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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 😉

The Zaar ritual is a healing rite conducted (typically) by women for women in parts of East Africa and the Arabian peninsula.  It tends to involve, among other things, ritual purification, music and dance.  There is a mythology and history behind it that I intend to write about in another post, later.

I first experienced the musical and dancing aspect of the Zaar in a focus class that was run by Hilary Thacker, with Adam Reid drumming for us.  We spent the whole hour listening to this one rhythm that we called the Ayoub. Here’s a clip of this rhythm being demonstrated:

We practised movements very unlike our normal bellydance movements – much looser with no real concern for how they looked.  There was a lot of turning and twisting, throwing our hair around and throwing out our arms.  It was tiring, but the rhythm drove me on.  We kept at it for pretty much the whole hour and afterwards I felt amazing!  I’ve often experienced a ‘high’ after exercise, but this felt more profound than a straightforward exercise high.

That’s the reason that I took to researching the Zaar, and it’s the reason that I now share my knowledge by facilitating workshops focused on this combination of music and movement.  It’s the reason I call the workshops “Wellness and Energy Through Ancient Rhythm and Movements”, because it does energise and contribute to a sense of well-being in my experience.

If you’re interested in trying this out, my next workshops are on Saturday February 27th, as part of the Middle Eastern Spirituality and Peace festival pre-events.  You can book online here.

From time to time I help out Hilary Thacker and work in her bellydance shop.  Tomorrow, from 10am to 2pm, is one of those times.  It’s my first day working in the new shop – she moved from George IV Bridge to 297 The Royal Mile, Canongate, at the start of December.  The new shop is so much nicer than the old one, it feels much more like what one images a souk turned into a shop to be like – stuff all over the place, treasures on shelves scattered throughout the place, clothing and jewellery aplenty to pour through – tribal and cabaret.

This is the new shop front:

Hilary herself has been teaching the lovely folk of Edinburgh to bellydance for years now.  Most of the dancers on the scene here have been to at least one term of classes with her at some point, I took several.  She’s an Edinburgh institution.  The style of dance she teaches and performs is generally referred to as ‘Classic Egyptian’.  Here’s a clip of her dancing:

She’s also produced instructional DVDs for beginners, intermediates and advanced students and through these is known in America (I had a teacher I went to over there exclaim “Hilary Thacker?!?” when I told her Hilary had been my teacher :)).

So, if you’re in Edinburgh tomorrow, and can spare the time, pop in and say hi!

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