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As I mentioned earlier I was the Samantha Emanuel workshops and hafla this weekend. I was very impressed by her clear, encouraging and challenging teaching, and really pleasantly surprised that she took the time in the workshops to go around and check people’s posture and movements offering suggestions and personal tips. In classes of 24+ with a lot to cover in a short space of time, I think that’s very impressive.

Another lovely touch was that Sam taught us a choreography that she then later performed. There were two points in it where, when practising, we’d all shouted "Woo!". When Sam performed it at the hafla those of us in the crowd who’d been at that workshop shouted out at the right times.

Why do I think this a "lovely touch"? Well, for a start it was a really tough choreo! Watching her perform a routine I’d been trying to learn a few hours previously gave me a much greater appreciation for the nuance, subtlety and beauty in it. But more than that it felt a bit like hearing a band play a favourite song you can sing along with – there’s a kind of connection between the performer and audience when both know the song/routine, a sort of comforting familiarity. Being part of the ‘in crowd’ that knew what was coming and when to shout "Woo" felt really nice.

This experience of seeing a performer repeat a favourite routine is not that common in my experience of watching bellydance performances. I feel there’s pressure for performers to do a different routine every time, particularly now YouTube means that performances can be spread to a huge audience who can watch last month’s performance prior to seeing you dance in the flesh tonight. In fact the beautiful and talented Tasmin Leona Bex was talking about this very thing this weekend, the pressure, because of YouTube, to always create something new when performing. I, for one, have been really happy when I’ve seen a performer/performers repeat a dance of theirs that I particularly liked the first time I saw it. And I admit that I write that as much a reminder to myself as for anyone else who’s felt that pressure to come up with something new.

For those that are interested, the choreography Sam taught us in the ‘Honky Tonk’ workshop can be seen in this video – the song starts around 3:40, our part of the choreo starts at 4:04.

And in the below video you can find the choreography from the Octopus Hypothesis (that bit starts around 1:48):

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I’m pretty excited about the up and coming workshops and hafla with Samantha Emanuel (was Hasthorpe), the only British member of the Bellydance SuperStars.  AND I just learned that one slot has opened up for the masterclass that she’s teaching – so if you’re interested you’d better be quick off the mark – http://www.bordersarabicdance.org/

Here’s Sam in action – enjoy!

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:

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