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This Thursday sees the return of the Musselburgh Hafla organised by the lovely Elspeth SwishandHips (photographed here by Kaleidoscope Studios)

The tickets are £5 on the door with all the proceeds going to Children 1st (who were previously known as the RSSPCC). It’s happening at the Musselburgh Rugby Club on Stoneyhill Farm Road (accessed from Eskview Crescent off Eskview Terrace). Doors are at 7.30pm for 8pm start.

From the sneaky peek I’ve had at the performers list it looks like it’s going to be a really diverse cracker of a show! I’ll be on, doing something different (ahhhhh! Why do I do this to myself?!?!). As Elspeth mentions on her blog, there will be a raffle and a bellydance bring-and-buy sale, where you can sell your bellydance bits and pieces (costumes, coin belts, accessories, etc).

Hafla, hafla! July 1st, 7.30pm at the Musselburgh Rugby Club – see you there!

Those of you living in the UK under a rock (or those of you living outside the UK) might not know that this weekend sees the return of Raqs Britannia, the UK biggest bellydance convention organised by Tracey Gibb and the Belly Dance Super Stars team.

Major statutory home repairs mean I won’t be there this year, to my great disappointment. I had a blast last year, took two inspiring and helpful workshops with Ansuya, the memory of which is not tarnished despite the fact that in the second one, the one on floorwork, I tore both quads and hobbled around in pain for quite some time afterwards. Both were interesting experiences for me. When I teach I prefer to teach small classes, and as a student I prefer small classes as well. But these workshops were packed – I mean there must have been at least 40 people in each, if not more, and they are far more expensive than regular classes. And yet, I still found them worthwhile.

I enjoyed the show (gasp!). I’ve read frequently on the internet that it’s “too much of a show” and “not real bellydance” neither of which seem particularly relevant to me, but because of how often I’ve seen it I feel the need to defend the fact that I liked it… It strikes me as the difference between seeing a popular band in a huge stadium versus an intimate, acoustic performance. They’re just different beasts. They also do the same/similar routines several years in a row which I’ve heard criticised but I don’t see that as much different to bands playing their popular songs. I mean, if you’d never seen Petite Jamilla before I think it’d be pretty sad not to see her do some version of her spinning double veil routine.

This year Germany’s Leyla Jouvana will be in attendance, teaching workshops over the course of the weekend. I met her in Tennessee several years ago where I took a weekend intensive workshop with her and her partner and drummer, Rowland. They were a great team and Leyla was a good teacher – energetic, upbeat and challenging. She also differentiated the teaching well to work appropriately with the different ability levels in the class.

If you’re lucky enough to be going – have a blast!

Jean-Paul Sartre, a French existential philosopher, wrote that “Hell is other people.”  From what little I understand of his thinking, what he actually meant by that is quite complex although the gist of it seems fairly simple to grasp.  It’s that idea I sometimes hear, particularly from people who like to think of themselves as ‘lone wolves,’ the idea that life would be far superior were they to be alone without a requirement to deal with other people, particularly their demands and needs.

As the careful reader may have inferred from my writings this isn’t a position that I happen to agree with.  Sure, people can cause no end of misery to one another and I am quite certain that in my future work as a counsellor I will spend many hours walking alongside people in profound pain due to their experiences with others.  But this does not mean we’d all be better off alone.

Interestingly there is an increasing amount of evidence to show the links between certain types of mental illness and social isolation.  Learning is understood to be a fundamentally social activity.  We need one another.  In their work The Complexity of Connection, Jordan, Walker and Hartling write (on page 2): “…connection is at the core of human growth and development. Isolation is seen as the primary source of human suffering.  We believe that human beings grow through and towards connection.”

I have had a beautifully personal experience of that today.  I was in a bit of a ‘funk’, feeling a bit blue, a bit grumpy for no reason that I could fathom.  And then I went to teach my women’s group, and by the time I’d been there 10 minutes I felt all better.  After class finished I had a cup of tea with some of them outside in the garden and we chatted.  I felt all happy; the funk had been completely dispelled.

Community is a powerful thing, it has its good parts and its bad, but for humanity it is an entirely necessary thing.  I’m really going to miss teaching and spending time with those wonderful women when my sessions there come to a end.

After a little bit of stress about where we would perform (NOT the cobbles!) and worry about whether or not the weather would hold, things turned out marvellously! Nice paving stones for the dancers to perform on and nice sunny weather (though there was a bit of wind). I wasn’t ‘together’ enough to remember to bring my camera, but Susanna of Habiba Dance has very kindly allowed me to use her (beautiful) pictures from the event.

There were some technical difficulties right at the start of the event, which plagued the beginning of the youth choir, but got ironed out and the kids sung their hearts out. It was very cute. Following them were Susan Tonner’s ‘Twisted Tails’ tribal group:

(Picture courtesy of Susanne, Habiba Dance)

There were loads of them, all beautifully and lushly dressed, all co-ordinated. What I love about tribal is its strength and dignity and this performance had that in spades. Well done ladies!

Next up was a band described as “Samba Fusion” – it comprised of bagpipes, electric guitarists, singers and young people playing drums. Really interesting sounds, and I was particularly happy when they put out a version of a Proclaimers song (I have a soft spot for the Proclaimers, what can I say?). Following them were another band, fronted by the cousin of one of my students (such a small world!). They were raising money for LGBT Youth Scotland, and man that singer could wail! He had a brilliant voice and the rest of the band were equally talented. My attention started to dwindle however, not because of any lack of talent from these guys, but because my girls were up next…

They performed beautifully – I was so proud; their first public performance! Susanna captured them below just after they’d finished all together with Elspeth’s class – you can see some of the performers still in their final pose. Although the theme colours of the event were red, I had my girls in blue to differentiate them from Elspeth’s dancers. They made their tassel/fringe belts themselves and either made or customised their own tops too. What talented ladies they are, in many fields!

(Picture courtesy of Susanne, Habiba Dance)

Next up were Hilary Thacker’s students, performing a veil dance. The wind had picked up by this point, but they managed admirably, veils held for much of the time in a ‘backwards butterfly’ position which coped well with the wind. The tie-dye silk looks really nice fluttering in the breeze. Following on their heels were local troupe Zahirah, who’d managed to put a choreography together despite not actually being able to practice together (the wonders of modern technology!) and despite injury. Last on were the Helwa Hurdies, dancing their lovely flamenco-inspired piece. It’s one I’ve seen before but I was happy to see it again, it was beautiful and strong and a great note to end the bellydancing on. And here’s some footage Elspeth took of the dancing:

After the Hurdies performed the balloons were released. Check out the expression on the kids faces:

(Picture courtesy of Susanne, Habiba Dance)

It was a great night, lots of community spirit (in spite of one bothersome/attention seeking kid) and lots of local talent!

…and you know, I think the next time I’ll be seeing live bellydance performances will be at the Mussleburgh Hafla, July 1st. Hope you can make it too!

…and what a treat you have in store for you – not one bellydance performance, not two bellydance performances but a whole heap of them!

After a local choir kicks things off at the “Red Leith” event at 7.30pm you will be entertained by the ‘Twisted Tails’ tribal bellydance group. THEN after some upbeat Samba fusion and more music some of the other Leith Bellydancers will be up to entertain you around about 9pm. Students from Elsepth’s and my own class will be performing together, students of Hilary Thacker will be dancing as will local group Zahirah, and of course veteran performers, the Helwa Hurdies!

So come along and make some noise for the Leith Bellydancers! Friday, 7.30pm, Malmaison at the Shore – be there or be square 😉

To brighten up this rainy summer day, allow me to introduce you to Tamsyn:

I first met Tamsyn at a tribal fusion workshop where I couldn’t help but notice that she had a scar that was almost identical to my own. We were scar buddies! So we got talking. Over time I’ve learned that, as well as being an enthusiastic bellydance aficionado and a great dancer she’s a very knowledgeable (and thoughtful) teacher. We share a love of tribal fusion, but also both have broad tastes in bellydance and appreciate lots of different styles. I feel lucky to have her as my dance buddy and friend.

Which is all lovely, but why am I telling you about Tamsyn? Well… she’ll be taking over my classes at The Yoga Room from September onwards! She’ll be coming along to a class or two in my next term so if you’re thinking about continuing you’ll get the opportunity to meet her then.

And to finish off this post, here’s another gorgeous picture of her from a recent performance in her newest outfit (made by her own fair hand – where do her talents end? 🙂 ).

Come along to the piazza outside Malmaison at The Shore next Friday (June 11th) for the “Red Leith” event which kicks off the Leith Festival. There will be a whole bunch of community performances, including a few by Leith Bellydancers. Students from Elsepth’s and my own class will be performing, as will other local bellydancers. And… it’s all free – so come along for a couple of hours and be entertained!

And if you’re not sure where Malmaison is, here’s some help courtesy of Google Maps (‘A’ marks the spot).

See you there!

EDIT:  This event’s gotten a mention in the Evening News!

As some of you might have noticed I was in the paper this weekend, this time in the Scotsman Magazine on Saturday. I only found out about it when a friend told me! I had been asked for a picture a while ago by the lovely people at Out of the Blue for something that might appear in the Scotsman, but that was the last I’d heard about it. I gave them one of the fantastic pictures Kaleidoscope Studios took of me and it ended up being used in an article about interesting fitness classes at the newly renovated Out of the Blue. The ironic thing about this is, of course, that I’ve now taken a break from teaching at that venue!

That said, even though the info isn’t quite right, I am at least still teaching some bellydance classes. The current term at the Yoga Room finishes on June 9th (next Wed) and the next term (and my last term teaching for a while!) begins June 30th, preceded by a beginner’s workshop on Sunday June 20th. Online booking is open! (I’ve just realised my new term starts the day before the Musselburgh Hafla – which I’ll be dancing at! See the Facebook event page for more information on this charity hafla.)

This happens to be the second time I’ve been in a paper doing bellydance stuff. This time, although I wasn’t attributed, I like the picture much better 🙂

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