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I do a spot of graphic design, from time to time.  Here’s my latest, a promotional poster for the Leith Festival Hafla:

 

I’m gutted I can’t be there (an inescapable, long-standing commitment…) but I hope that YOU can all be there, and that you take lots of pictures and video clips so I can enjoy it afterwards!

As I mentioned earlier, we were spoilt for choice on International Bellydance Day.  Habiba Dance went to the hafla in Glasgow and has a few, lovely pictures of some of the performers, as well as a video of her own performance up on her blog.  I went to the Leith hafla (which raised £100 for Shakti) camera in hand, and was thoroughly entertained. Despite the event being cut short Martina managed to squeeze all the performers in.

And beyond? Well next month we have two haflas to look forward to in Edinburgh/East Lothian:

– A Bit of Cairo on Duke Street: Leith Bellydancers Hafla on Tuesday 14 June, 7.30pm-10.30pm, at  The Parlour Bar, Duke Street, Leith.  This is running as part of the Leith Festival and has… free entry!  

The annual Musselburgh Hafla on Thursday 30 June, 7.30pm – 11pm, at the Musselburgh Rugby Club, Stoneyhill Farm Road, Musselburgh.  Tickets for this will be £5 with the proceeds going to charity.

Elspeth SwishandHips is organising both events – if you’d like to perform do get in touch with her: swishandhips at hotmail.co.uk

Now I did say I had brought my camera to the Leith International Bellydance Day hafla… Here are just a few pictures from the night to give you a taste.

Below is the lovely Constantina (who we won’t have here for much longer – we found out at the hafla that she’ll be moving back to Greece shortly!)

The elegant and polished Natalie!

And the hhhhorrible Elspeth – topping off the show with a Sha’abi piece:

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!

Being able to convey emotion is fundamental to expressive dance.  Within different bellydance styles the range of emotion expressed varies.  I believe that within the Egyptian styles – both modern and older – there is an especially great range. From what I’ve read and been told of the Lorna of Cairo workshop on Oum Kalthoum (by the lovely Elspeth SwishandHips) there was a great deal of emphasis placed on the ability of the dancer to emote to her music.

As Tamsyn describes it, “Here was a dance in which the magic was in truly being yourself and giving everything from your heart in a performance. All the sorrow, the joy, the pain and the beauty — all of it.”

So my thoughts have turned to the process in which the ability to express these emotions is developed.  It’s no small task.  This notion of getting in touch with your inner self and being able to express it is called ‘congruence’ or genuineness within the field of Person-Centred counselling.  Many chapters in many books are devoted to explaining the concept in full and suggesting ways in which the trainee therapist may develop their ability to be genuine.

It’s especially true that in British culture the spontaneous and expressive nature of being genuine is a difficult thing to fully integrate into normal life.  We have rules around appropriate behaviour and they tend to focus on emotional containment – many of us believe in keeping stiff upper lips and in not showing emotion particularly if that emotion is ‘negative’ (e.g. fear, anger, hurt).  How then to overcome this cultural embargo on emotions?

It takes work, and that’s for sure.  I believe that the parts during Lorna’s workshops where she encouraged her students to try touching and expressing through dance the deep emotions that run through Oum Kalthoum’s music was inspired.  In the therapy books, one of the key experiences in the development of congruence is by an individual trying to be in touch with their inner selves and expressing that publicly, in a group setting and finding that this behaviour is accepted.  By giving time and space and encouragement to her dance students to deeply emote to the music Lorna is giving the dance equivalent of a Carl Roger’s style Encounter Group.

But how to progress this outside of Lorna’s workshop?  Continuing to practice listening to your inner world, and expressing it where appropriate and when you feel able to.  Usually you’ll find that in letting things out you draw people to you, rather than pushing them away.  Many of our innermost feelings are common to the entire human race, even the feeling that our most inner self is actually unlovable or somehow shameful and must be kept hidden.

In counselling training many people have found that the process of  trying and learning to accept yourself, warts and all, is helpful in being able to hear and express your emotions.  These two thing, self-acceptance and congruence, appear to feed into each other (with self-acceptance also feeding into one’s ability to be empathic).  The journey towards accepting yourself is one with many paths.  One that has been personally helpful, and I know has been for many, many others involves having at least one adult relationship where you are accepted, warts and all, unconditionally.  Why does this help you feel better about yourself?  I believe it is because if someone else can feel that way towards you it shows you that you are loveable, and that really helps you to develop that same love and belief in yourself.

I’ll finish with a word of warning – this is not for everyone.  The ability to be genuine and in-touch with yourself is not something you can turn on when you take to the stage (or therapy room) and then turn back off again.  It seeps out from there to touch all aspects of your life.  It is a door that once opened is difficult to close again.  This is not to suggest that you’ll end up blurting out whatever is going on for you regardless of the situation, but it does mean that you are more likely to be aware of what’s going on inside you more often, and for some people that is a place they don’t want to live in.

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!

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 😉

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!

What an experience!

I’ve never helped organise or run a hafla before so this was really new and exciting (and nerve wracking!). But it all came together, the three of us (Caroline Rose, Elspeth and myself) worked beforehand and on the night, each doing our different bits and pieces which wove into something that, I think, worked rather well.

The performers were varied yet all lovely, talented with no “diva-ness” in sight. The audience were plentiful and noisy. And special mention needs to go to the lovely Elysse and Laurie of the Edinburgh Uni African and Arabic Dance Society, who worked on the door. They were complete stars!

Below are some gorgeous pictures of Lorna and us (the organisers) that Vi Anne took on the night. They really capture a lot of the atmosphere.

Lorna in her first outfit of the night.

Read the rest of this entry »

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