Thursday, October 20, 2022

Weekly Bellydance classes in Edinburgh

 Coming home..

Well… it’s been so long since I wrote in my blog that I’ve almost forgotten how.. and 6 years since I left Egypt... I need to update the header for the blog too!!

Hello again!

Guess what? I’ve been back in Edinburgh after my 10 years in Cairo for quite some years now.. but it’s only now that I feel I’ve truly come home. The reason? 

I’m setting up new weekly classes!  

For the past 16 years I’ve been an international performer and have been teaching workshops around the world as well as teaching some online private classes. Before all that I used to teach 25 classes per week, and I did it for years. I had over 400 students every week around Scotland! 

Heres a couple of photos of me, taken by a local newspaper, on Portobello beach, just before I headed off 16 years ago to live in Cairo!

How young and slim I was back then with my hair dyed black to 'look more Egyptian'!
I loved those pyramids made from sandbags on the beach, such a great idea. 

Although I don’t intent to work those crazy hours again (and of course I will continue to travel to perform and teach workshops) I have decided that what I am REALLY missing are those regular human connections that I made during all those classes with my students. 

So, new weekly classes in Portobello, Edinburgh, Scotland, start next week.. 27th October 2022

Rather than teach in a swanky mirrored dance studio, for these classes, I’ve decided to keep it local and am using an amazing building close to my home. It’s a beautiful old church, Bellfield, which was set to be redeveloped into houses, but the people of Portobello objected and won their case, and it has became a community hub, run by and for our local community! I decided that ‘it’s the people that count’ is the premise for how I want my classes to run! 

Yes, I’ll miss having mirrors it’s true, but I’ve always found deep friendships and connections blossom every more in classes where we are not all staring at ourselves in the mirror! I’m looking forward to not only teaching people to dance, but to facilitating the forming of new friendships and allowing freedom of self expression through dance. I know the vast majority of my friends have been made through bellydance, so I’m pretty evangelist about this!!! 

As well as introducing new beginners to this wonderful world of bellydance, I also want to gather in a lot of the dancers who have gotten lost along the way, who haven’t been to classes for years, who have lost their dance mojo, for various reasons, and feel shy about coming back. Let’s rebuild this wonderful supportive dance community! 

Please do come along if you can, and even if you can’t, feel free to spread the word for me! 

Thursday night weekly classes commence 27th Oct 2022 at Bellfield, 16b Bellfield street, Portobello, Edinburgh, EH15 2BP

Beginners Bellydance 

Thurs 18.15-19.15 

Small hall 

A fun, low impact, stress relieving way to exercise at the same time as meeting new friends and learning about a different dance form , music and culture. Great for all ages and levels of fitness and ability. NOT required to bare your belly, but of course you can if you want to! We dance barefoot, but you can wear soft shoes or grippy socks if you prefer. Wear loose comfortable clothing and bring water and a scarf you can tie round your hips. Prepare to have fun! Beginners only! 

Next Level Bellydance


Big hall

A class for anyone who has bellydanced before, either recently or some time ago, to whatever level. Not suitable for complete beginners. We will refresh basics of course but this class hopes to develop dance skills and the large hall allows for us working on props and travelling moves too! A suitable class for Bellydance improvers, intermediate and advanced alike. 

Payment can be made on a drop in basis (I’m aware no everyone’s lives allow them to be in the same place every week!) which is £10 per class or the 8 week term can be block booked which makes it more affordable at £68 for the term. 

Payments can be made in cash, BACS or PayPal (contact me directly for details for those) 

I am so looking forward to this ‘coming home’ to being a regular teacher again. I’ve missed you all!! 

For those who live a bit further away and can’t attend a weekly class, I’m also going to be teaching a 2hr monthly workshop, here in Edinburgh at a different community centre in Portobello, The Washhouse, 3 Adelphi Place, Portobello, Edinburgh, EH15 1AP

These workshops will run in symbiotic style alongside the amazing monthly Rose halfa that my good friend and fellow dancer, Natalie Borg organises. Each month the halfa has a theme… and the next one, on 12th Nov will be “All that Jazz” so I have decided to create a workshop topic to fit with her theme! 

Jazz Hands!

4-6pm Sat 12th Nov. 

Washhouse community centre, Portobello. 

Two hours focusing on something most of us find most challenging within bellydance, arms! We will work out some fun a new ways to use our upperbody, hands and arms and hopefully take away those droopy arms and unnecessarily twirly hands!! Elegance, power and connection are the keys! Mixed level workshop. Must have basic bellydance technique. 

for the workshop, Payment of £20 can be made to me by cash, BACS or PayPal. Please whichever method you choose, contact me in advance to reserve your spot! 

So… it’s all going on! If you are only following this blog and haven’t yet followed me on social media, please do so since I post much more frequently there!

Instagram- LornaofCairo

Facebook- Lorna of Cairo (aka Bellylorna!)

Facebook group- Bellfield Bellydance classes

If you aren’t on the socials, you can email me directly at

If you’d like to know more about the monthly haflas (arabic for for a party!), to book a slot to perform or a ticket to attend, please check out Natalie’s website…

See you on the dancefloor! 

(if you are interested in classes but live further afield, I am still teaching online one to one coaching sessions... feel free to contact me about those!)

Thursday, March 08, 2018

Yes, I'm still alive! - and here's where you can see me if you need to see it to believe it!!

I cannot believe that it's been over a year since I last wrote on my blog! How did that happen? Life took over I guess... sorry folks!

If I was to cover all I have been up to in the last year it would take too long... so instead I'll give you a wee outline of what's ahead for me in 2018... It's going to be a jetsetting year- so get your diaries out, heres a wee view of mine....

Edinburgh- There is a new Moroccan restaurant in Edinburgh (south Clerk St) called Souq, and they have a bellydance show every Saturday night. Natalie, Moyra and I are the resident dancers... so if you come along you'll get to see one of the 3 of us perform! (I'm dancing this weekend- 10th March!)

Melbourne- Yes, you read that right... I'm jetting off to Australia on Monday to teach and perform there... I'll be teaching 3 workshops on 17th and 18th March in Melbourne and if you fancy joining us there you can book on

Edinburgh- back for one weekend only and yes- I'll be performing at Souq on Saturday 7th April. come along and join me!

Isle of Wight- I will be teaching and performing in the Isle Shimmy 2018, on 14th April.

Cairo- the last 2 weeks of April I will be back in my 2nd home of Cairo, and available for private classes there in amongst catching up with my pals and seeing some awesome dancers!

Shanghai- Back to China for some workshops in my 3rd home.. Shimmery Shanghai! 5th-13th May.

Italy- how exciting to be flying to Napoli in May to dance at a wedding- so excited about this!

Edinburgh- more private classes, online classes and dancing at Souq on both 26th May and 9th June.

Glasgow- sat 2nd June, GFAD day of dance. I'll be teaching workshops.

London- 16th and 17th June - very excited to be doing a combined 'Powerhouse Weekend' of dance with the fabulous Lebanese dancer, Simon Sako... contrasting his Lebanese style with my Egyptian style.. it'll be a weekend you don't want to miss!

Cairo- last 2 weeks of June- I'll be teaching at the Nile Group festival of course 18-25th June (my workshop is 4pm Tuesday 19th June) ... always a joyful festival to be at! Come and join me?

Cyprus- 3-10 July This one is just a family holiday (at the moment... although if any dancers in Cyprus want to make use of me while I am in the country then I am of course very open to that too hehe!!!!!)

Edinburgh - my Souq dates for July are currently 21st and 28th July, and I am fairly sure I will be dancing there a lot throughout August too although dates have not yet been fixed.Watch this space! (or follow Souq Restaurant on facebook to be kept up to date with all the goings on there fast!)

London- 3-6th Sept - available for private classes....

Tewkesbury- 7-9th September- workshops and performance. contact Maria Iride Morelli on facebook for info.

China- October 2018- details TBC

Helsinki- 1st and 2nd Dec , I'll be teaching and performing at this weekend of dance with the 'Desert Roses ' in Finland. or

Hope I haven't forgotten anything....? obviously there will be more to add... but figured i'd let you all know why I've hardly been writing in my blog since moving back to Scotland from Cairo... it's not because I have been lazy!

Monday, January 09, 2017

Dancing our way through 2017... Online Bellydance Coaching Sessions

Another year has started... and with it we all have made our New Years resolutions.... to get fit, to lose weight, to learn a new skill, to write more in our blogs, etc etc....

My main resolution is to DANCE MORE  (as well as some of the above!)

 So, help me out, and yourself too, if this appeals to you....

I've been asked by many of you for this for years. Now it's finally available- 

1-1 Online Bellydance Coaching sessions! 

Whether it's on FaceTime or Skype, now you can dance with me in my own home, while you're in your own home! 

Work on your technique, arms, combinations. Get feedback about your choreography/improvisation and trouble shoot- whatever you choose. I'll give homework for you to work on between our sessions online and am happy to discuss whatever dance topics you are interested in. 

Great for people who can't get to regular classes for whatever reason and all for those needing some new ideas and inspiration for their dance or in need of some specific help towards an upcoming performance.

Only £25 for a 30min session! (payable by Paypal)

Contact me at if you are interested and we can set up a date for our first one!

ps- In the sessions i have already taught, usually the video quality is far better than the photo quality on this flyer- but you get the idea!!! :-) 

Here's some feedback from some girls who have tried it already;

"Jam-packed with ideas, actionable tasks to work on and feedback on your dancing from  a pro - a 30 minute coaching session with Lorna of Cairo will give you more tools, ideas and insider knowledge than you can imagine, (I couldn't jot things down fast enough!) Plus she has an encouraging and warm personality to deliver it with. It's a great opportunity for accessible and affordable regular coaching from a professional dancer who 'made it' in Cairo - a dream for many and reality for few. Highly recommended". 

- Natalie Irvine 

" It was worth every penny. I learnt far more than I would have in a workshop and with correction too. 😀"  Anon

Friday, October 14, 2016

Chapter 3; Learning from The Fringe. A bellydancer's take on learningfrom other performers.

Today's 'better late than never' Edinburgh Fringe review by Lorna, talks about two of the shows I saw in the fringe this year that were very different from each other, yet had in common one thing. You didn't see the actors face on stage at all..... Masks v sock puppets! 

Theatre dilusio- a non verbal play set back stage at a theatre. 

I wanted to see this show because, as someone who has spent many dancing years on stage myself, I loved the idea they used which was that the front of the stage is actually back stage! So when we are looking at the stage we see back stage, and when the actors go back stage they are actually going onto their stage. Confused yet? That concept in itself was interesting for me as a performer. To think about our on and off stage characters and where they coincide and where they differ, and how we change from one to the other. If we do. The show also touched on how people view us as people off stage when they have previously seen us on stage. 

This was a comedic play without a single word uttered, yet everyone knew instantly what was going on and the feelings the actors were trying to portray. Well acted you say, yes indeed, however the actors wore masks, so the feelings came to us not through facial expressions, but instead all of it was body language. 

This is a really important thing to keep in mind while dancing. I have seen dancers 'over act' happy, sad, etc on stage when they think that's what the song calls for, pulling huge grins, or long faces to depict what is being said in the lyrics. Sadly though, this often looks forced and fake. It is important to respond to the entirety of an emotion, not just to pull a face. We underestimate the impact even an outbreath can make to those trying to gauge how we feel, a tilt of the head, a lifting of the ribcage. Tiny movements can make a huge difference to the audience, completely altering the emotion we are portraying. Emotions should be danced through your entire body, not just your face!  

Scottish falsetto sock puppets- a hilarious one man (two socks) puppet show. 

I have never laughed throughout Shakespeare before! Loved this performance. As far as you could get really from a Bellydance performance, yet.... What was interesting here, from a dance perception is that each of the two socks speaking to each other, within their 'Punch and Judy' style booth, had very different personalities. They became two people. To the point where it was hard to accept that there was only one person 'backstage'. No body language. No facial expressions, yet huge personality. This was hard to understand. How can you show emotion without any facial expressions or even body language? It was of course largely in the script, but what struck me was how influential other elements were too. In particular, the pauses, the timing, the emotion put into the voices and the dedication to acting out each part. 

It is easy as a dancer to think that dance is about the steps. But it seldom is. It is often about the 'way' you do those steps, the timing, the pauses, the interaction with other dancers on the stage or with the audience. Commit to 'who you are' in any given moment and don't hold back. If you are dancing 'sexy' ... Then go for it. Don't 'mime' sexy. Feel sexy. Be sexy! The audience will sense any hesitation, or the doubt you have so you must trust that what you are doing is the right thing for you rather than what you 'think' you are 'supposed' to be doing to that part of the music. Commit fully, and remember that there should always be pauses. Moments for you, and your audience, to catch your breath, or to exhale if you've been holding your breath! 

Like I said, two shows, completely different but a similar message. You don't need to see a person's facial expression to know their emotion. It helps (unless it's over done) but it's not essential. Timing, commitment and body language all play an even greater role!
Oh, and check out the Falsetto socks on YouTube..... I promise you'll love it! 

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Chapter 2; Learning from The Fringe. A bellydancer's take on learning from other performers.

Welcome back to Part 2 of my Edinburgh Fringe Review where I have reinterpretted what I saw in each show into Bellydance terms!

Triple entendre- Female Trio performing original songs and sketches. 

When I saw these these three young women walk onto stage I have to admit, I had initial doubts about the quality of the show to come. No offense intended, but they just looked like students. Young, pretty, but nothing like the bling or stage 'costumes' that a bellydancer is used to seeing. 
By the end of the first song, their massive personalities, material and amazing talent swiped all that superficial stuff from my mind rapidly. They were totally amazing, funny, captivating and are up there in my top 3 shows of the fringe (which I drunkenly admitted to them one night when I spotted them in a chippie, and had to go over, fan girl style, and tell them that they were fffabuloush!). 

This transformation from expectation to realism got me thinking; so much of our Bellydance performance is linked to how we initially present ourselves. If the costumes and 'look' isn't going to grab people interest from the get go, then the skills MUST! Making sure the 'look' is as professional as you can makes it a bit easier to get your audience on side and is an 'easy win' for a beginner bellydancer. Looking the part will carry you somewhat, but never completely! The opposite is also true,  I certainly know that when I look at dancers and their skirt if slipping, or the bra doesn't fit right, or they don't have enough make up on etc, then I am distracted by these things and not ready to appreciate the dance itself in quite the same way no matter how good the dance is. That said , accidents happen to us all, so if you do have a costume malfunction mid show, make it part of your act! So the costume isn't everything.... But it helps. 

Also- the other key word here from this wonderful show is 'original'. They weren't trying to copy anyone, they had written their own songs and jokes. With the beautiful voices they had they could have played it safe and done a string of 'standards' and they would have had a good show. By pushing their own ideas forward however, they produced a great show. One that is still memorable while I write this two months on. This is a good message for us as dancers. We often feel there is a right and wrong way of doing certain things, a 'way to dance baladi', a costume style that only fits to shaabi etc. I took from Triple that I need to be more adventurous in what I do, and not apologize for it. Be strong and confident and stand out. A powerful message indeed. 

Well done ladies... You wowed and inspired me! Go see them if you ever get the chance! 

On the flip side ( in case you thought all my reviews were going to be glowing recommendations)....

Elsie diamond- Cabaret and variety show. 

I was excited by the concept of this show. She is a dresser to opera singers in real life and this show was inspired by that. After years in Cairo having my own dresser there and hearing the stories she would tell me, never mind dancing back stage with her, I was very interested to see this one. I was disappointed sadly. 
She just attempted to do way too much. This performer could sing, tell jokes, dance burlesque and tell a story. The problem is that she was trying so hard to fit everything in, with lots of costumes changes, that any power in the performance and story, was lost. I was especially hit by the irony that the one thing that would have drastically improved the entire show was her having a dresser to assist with all those changes! It felt like, "I know all these tricks, so I must show the audience everything I can do", rather than focusing on one or two elements and really doing them well. 
When we perform Bellydance there is a temptation to do the same. To try to fit in all of our skills into one performances. Especially when that is just one song at a hafla! I felt if Elsie had done a lot less, it would have been so much more of a show. This is worth keeping in mind on stage, in particular when we don't feel so confident and try too hard to impress our audience. Less IS more. 
This woman had the bling, but didn't keep it on for long enough! (Also something we aim to avoid doing mid Bellydance performance!!!!) 

That's all for today's, more fringe show reviews and thoughts tomorrow....
remember and leave a comment to let me know your thoughts on any of my blog posts.... I 'vet' all comments just so inappropriate ones don't end up there... But they do post, eventually! 

Learning from The Fringe; a bellydancer's take on learning from other performers. Chapter 1

One of the most fabulous things about living in Edinburgh once again, is the Edinburgh International Fringe Festival. It is huge. Officially the largest festival in the world. 50,266 performances of 3,269 shows in one city within one month. 

Music, drama, dance, comedy, you name it. It's all there. Some shows are huge and pricy, some are completely free. There is something for everyone. 

I decided long before August came around that I was going to dedicate the month to seeing shows rather than performing them. Being entertained instead of doing the entertaining. Before I lived in Cairo, I had performed my own shows in the fringe many times, 9 shows in 9 consecutive years. Everything from African dance in my days with 'Afridonia', to 'Latino Arabesque' (combining Latin dance with Bellydance), to pure solo Bellydance shows (usually with some narrative to educate as well as entertain!)

This August , I wanted to see EVERYTHING. Which of course, is actually physically impossible. 
I did however manage to see 35 shows in 3 weeks. Admittedly, I do now have fringe fatigue. Understandable, I think!

I purposefully also chose mostly shows which were not dance related. Just for a change, and also because, as artists, there is many things we bellydancers can learn from appreciating other performers work. 

For my own development, and because I thought it might be of interest to other fringe attendees (and especially to bellydancers) I wanted to write up my findings from these shows. I hope you find it interesting and useful too! It has been amazing to me, how many things I could find from non Bellydance related shows that could make me rethink some of the ways I perform Bellydance!  Even if some of those things learnt were what 'not to do'! 

Since I went to so many different shows... I will be writing this up over a series of blog posts ... Otherwise you'll be here all day! 

The Tap pack- This was an all singing all dancing (Tap), all male show. 

A five star show from beginning to end. What got to me especially was the part just prior to the beginning! 
Before the show was due to start, one of the dancers came out and sat on front of the stage while the room was filling up. He got people clapping along and brought someone from the crowd up on stage with this too. There was laughter and music and skill, all mashed together.  It instantly changed the atmosphere in the room. He spent maybe 10 minutes building that rapport with audience right at the start of the show, before the curtains had officially opened, showing he was personable,friendly and fun, as well as talented. 
I could see how this approach relaxed the audience and got them on side before the show had even started. 
I've often told people in workshops that if you make a good impression in the first 3 seconds then your audience will be rooting for you during the whole performance. The Tap Pack took this idea and ran with it. 
It also made me think of the difference I feel performing at a hafla after I have taught workshops versus before I've taught.  When my audience have already been taught by me, they are always more relaxed with me than an audience who hasn't 'met' me yet. They laugh more (I always try to add humour into my shows) and they interact more, and they respond more which, of course, makes the show much more enjoyable for everyone there, myself included. 
The Tap pack's show opening prompted me to think about ways to achieve this connection with an audience right from the get go.

Another thing they did, which I loved, was they announced that it was not permitted to record or photograph the performance, but, that the next 1 minute only would be dedicated to selfies! They pulled lots of poses and everyone clicked away, got their momento for Facebook or Instagram or whatever, and then when that was over everyone could relax and actually just watch the show! What a fabulous idea, I'd love to be performing for a sea of faces, rather than an assault of cameras and phones, maybe this is a good one for Hafla organizers to pick up on?! 

If you hear of The Tap Pack performing near you, I highly recommend it!!! 

That's all for now.... More shows and the thoughts they inspired in the next blog... 
Please do leave comments for me.... Let me know what you think and if these musings of mine are of any use/interest to you! 

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Nile Group Festival July 2016

I am just back from my two week 'holiday' in Cairo and am exhausted! 

The reason for this particular trip- I'm one of the regular teachers at the Nile group festival. I unfortunately didn't make the entire week since I'd been invited to be the star guests at Shona Hagan's Torquay summer spa weekender. That was an amazing weekend with lots of fabulous fun woman and I laughed even more than I danced! 

It was frustrating to miss the lions share of the Nile Group festival, but I cannot deny that it is also lovely to be in such demand!

So Nile group closing gala was an amazing and entertaining night. I loved seeing so many people back in Cairo again, past festival have been a little quiet due to various reasons, but it seems the dance tourists at least are not to be put off any longer and there was a good turn out. 

Almaz was the first dancer, and her costumes lived up to her name! Almaz means diamonds in Arabic. She put on a very powerful and impressive show and I really felt for her because sadly, very few of the audience members arrived early enough to see her show. I wish people, especially those who are dancers themselves, would appreciate and show respect for other performers by at least turning up on time! Despite the fact that she is a dancer from Japan, her time spent in Egypt has paid dividends, she really did look Egyptian on stage. 

Next up was another foreigner who has spent quite a few years now in Egypt, Vanessa. She is American and has worked mainly in Sharm el sheik until this past year where Cairo has molded her into the star dance she has become. In the sexiest Saidi galabeya I've ever seen, she performed a unique and exciting saidi dance which had every eye in the place glued to her. Her shaabi had everyone jumping too! I recommend you try to catch her show next time you're in Cairo! 

Then we had our token Egyptian for evening. Sadly, I felt she let the side down. She seemed to think that her super large assets (recently augmented) and her super small costumes would stand in for decent dancing. I'm intentionally not writing her name here, perhaps she just had a bad night and I wouldn't want that held against her forever... I saw her dance last year and thought she was pretty good, so I am hoping it was just an off night for her. We all have them. It was just a little embarrassing and sums up a lot of the recent changes in the bellydance scene in Cairo. Too much about the show and not enough quality. In my humble opinion. 

The final dancer of the night was the ever beautiful Mercedes. It's true that her style is her own, and she seemed less Egyptian than usual on that night. But she knows how to perform beautifully, and it was a joy watching her interact with her Tabal, although there were times I wanted to shake him as much as I could tell she did!!!!!!! 

To end the gala show we had a shaabi singer, with a full entourage of performing monkeys. I'm not being facetious here, there literally was a man dancing in a full gorilla suit! That was a first for me!!!! Plus a tannoura, pantomime horse, clowns and saidi dancers! It was quite a show!! 

Throughout the entire night I had the pleasure of sitting next to the fabulous Egyptian dancer Dalida and her absolute gentleman of a husband. They did so much to restore some of my fading faith in humanity! We had great conversations about all sorts of things, but mainly about why we dance and how we see our future within dance. It was great to have that conversation with someone who completely understood! 

The next morning I had to be up early to teach my class ... So I didn't stay to see the very end of the party but 3am was late enough for me anyway after having traveling the night before! 

.... And that and it was still only my first day in Cairo! 

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Major stress in China

So... It finally happened. Possibly one of the worst things you can think of when you are abroad (that's not a medical emergency anyway! )

I was in China, flying back to Shanghai after teaching and performing in Changsha. I was traveling with my agent and felt relaxed, knowing I had finished the work part of my China tour and now had 4 days in Shanghai to rest and shop and enjoy myself before heading back to Uk. 

We left the plane, I asked him if he had everything with him and we headed to baggage reclaim. Within maybe 6 minutes of leaving the plane it struck me, I wasn't wearing my handbag! I had put it under the seat in front of me while flying and somehow had managed to forget to pick it up. Despite even checking my agent had his things, I'd then managed to leave my own! I felt like such a fool. 

We headed to Shanghai Airlines desk immediately for them to contact the plane, but the bag had disappeared. I couldn't believe it. Where could it have gone? I was furious. The only option was that the cabin crew or cleaning staff had lifted it. The airline seemed really non-plussed. As did the police when we went there. The police refused point blank to even take a lost report from me, let alone a stolen one! 

The problem was that the bag contained not only all my earnings in cash from Changsha, my credit card and my brand new iPhone 6s (less than 6 months old) but it also contained MY PASSPORT! 

So my relaxing few days in Shanghai became as stressful as any you could imagine!

We decided to get to the hotel and keep on phoning the airline and lost property in case somehow they found it all. The problem we found is that without a passport, no hotel in China is allowed to check you in! I was robbed, and now also homeless!

The British embassy emergency phone line made me an appointment to apply for an emergency travel documents and told me that in the meantime I would just have to stay with friends! Well, no one in Shanghai can afford the space to have a spare room, so my agent checked himself into another hotel (one that foreigners were not supposed to be in at all) and then he sneaked me up to 'my' room with strict orders not to open the door to anyone except him!!!! We agreed that if he was at the door he would knock the maqsoum rhythm so that I knew it was him! Although the hotel was lovely, and very close to the dance studio, it was not exactly restful. I was awake most of the first night worrying about what would happen if I was discovered in a hotel I wasn't supposed to be in, without a passport or a visa to be in China! 

Thankfully that at least went smoothly and I had to sneak in and out the hotel for the next 2 nights, by the back stairs rather than walk past reception! 

The staff at the British consulate were incredibly helpful and easy to deal with, however, there was a problem there too. Their computer system had failed and they couldn't deal with my issue until close of business on the Tuesday night! So I had 2 whole days thinking I would never have my travel pass in time for my flight on Wednesday! 

This is the view from the door of the British consulate. I took it s a good omen that I could see a den pyramid from there!

They managed it even staying back in the office after it closed to complete it for me. Never have I been so happy to see a passport photo of myself before! 

Who knew that Passports come in any other colour than maroon?! (yes ok, I did... but have never seen a yellow one before!) 

Sadly though my stress wasn't yet over. I still had to get a Chinese visa stamp Into my new passport! Before that I had to register with the police that I was In China, by checking into a hotel for a night. The temporary passport and letter from the consulate allowed them to do this so I had to sneak out of my hotel so move to another one. Next day I had to go to the Chinese immigration office, Report the lost passport there and apply for an exit visa so I would be allowed to leave the country! This they told me on arrival there (the morning of my flight) would take at least 5 days! 

This is the Shanghai version of the 'Mogamma'. (i.e. the Immigration and visas office).  It was a stunning building in a huge green area in the centre of town and had just as many windows as the dreaded building in Tahrir Square!

The chap at the desk saw that I was close to tears when he told me this and wrote a note on my form so that I could try for faster treatment. Hours of administration later we left there with instructions to come back at 4.30pm and the visa ' might' be ready, but there was a good chance it wouldn't be until the following morning at the earliest. 

So, with my flight due at 11.30pm, I didn't actually know until nearly 5pm that I was in fact going to make it! They had done my visa for me in one day!!!! 

I felt drunk from the relief! 

Lessons learned:
- never leave my handbag anywhere!
- Always have a paper photocopy of passport AND visa. I did have a copy on my phone but this isn't enough (when phone goes too!) 
- Travel insurance! (Nope- I didn't have any. Stupidly shortsighted I know. This was sadly a hugely expensive trip)
- Crying in front of officials in China has same effect as it does in Egypt. 
- My agent and his staff have my eternal gratitude for being so patient and accommodating in this extreme situation. I couldn't have achieved any of this without them translating everything for me!
- Flights that have an option to date change are vastly superior than ones you can't change. 
- I am looking forward to going back to China despite this being the second time I've been a victim of theft there. It has not put me off, it has just given me a huge wake up call. I need to be more responsible for myself and my things. The Chinese I know are the kindest and most generous of people and there are a few rotten apples in every barrel, wherever you are in the world. 

My hero! I have no idea how I would have survived this horrible experience without him and his staff. We even managed some laughs along the way!!! 

Monday, May 30, 2016

Dance surprises in China (Blog 3 from teaching in China, May 2016)

Here are few of my China inspired dance related thoughts as promised!

- Tarab. In many places around the world dancers might describe a dance style or music style as Tarab, however, Tarab is a feeling, an emotion, rather than a category. Certain music might be more likely to inspire Tarab in the listener however it shouldn't be classed as 'Tarab music'. On trying to explain this in my Beijing workshop, I was attempting to describe what athletes know as 'the zone' and dancer might think of a 'flow'. When the end result is greater than the sum of all the parts involved. When you are lost in emotion brought on by the music. My surprise came when one of my students, and keep in mind China is a hyper conservative country, piped up with, " yes, I know what you mean, it's just like an orgasm". The breath intake from everyone in the room, myself included, was audible! So there you have it. In my mind Tarab will always now be thought of as a 'spiritual orgasm'!!!!

- Music over technique. To some extents this is not purely a chinese issue, however they are on the whole obsessed by rules and technique. The majority think that all they must do to improve their dancing is to learn new techniques and steps and drill harder the stuff they already have. They always ask me for 'rules' for linking the moves. When I encourage them to get rid of the idea that there are rules and to relax into the music, they visibly tense up! I knew this however before I came to China this time. What I hadn't realised was how little they actually listen to and are inspired by the music. The art form which itself inspires dance! Being able to hear the music and everything in it, emotions included and then reflect this to your audience, is in my mind crucial to being a dancer. Less about the move and more about what moves you!

- Food. I cannot eat before dancing. I need 3-4 hrs digestion time, otherwise I am in horrible pain. It's always been that way for me so imagine how surprised I am by the Chinese dancers idea of a 'light lunch' in between dance classes. Noodles, dumpling, rice, you name it, they eat it and in great quantities too. I cannot understand where they put it since most of them are tiny wee skinny things too! It doesn't seem to effect the effort they put into the dance though. Oh, and seemingly the way to look your best for a photoshoot the next day is not too drink too much water the night before as this can make you look puffy. Also, women should avoid all iced drinks, especially around their period as it is seemingly 'very dangerous'.

- Private classes. This trip I taught some private classes in addition to my workshops and was surprised how many girls will go to the expense of a one to one class without having given it any prior though as to what they want to learn. It seems that private classes in China also generally follow the fashion for technique and choreography, so the dancer is waiting for the teacher to decide what she should be taught. One girl however wanted me to trouble shoot her performance for the show that evening. Tweeking a dance  for someone is something I really love doing. Helping them be the best they can be is my reason to teach. In this instance it was a little politically difficult for me because although the choreography was exceptional, it was not her own, and the creator of said choreography was my translator. This meant that I had to really be careful not to offend the teacher in front of her student if there were things in the choreography I didn't like!! Private classes are an amazing way to really work on your dancing in depth, but do give it some thought what you want from a specific teacher before taking a class. If students come to me without knowing what they want, I usually ask them to dance for me,  then I pick out the things that I feel need work. This works well, but can be a little scary for less experienced dancers.

- Changes. I have seen a huge improvement in the level of dance all across China in the past 4 years of teaching workshops here. I have always maintained that the best cities/areas/countries for Bellydance are those who have enough teachers with direct links to Cairo. Ok, so as a dancer in Cairo for the past 10 years I am perhaps biased, however I really believe that to perform Egyptian dance well, you need to immerse yourself in the culture of the country it comes from. I am happy to see more and more Chinese dancers coming to Egypt to learn and also organizing holidays for their students to travel and experience it for themselves too. Long may it continue.

I love traveling and working in different countries. There is always something new to understand and learn. It makes me feel so alive! 

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Being the surprised tourist in Beijing..(Blog 2, May 2016 from China)

I have just had the good fortune to Beijing for 4 days and although I knew I'd like the city, I did have a few surprises along the way... These are all very tourist based. The dance version is for my next blog entry (I thought I could combine them, but am surprised while writing them how many there are!!!!)

1. Blue sky! Yes, renowned for its horrific Beijing pulled out all the stops for me and I was lucky enough to have warm blue skies everyday! When the pollution in China is bad it swamps even the sandstorm days in Cairo, so I felt very relieved that you lungs were to get a break these days. Very unexpected!

2. Sunburn! Ok, so this is linked to number 1, but even living in Cairo for 10 rarely got sunburn just from walking about. Great to see the sun, and get a start on my summer colour, but strap lines- not so great when I am performing in 2 days time (in Changsha). Oops!

3. Tourists! I should have expected it. I know I should, but for some reason I didn't expect to see SO many chinese tourists in China. There were a few other foreigners too, but they too were jostled roughly by large groups of home crowd, all wearing matching Tshirts or caps!   

4. Forbidden city treasures! It surprised me that the forbidden city was just SO huge (and that my 'guides' thought we would get round it all in 1.5hrs!!!) and SO busy. The style of tourism is rush in, get to the front, photograph whatever it is, maybe stand there to post it onto wechat and block the view for all, or jostle your way back through the crowd again. Elbows and phones everywhere. I was therefore amazed that the entrance fee to the treasure hall seemed enough to deter the majority of the crowds, despise being only 10yuan (about £1). This area was exactly what I imagined the forbidden city to be like, area of calm, no throngs of people, the chances to imagine what life would have been like 500 years ago! I felt so lucky to have this time. I still don't feel I have seen half of it and am already looking forward to my return journey!

5. Spiders! So, not all the surprises were good!! One evening I was taken to a street in Beijing, set up for the tourists I believe and here there were selling all sorts of local delicacies, pork shawarma (worth a mention for my friends in Cairo!!), cheese coated fried banana (???), noodles and tofu of every shape, size and colour, deep fried crab and lobster, snake, sliced and whole intestines of every animal you can think of, yellow bean soup (which smelt like sewers, no, in fact it was worse than the sewer!!) and then there was the creepy crawlies. Maggots, huge centipedes, cockroaches, scorpions and one I wasn't expecting at all, huge black spiders which were the size of tarantulas. Put it this way, they looked too big to fit in one mouthful (if you can even contemplate that idea, I felt sick looking at them!). Thankfully we were NOT eating there! Instead we went to a restaurant that was famous for its 'sheep neck' which I have to admit to really not liking the idea of, however it was delicious, and infinitely preferable to the alternatives! Everything I travel  to China people say "oh no, the food is horrible!" And I am always stunned because I have always had amazing meals here. In fact, I usually have to work really hard not to put on weight in my travels here. Now, after seeing this street, I understand where this idea has come from! Oh. But it case you think it's all bad- you have to try 'Rose pancakes'. These wee things are manna from heaven!

******CAUTION*****- scroll down v quickly past next photo if spiders make you squeamish!!!!

6. Christmas songs! It is May but I have heard an annoying little girl sing 'jingle bells' repeatedly (Bingo drinks advertising) and a pack of dogs barking 'decks the halls' (not sure what that advert was for!!). Whatever next? I will tell you what. A cat food advert on tv based around a man baking Christmas cookies with a cigarette dangling from his lips, his ash falling into the dough. I kept waiting for it to be a health and safety ad but no. They ate the cookies with smiles on their faces. All except the cat. Clever cat. And then there was Nat King Cole sings Christmas- the album, being played in Starbucks. I really had to double check a few times this trip that is wasn't actually December!

7. Don't talk politics! So on my first night in Beijing I went for Peking Duck which was amazingly delicious. Later I was told why it's special, which shouldn't have been a surprise but I just hadn't really thought about it; how they contain and force feed the birds etc. Knowing that has put me off somewhat now! The duck restaurant was right next to T square. I don't know much Chinese history, but I do know about some of the stuff that happened here and when I asked my Chinese friends they would barely talk about it. At all. A couple of days later I asked again a question which related to when all the culture was destroyed, the wall broken down in Beijing and books burned, amongst other things. Again, no one would talk about it. So I figured it really was a closed country and perhaps people were scared to talk. So imagine my surprise when on the way to the airport the taxi driver talked the whole way saying he wants a revolution in China, because in his opinion, currently there are no human rights! It's all or nothing it would seem!

...... And that's quite enough surprises for one blog... Next one is all about Bellydance!

Friday, May 20, 2016

Rules and Systems in China, and in Bellydance! (Blog 1 from China 2016...)

I'm just back from 3 weeks teaching around China!

I actually arrived in uk yesterday morning. Switched on social media on arrival, mid transit, in Amsterdam, first thing I saw was breaking news about Egypt Air flight going missing. I instantly felt devastated and horrified and decided I couldn't face it all yet so switched off the iPad again. Wasn't easy stepping onto a plane minutes after it either.....

Today, I am incredibly sad for the victims and also for this compacting blow to Egypt's tourist economy. I can't imagine waiting at an airport for a plane that doesn't show. The horror for those family and friends. My thoughts and love goes out to all involved.

I have now had some sleep and am more or less back in uk time zone so I feel a little more able to reconnect with the world again and, I will be posting some blog articles I wrote while in China and didn't have access to post (damn the great firewall of China!).... hope you enjoy!

Blog 1 from China...Rules and Systems in China and in Bellydance.

I might be stating the obvious, or falling for stereotypes, but in my experience it does seem that the Chinese like rules. By like, I mean 'really' like them.

In Chongqing this week, going to cross a road, I am told "No No No! you must never cross the roads in Chongqing, you must use the bridges and tunnels, it's too dangerous". A little extreme I felt, given my 10 years experience of road crossing in Cairo, but ok, if that is a law here, I will do as I am told. However, with rules, of course, comes rule breakers. The following morning I am made fun of by another girl when I am insistent that we should take the long way in order to use the bridge! She got her way, and we crossed with ease and without repercussion (although the vast majority of people it should be said, were indeed using the bridges).

I am writing this in my first moment of (unexpected) free time since arriving in China one week ago. My flight from Chongqing was delayed. No one advised any of us of this delay. This was an occasion where a system that should work smoothly, failed. No announcements and no message on the departures board. The result; chaos. Almost all the passengers were thronged around the gate and the two 'rabbit in headlights' flight attendants who were manning it. They didn't look like they knew what was going on either. Obviously, since I don't speak Chinese, perhaps they were reassuring people and asking for patience, however, that wasn't the impression I was getting from the faces around me. I couldn't find a single person who spoke English and after asking a couple of people, both of whom looked mortally embarrassed when they couldn't reply, I decided that rather than embarrass anyone else, I would just sit it out.  Two hours later than expected we were permitted to board and at last told why the delay. A tyre needed changed. I'd never thought of a plane getting a flat tyre before. What a frightening thought!!!!

I can't help thinking how these two instances in attitudes to rules and systems relate to Bellydance. I can't help myself!

I remember early days of learning technique and indeed of teaching it. "You must put your arms like this, your feet like that, you must move to this part of the music in this particular way".

This is like "you must use the footbridge to cross the road".

This way will always fit. It is sensible and safe.

Only once you have enough experience behind you  should you break these initial rules (eg dealing with traffic in Cairo or in this analogy have mastered these basic moves and steps). Sometimes when you dance you will still choose to play it safe and that's ok, but sometimes you will take the riskier, more exciting (aka adrenaline producing) route.

Thankfully in dance as opposed to road crossing, the benefits of doing this are much greater (for the performer and the audience) and the risks potentially much lower! Do keep in mind though that some of these 'rules' a dance teacher will give you are there to protect you from injury, so only bend these rules when you know you have the strength and control to deal with the consequences! Breaking some of the rules in dance can make space in which to discover your own personal dance style and be more creative and exciting. Even the top Egyptian artists don't all perform or teach even a basic hip drop in the same way, so keep this in mind when learning and exploring for yourself different ways to do even the things you previously thought were written in stone.

My airport story made me think of the choreography v improvisation debate.

There is a recognized international system for boarding a plane. You have your gate number and boarding time on your boarding pass and if there are any changes they will be shown on the board. Chaos happened today because the board was not used as it should, the system failed!

This to me is like a choreography. There are steps, in a specific order and if all goes well then you will succeed in achieving what you set out to do. Things will run smoothly.

If however the choreography doesn't go to plan, you forget it, or the stage doesn't allow you do perform the moves you wanted, or someone gets in the way, you have the 'board of Improvisation' to fall back on. Assuming you have practiced free-styling then hopefully that will take away the fear and uncertainty you might feel at this point and see you through to the end of the show or at least until you can pick up your choreography again.

However, if you don't have improvisational skills, you have nothing to draw on, it is just like today when that board stayed blank for 2 hours; chaos!

So, even if right now you think you will always choose to perform choreography over improvisation, make sure that your improv skills are up to scratch anyway, just in case that 'flight is delayed'. Who knows, you may even end up preferring that method of performance eventually anyway!

I'm airborne now, heading to Beijing to teach guess what.... improvisation skills! You'd never have guessed it, would you?!

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Lorna's 2016 workshop schedule so far...

Some of my upcoming workshop and performance details have not been confirmed yet... but so far, here are the 2016 ones that are! mainly UK, but China and Egypt too!

April 15-17- Shimmy by the Sea weekender ( )
April 18- Hove- Tabla solo workshop ( )
April 22-24- Shimmy by the Sea weekender ( )

April 27 -May 19 - China - Chongqing, Beijing, Changsha.

June 3- Manchester hafla (email:
June 4- Manchester workshops (email:
June 5- Newcastle workshops ( )

June 11- Glasgow workshops and Hafla ( )

June 25- Wales charity hafla ( ) 
June 26- Wales workshops (Private event at the moment but contact me if interested and if spaces become available i will let you know!) 

July 2- Oxford workshops ( )

July 8-10- Torquay Luxury Bellydance Spa break ( )

July 13- Cairo-  Nile Group festival workshop ( )

September 10- Wolverhampton workshops and 'RaqsW6' Hafla ( )

Sept 27-Oct 18 - China - Chengdu, Weihai, Wuxi

November 14-21- Cairo, Nile Group Festival - TBC 

Please contact me if you need more info re any of the above... or if you would like to host me in your area do let me know via email 

Apart from China and Egypt, most of these dates are in UK, however, there is talk of me coming to USA soon... so let me know if you are interested in that too as we are still at the drawing board stages!