lorna of Cairo! Put the date in your diary – Thursday 18th March, 7-10pm, Teviot Underground at Bristo Square. Tickets are £8 in advance or £10 on the door. You can buy tickets in advance from myself, Elspeth or Caroline (of Bellydancingdivas).

In addition to the more local talent, Lorna will be dancing for us. Lorna is a local girl who moved to Cairo several years ago and now makes her living as a bellydancer over there. Here’s a short clip of one of her recent performances:

I’m looking forward to seeing loads of you at this, and if you’re interested in performing give me (or Elspeth or Caroline) a shout.

One of the things I’ve realised about why I love bellydancing and love teaching bellydancing is the incredibly strong, positive impact it’s had on my own body image and self esteem and positive impact I see it having on those women that I help to learn.

I think it’s hard to love yourself and to love how you look.  Not just because of the air-brushed images of female ‘perfection’ we are surrounded by, I think we are primed for it.  Freud & Calvin have told us that our innermost self is hostile, anti-social, corrupt – in a word, unlovable.  There are other, more positive perspectives on human nature that are coming more to the fore, but it takes time for this to trickle through.

There are plenty more factors that figure into our body issues and self esteem, there’s a whole body of literature out there about it.  But what I’m going to turn my attention to are some initiatives that are trying to help promote positive body-issues through dance.

My friend Tamsin has brought my attention to an initiative called ‘PURE’ – Public Urban Ritual Experiment.  One of the founders of this movement is Kaeshi (below) from Bellyqueen, a member of the bellydance superstars.

This initiative is “a collective of dancers and drummers who take music and dance out into the streets for the purposes of healing and peace.”  Here’s there promotional video:

Another, more local initiative that has come to my attention is ConfiDance for Life.  Their objectives are “the advancement of health by development of self-esteem, self-confidence and positive body image through dance… to make dance accessible to a range of people who would gain most from its therapeutic benefits and those who would have difficulty, for a variety of reasons, accessing such opportunities”

I hope and believe that in my small way I am making a positive difference in the lives of the people I teach.

A while back I got to thinking about authenticity in bellydancing and all the various paths you can take with it and it’s been kicking around my head ever since.  Samantha Emmanuel (formerly Hasthorpe) of the bellydance super stars has an interesting blog post about it here and what she says about utilising music from her “roots” has been bouncing around my head too.  I don’t necessarily think that it is important to dance to music that’s associated with where you physically come from, though.  I think it’s far more important to find music that moves you, that you connect with and feel inspired by regardless of origin.

Lately I’ve been feeling moved by some English-language songs but have been having a really hard time figuring out  choreographies for them (I’m getting back into choreography).  For a while I thought it was because I could understand the words and they were throwing me off (I don’t speak Arabic which is what many of the songs I’ve previously danced to were sung in, or alternatively they were instrumental).  But it occurs to me that the first song that made me want to be a bellydancer was ‘Mysterious Ways’ by U2 (video below, man I love youtube!).  “Desert Rose” by Sting is also a song that has for the longest time inspired me to move.  So what’s the problem?

Well the songs I’ve been thinking of choreographing are, well… not especially up-beat.  And because I understand the lyrics I’m  struggling to put movements to the words which are sensitive to the lyrics, that don’t ride-over or ignore the words but also aren’t too literal either.  And also because they mean something to me I want to be able to convey something of that meaning through my dance.  Oh yeah,  and I’m concerned that that’s all terribly pretentious…

Answers (or thoughts) on a postcard please.  Or you could just write them below 😉

EDIT: I’ve been trying to find a post I read a wee while ago that had images from a performance Rachel Brice did wearing a mask honouring her Grandmother who had died that year (from what I recall).  I’ve managed to find a clip or the performance on youtube (see below) but can’t find the post.  It’s an interesting ‘take’ on what I’m mulling over.

The Zaar ritual is a healing rite conducted (typically) by women for women in parts of East Africa and the Arabian peninsula.  It tends to involve, among other things, ritual purification, music and dance.  There is a mythology and history behind it that I intend to write about in another post, later.

I first experienced the musical and dancing aspect of the Zaar in a focus class that was run by Hilary Thacker, with Adam Reid drumming for us.  We spent the whole hour listening to this one rhythm that we called the Ayoub. Here’s a clip of this rhythm being demonstrated:

We practised movements very unlike our normal bellydance movements – much looser with no real concern for how they looked.  There was a lot of turning and twisting, throwing our hair around and throwing out our arms.  It was tiring, but the rhythm drove me on.  We kept at it for pretty much the whole hour and afterwards I felt amazing!  I’ve often experienced a ‘high’ after exercise, but this felt more profound than a straightforward exercise high.

That’s the reason that I took to researching the Zaar, and it’s the reason that I now share my knowledge by facilitating workshops focused on this combination of music and movement.  It’s the reason I call the workshops “Wellness and Energy Through Ancient Rhythm and Movements”, because it does energise and contribute to a sense of well-being in my experience.

If you’re interested in trying this out, my next workshops are on Saturday February 27th, as part of the Middle Eastern Spirituality and Peace festival pre-events.  You can book online here.

I’ve found out that a local long-time dancer, dance student and hafla organiser, Irene Hogg, is organising a “Hafla for Haiti” to raise funds for Save the Children‘s work in Haiti.  The hafla will be on Sunday the 21st Feb at Revolution on Chambers St.

Details of cost, times, performers etc haven’t been released yet (I’m not sure if it’s been sorted out yet), but I’ll put updates here and in the Edinburgh Bellydance Calendar if/when I find out more.  The plan is to have a variety of types of dance, including Indian, African, Salsa & Tango (in addition to bellydancing of course).  There’s a facebook event page has been set up here, and also a new Scotland Bellydance facebook group has been set up here by Martina Kyriazi a locally based dancer and teacher. UPDATE 11/2: I’ve heard from Suzie’s blog that doors will open at 7pm and tickets will be £10 on the door.

So if you’re free, come along, enjoy yourself & help raise money for a good cause!

Looking after yourself is incredibly important in general but particularly in professional endeavours where you give a lot of yourself (teaching, counselling, dancing are the three that I am most familiar with).  It’s important to remember, if this doesn’t come naturally to you (as it is with me) that if you don’t take care of yourself you will be of much less use to others – be you helping, teaching or entertaining them.  Even outside of professional endeavours I find that I am typically more tolerant, kind to others and fun to be around when I have been kind to myself.

And in this vein I class regular massage as part of my self-care.  It provides both a form of physical therapy for my body and another kind of ‘therapy’ for me.  I would urge you to try massage, if you haven’t already.  There are many different types with a back, neck and shoulder massage being an excellent type of massage to try out.

I tend to opt for full body massages when I get the chance, which is just what I did today.  A new beauty spa called Inner (city) Sanctum has opened up on Leith Walk.  I like supporting local business where practical and really wanted a massage, so I decided to give it a try.  I was not disappointed. Read the rest of this entry »

As part of the festival of Middle Eastern Spirituality and Peace that Neill Walker is organising in Edinburgh, there are a few events coming up that will feature live bellydancers.

The first is a concert, on this Saturday (Feb 6th), is a fund-raiser for the festival.  It costs £12/£10 (concessions) and is on in the Roxy Art House, doors at 6pm.  Full details, including where to get tickets can be found here.  Performing at this are local bellydancers, Constantina and Sheikha.

Here’s the most recent clip of Constantina’s dancing I can find (I can’t find any for Sheikha):

The next event is a ‘Safa’ which is a Turkish word meaning “party / entertainment / pleasure”. This one is on on Wednesday the 24th of February at Empires Cafe on 24 St Mary’s Street.  The dancers aren’t named as of yet, there’s more information about the event here (though you need to scroll down).

After this is a concert by (the only) local Turkish band, Joombush/Cümbüş on Sunday the 28th of February.  It costs £10/£8 (concessions) and is on at the St. Bride’s Centre on Dalry Road. More details can be found on the facebook event listing here.  Performing at this are local bellydancers Kardelen, Tigerlily and the group Paravana (comprised of Raquel Alvarez and Jeanette Hunter).  Aside from Tigerlily’s video’s (and I’ve already posted some of those in earlier blog posts here and here) I can’t find any of Kardelen or Paravana.  I can’t find any public photos of them either.

You can find details of all these events in the Edinburgh Bellydance Calendar and if you know of any other local live bellydancing performance events please tell me and I’ll add them in!

There are no tribal fusion teachers running regular classes in Edinburgh to the best of my knowledge.  Happily, though, Laura Monteith of Sarasvati Tribal runs tribal fusion workshops for the University of Edinburgh’s African & Arabic Dance Society.  Here’s a pic of Laura, and a pic of her troupe (which, incidentally, Tigerlily is a member of):

You can find the schedule of these workshops in the Edinburgh Bellydance Calendar.  They are split into a beginners session, 12noon til 1pm and then an intermediates session from 1-3pm.  Read the rest of this entry »

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February 2010
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