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!