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I found a Lebanese restaurant in Prague that has tribal fusion bellydance performances every Monday and Thursday night.

Tribal Fusion in Prague

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April Rose is a captivating, technically brilliant, soulful dancer.

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The Scottish Bellydance community is active! Between now and October we have…

Some of the Bellydance Superstars & local dancers performing on May 24th in Club Bellydance

Mardi Love performing and teaching September 15th & 16th

Aaaand Carolena Nericcio and Megha Gavin performing and teaching as Tribal Pura October 5-7th!

Click the pictures for more details & booking info.

Thank you to the organisers of all these events – thank you for working so hard to bring these wonderful events to Scotland.  You’re awesome!

Connection is at the heart of so much in life and so it’s no surprise that it is an absolutely key element in performance too.  Humans without connection wither and die like plants without water; isolation at the heart of a great deal of psychological distress.  In live performances how well a performer can connect with her audience is a profound part of how enjoyable the audience member – and, dare I say it, the dancer – finds the performance.

I recently had a wonderful chat about connection in performance with a friend who has studied theatrical clowning.  As she studied it, theatrical clowning was about being spontaneously fun, in a deeply authentic way – a hugely difficult thing to learn and do.  Throughout her training she and her classmates were able to sense when a peer was being genuine, or not, and gave feedback on what an enormous impact this had on how they felt about the performance.  Performances that were genuine were seen as funny and engaging regardless of what the performer did; those that were not genuine were experienced as dull or even irritating.

Although it sounds like hokum, or magic, people can pick up on whether or not a performer is being genuine, is in touch with their inner self.  By connecting with yourself and responding from that place, you can connect with your audience in a profound way.  I’ve watched live dance performances that were technically perfect but that did not engage me at all – and I have watched performances that had some technical flaws but still gave me goosebumps, or moved me to tears.  The key difference is that ephemeral sense that the performer is performing from their soul – that they are genuine, that they are not just going through the motions.

Of course you won’t always connect with your audience, even if you are in touch with yourself.  They have to be open – at least a little bit – to the connection.  Connection always requires the Other with whom you can connect.  That’s another part of what can make it so hard.  It can be painful to offer that precious, beautiful internal “you” and to not have it received.  Performers need open hearts and thick skins to thrive and to survive.

The weekend before last saw me down in Brighton with my friend Tamsyn, studying under the very talented Olivia Kissel (pictured below)of Zafira Dance Company (my love of whom I have declared previously…). Tamsyn has blogged beautifully about the workshops already, so I shan’t say much except to say that Olivia had me, right from the very start of the first workshop, when she talked about dancing with soul.

The dancers I enjoy the most are the ones that evoke an emotional reaction in me, that touch me somehow. I believe that I feel touched because the performer is in touch with their emotional core and that is what’s being communicated to me through movement; that my reaction is an empathic one, empathic in the same way that I can shed a tear when witnessing another’s tears even though I myself am fine. What I aim for when planning a performance is that my dancing can communicate what I wish it to, that it can communicate from my heart, that it be soulful. Studying under another performer who thinks likewise, who spoke about it, encouraged us to speak about it and incorporated it into her teaching was incredibly inspiring. Thank you Olivia.

The below dances both move and inspire me, I hope you enjoy them too.

[An aside: of course it’s not enough for the dancer to simply feel and ’emote’, there must be technique behind and backing this up otherwise the communication of the emotion is stifled. Olivia used the term ‘mumbling’ when  referencing the communication divide where technique is lacking.]

I don’t know about you, but I’m really looking forward to the Shimmy by the Shore event this Sunday… and I’ve got some wonderful old school music to perform to that’s getting me excited! I love the spontaneity of Elspeth’s plans for this event – turn up with your music, and dance if you want to. Fantastic!

As some of you may know American tribal-fusion performer Sherri Wheatley will be visiting Peebles and Glasgow teaching workshops and performing at hafla’s in both venues. Borders Arabic Dance is hosting the first of three workshops (“Combos and Transitions”) next Thursday (July 22nd) afternoon and that evening there will be a hafla with a wide variety of performers. Saravati Tribal are playing host to workshops two and three (“Layering Fundamentals” and “Polished Performance”) in Glasgow on Saturday and Sunday (July 24th & 25th) with their hafla on Saturday evening. Visit the links for more info and to book.

From what I understand a big part of the reason we’re getting to have Sherri over is thanks to Tigerlily who met her on a bellydance trip to South Africa. Well done Tigerlily, and thanks to the lovely ladies of Borders Arabic Dance and Saravati for getting these workshops and haflas together!

Something I noticed in the promotional material for these events is that Sherri also goes by the title “Cherchez La Femme”. This is a French expression literally translated as “look for/seek out the woman” and is typically used as a way of saying that the root of most problems involving a (straight) man is a woman. I’m not clear on how this connects with Sherri’s dance persona, maybe it’s more about the cadence of the phrase than it’s meaning, or perhaps it’s a modern reclaiming of the expression (I’ve noticed that there’s a feminist salon in Melbourne, Australia with this title). If I find out I’ll let you know – and if you know please share!

AND if you’d like to see Sherri perform before the hafla’s, well, that’s what YouTube is for 🙂 Enjoy:

I had the distinct privilege to attend and perform at the Mussleburgh Hafla last week. Elspeth SwishandHips organised and compared most of the night, as well as dancing twice – what a woman!

There was a huge variety of performances – from professional dancers to beginners, in groups, duets and solos with styles ranging from modern Egyptian through to tribal fusion with much in-between. Props used on the night included sagats (also called zills or finger cymbals), stick/cane (two different dancers used this, and did so quite differently), veil and fan veils (courtesy of yours truly).

A fan veil, if you’ve never seen one before, is pretty much what it says on the tin – a fan (usually wooden, sometimes plastic) with a silk veil attached. They come in all sorts of different lengths (I believe the “standard” length is 1.5 yards) and a variety of colours. They are fun to work with – similar to veils as they share that beautiful, floating quality, though are different in the sorts of things you can do with them. Here’s a shot of me using mine with the fan closed taken my Douglas Cutt (and there are loads more of the hafla on his website)

In as much as the fan veils are a lot of fun, just like any other prop I find it can be quite hard when dancing with said prop to not let it take over the show and I worked quite hard to make sure my performance was a fan veil bellydance performance. From my perspective I succeeded and I’m really quite pleased with what I put together; hopefully you guys will be too!

I filmed Elspeth’s first dance – quite badly I must admit, I kept being distracted by her performance as I looked at it over the camera, and as such wasn’t concentrating on keeping the camera tracked properly on her! Here it is for your viewing pleasure:

There are loads more videos of the hafla performances on Elspeth’s YouTube channel at: http://www.youtube.com/user/shimmyology

I’ve also set up a new YouTube channel for my bellydancing videos – both the ones taken of me and the ones I take of other people. You can find me at: http://www.youtube.com/user/ShelleyDancing

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!

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