Saturday, June 28, 2008

Ahlan wa sahlan opening festival

I was very nervous about tonight.... it was the opening night and I was to be dancing in Amera el Kattan's ( aka pharonics) fashion show. The plan was- a few models in each costume and each time with a dancer up front showing how the costume moves as well as looks. There were 4 'primas' ( Amera's word for us dancers- not mine!!! ) Leila ( Russian- works here in Cairo) 2 girls from Norway ( Mai and Nina) and me. The theory of the event was great- the reality- well- I dont know what it looked like from out front, but I felt everything was so manically rushed, and dancing to music we hadn't heard before, that if someone was to judge my dance from that performance they would seriously underestimate my abilities! It was nice dancing on stage and recognising people in the audience. It was also an experience working with all these Russian models. They were very sweet and welcoming which for some reason I hadn't expected!

overall- my 'modelling on stage in Cairo debut'- The costumes were lovely... just not so sure about my dance!!!!

At the end- getting back into 'normal' clothes- I discovered I'd lost a shoe! someone had packed up my shoe in a bag with a costume and packed it in one of the 5 massive boxes !!!!!!!!!! I had to hobble one shoe'd upstairs and empty each box and look through every single costume until I found it!!! a crazy end to a mad experience!

I then watched the rest of the show. Suraya, Rhanda and Dina all performed.

It was interesting to see so many similarities between the 3 of them. Rhanda is still my favouite. Suraya did a fabulous om kalthoum with the best violin player in the world (in my opinion!) and her drum solo is always good- but she seemed really on form with that tonight. She did a strange dance , with a pink hat on her head with a full sized blue veil coming down from it which she swished about with gusto. Bizarre. Samba shimmys to die for though.

If Suraya can be described as a fun, pretty, sexy girl, then Rhanda in comparison is 100% woman. Power, poise, confidence. Her entrance dance in particular blew me away. the number of things she can do whilst standing on one leg is really quite impressive! I felt inspired and depressed watching her- always a good sign! When Rhanda does her slow , controlled, theatrical stuff - nothing can beat it!

Tonight was the 1st time I have seen Dina dance in maybe 3 years.... and I was surprised to see how similar to Rhanda she is ( although I suspect its maybe the other way around!!!!) I guess Dina is softer and prettier on stage than Rhanda.... but to be honest they were both very good. I feel they maybe should have been performing on different nights though... I never used to like Dina too much- but my opinion changed tonight...she looked like she was having fun up there.

Dina danced to Enta Omri and I cried.

It was also interesting that both Suraya and later Dina both danced to 'Msafer'- another favourite song of mine. Dina's composition though was unlike any I have heard- and the piece she finished her show with. It was pretty striking!

All and all it was a very good ( and very busy!) night! Well done Ahlan wa Sahlan! Now since its nearly 4am I guess I'll hit the sack- although I'm still buzzing!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Rain at 40 degrees C and other stuff...

well- it was 40- now, at 2am it is only 30deg.... ONLY!!

anyway- I went out onto my balcony to see if there was any air to be had at all- since there feels like there isn't any in my flat.... and all i could hear was rain drops.... surely not!

no of course not. But everyone in my street has their AC's on full blast- and the water dripping from all the Air Conditioning units outside all the buildings in the street sound like that slatterings of a spring rain fall!!!!!!!!!!!!

Today I had my fitting with Amera el Kattan- I am to be dancing at her fashion show at the Ahlan wa sahlan opening Gala this coming Friday. A good excuse to dance in lots of beautiful costumes over a very short time period! It's an experience anyway.... suspect it'll be more fast and stressful than glamourous! There are to be 4 of us dancers- me, a girl from Russia who also works here in Cairo and 2 girls from Norway. Plus a back drop of 'proper' models who can stand in the costumes looking pretty - while we dance in front and show off how the costumes 'dance' !

Coincidences are strange aren't they. I read, yesterday (from start to finish) the book 'A Thousand Spendid Suns' by Khaled Hosseini. He is the same guy who wrote 'the Kite Runner'. The book was fantastic, I recommend it! - and in it they talk about the film Titanic. A film that for some reason I just never saw- maybe the only woman in UK who doesn't know who 'Jack' was !!! Anyway- guess what- after reading about it yesterday, Titanic was on the TV tonight- so I got to find out what the fuss was all about... and had to laugh at all the bits which had obviously been censored out!!!!

In 'A thousand Splendid Suns' he uses the film to demonstrate Kabul during and after the Taliban's rule. Where even TV's are banned and people get black market copies of the film to watch, and then after, in 2003, when it could be openly showed in the cinemas. Although not so open I am guessing - if even in Cairo nowadays- it is still edited!!!!

Monday, June 23, 2008

workshops at Nile Group festival.

I only managed to get along to 2 workshops in the festival this time round.. mainly because with performing everynight I was scared to do too much in the day and be too tired to perform!

Hassan Afifi was a lot of fun. He is a lot older- and worn a 'cuban' style flatcap to teach in, and had tons of character. He was always making us laugh and was fairly strict too. He chose a piece of music that was very cheeky, but very long so we rushed through the choreography. I am dreadful at remembering routines and need more time for things to sink in so I can actually DANCE something rather than just run through the moves- so I found that element of it a little stressful. But I enjoyed a lot the way he would use mime with dance to express the words and in a very cheeky way. (like "I asked him to come out with me - but he said no"- was a beckoning finger then a turn around to face the back with a thumping your bum with your fist - as in 'take that'!!!) . I'd definaltly do another of his workshops!

Zahra................ oh Zahra. WOW. I didn't chose this workshop- I went becuase my friend was sick so she could use her place. BUT I am sooo glad I went. It was an Om Kalthoum technique class. Zahra is seemingly originally from Algeria and now lives in Germany. She didnt' teach a choreography (which makes a very VERY refreshing change at these events) it was a watch and copy. Oh if only. She danced to various classics by my favourite Egyptian singer including lissa fakr and ana fintizarack. In the end I just sat and watched- with my face awash with tears. She was doing so little- and yet caputered the music and feel so well. A very emotional experience for me. That class could have gone on all day as far as I was concerned!!! If you ever get the chance to see her perform or attend a class- do it!!!!!!!!!

Partying at the Pyramisa

Last night was the closing party for the Nile group festival.

There was a singer on 1st (seemingly good- but again I turned up late cos i had to go straight from work so missed her!).

The 1st dancer that was on was Ashmahan. a 2hour show again!!!! She entered in a huge silver aladins lamp and the theme of all the colours for her and her boys was red and white. pretty striking. Her 'genie' outfit was haram pants in shiny gold material- with a waist strap that made it look like a thong coming over the top of them (in fact her final costume of the night had the same theme) It suited her body shape really well- but I can't get past my british reserve and think its cool to show (even intentially like that) your underwear (even though it wasn't - it was part of the costume) anyway, does that make sense? Sexy , but not so classy. Her show included a zar dance, a tannoura, the westling man ( one man in a costume that looks like 2 short men westling) and her dancers so did their 'funky' dance numbers (sarcasm) and of course in her words- 'the crazy boys' who are indeed crazy and jumped about the stage like carzy doing the newest of shabbi street dancing which is a bit of a mix of the and jive and hip hop and bellydance all rolled into one. A fun filled show but to be really honest there was only one bit (other than her drum solo which is always good) where I really got into her dance . She did an om kalthoum number to the rababa- it was lovely. the only time the audience actually settled down to really watch her too. More of that next time please Amahan!!!!!

Liza dance next. Beautiful in Lilac she floated about- styles directly opposite from asmahan who is very fiesty. her khaleegi was lovely as always and she worn that bedla made from assuit that she worn in april again. I WANT that costume!!! Her dance has less power and punch than it normally does for me- but I have a feeling I was a bit danced out by the time last night came around! so maybe it was me!

Fatima was the final act of the night. she looked lovely- as usual. and did an oriental set, a saaid number and alexandrian too- but to be honest there wasn't much difference in the styles of any of them. she looked likehe wanted to be somewhere else rather than on the stage. I have seen her dance with more conviction before. Disappointing performance from the only Egyptian on stage.

Khalid Mahmood danced on friday night. I had gone along to catch some of the competition (which was seemingly won by an american girl but I unfortunatly missed her) and as usual it was a very varied show of skills and style and natioanlities. I really felt for the girl who's costume forced her to do a builders impression fhroughout most of her dance (a lot of bum cleavage on show!) she however handled it very well and got the loudest aplause out of anyone I saw. There was a girl in red who impressed me- very pretty , cute and punchy and sweet at the same time on stage... not sure if she got a place in results - but she deserved to in my opinion! wish I could remember names- or at least countries for you!!! There were 5 korean girls doing a routine that was fun- very bellydance superstars. very precise- as you would expect. different.

Khalid danced about midnight- which was very unfortunate since I had to leave after only the 1st dance to take my friends to the airport.... but his entrance dance wil not be forgotten. 4 beautfiul boy in shiny blue strech outfits doing maybe the best pre-dancer scene setting dance of the week, and then khalid coming in in a matching white and silver outfit (reminding me of Elvis somehow). As each dancer left the stage he stretched out his arms longingly after them.... seemed a bit strange. They had a nice bit with the 4 boys holding a large blue chiffon sheet between them woth khalid in the middle and them they would bring the sheet really low down and khalid would be down on his knees- hard to describe- but very effective. I wish I could have stayed to see how the rest of his show developed but it just wasn;t possible. A very Las Vegas start , minus the scantily clad dancing girls!


Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Nile Group Festival- opening night June 2008.

I was working last night- but headed along to the Pyramisa afterwards to catch the end of the gala dinner night.

I had missed Nour (unfortunatly because I think she is one of the most elegant and graceful dancers around) and Tito (always a fun show) and m ost unfortunatly (since I have never seen him preform) Saad el Sugyher (the shabbi singer of the popular 'el Enab'- the grape song!). He seemingly sang all his well known hits and had EVERYONE in the audience up dancing - really wish I had seen that!

However I did see Leyla perform. Technically- she has really outdone herself (in my opinion) A opening dance very reminisant of Rhanda Kamel style in a beautiful pink Eman Zaki costume (In fact- I think all her costumes were Eman's). Rather than the usual Saaidi or Alexandrian set that most dancers do- she came out in a STUNNING trouser costume doing the Lebanese Debka. It was a great idea- and the costume breathtakingly simple and effective. Her final costume was a short skirt with lots of gold 'coins' hanging from it. Very original- a bit strange. I enjoyed her show, the only thing that annoyed me is that she was forever fixing her face........... wish she could find a way of keeping it off her face without it interupting the ance all the time. But its a small critisim!

Then Shams ( the Egyptian element of the night) performed. She came out in a white bedla with red roses on it- which was lovely, but very high waisted, which I felt hid some of her moves. Her entrance with red metallic Isis wings could have been spectacular- but she forgot that we couldn't see through them- so we missed her opening moves!!! Her next costume was a black wet look trouser costume- but no one had warned her that we would be able to see her black G string through the material under the lights. Very unfortunate! Shams did some impressive head flicks with a mass of black curly locks- and chose some lovely music to dance on... but I felt (personal opinion!) that she danced over a lot of the music rather than representing it. Very pretty though- and maintained a huge smile throughout.

A fun night and still really gutted I missed Saad !!!


"With passion pray.
With passion make love.
With passion eat and drink and dance and play.
Why look like a deadfish in this ocean of God"
~ Rumi

I read this recently and thought it was worth comment! Passion - the driving force of life.

Some call Rumi the 'Sufi poet of love' some describe him as the ' Persian Mystic'.

The 1st time I had ever even heard the name was maybe 9 years ago- on a visit to Cairo when we stayed in an apartment owned by an american professor who practised Sufism and who's house had a prayer room and images of sufi's and quotes from Rumi all over it. It was a beautiful apartment and sparked a curiosity in me.

Many dancers reading this will have read of Sufi dancing ( AKA whirling dervishes) and perhaps seen a Sufi dancer perform on a Nile boat , like the one I work on , The Pharoah, or at the free sufi performace near Khan el Khalili .

Rumi (full name- Mawlānā Jalāl-ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī) wrote in Persian and lived in the area which has eventually become known as Turkey. After his death, in 1273, his son and his followers founded the Mawlawīyah Sufi Order which is where the twirling 'dance' that, we see mainly in tourist shows today, comes from.

Rumi believed passionately in the use of music, poetry and dancing as a path for reaching God. His whole thinking revolves (excuse the pun!) around unity and love. He has written widely on love- a love that connects all peoples from all religions with God.

"Your task is not to seek for love,

but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”

check out if you are interested in finding out more.... also check out a film called 'Seventh Heaven' (recently released here in Cairo).

"What can I do, Submitters to God? I do not know myself.
I am neither Christian nor Jew, neither Zoroastrian nor Muslim,
I am not from east or west, not from land or sea,
not from the shafts of nature nor from the spheres of the firmament,
not of the earth, not of water, not of air, not of fire.
I am not from the highest heaven, not from this world,
not from existence, not from being.
I am not from India, not from China, not from Bulgar, not from Saqsin,
not from the realm of the two Iraqs, not from the land of Khurasan
I am not from the world, not from beyond,
not from heaven and not from hell.
I am not from Adam, not from Eve, not from paradise and not from Ridwan.
My place is placeless, my trace is traceless,
no body, no soul, I am from the soul of souls.
I have chased out duality, lived the two worlds as one.
One I seek, one I know, one I see, one I call.
He is the first, he is the last, he is the outer, he is the inner.
Beyond "He" and "He is" I know no other.
I am drunk from the cup of love, the two worlds have escaped me.
I have no concern but carouse and rapture.
If one day in my life I spend a moment without you
from that hour and that time I would repent my life.
If one day I am given a moment in solitude with you
I will trample the two worlds underfoot and dance forever.
O Sun of Tabriz, I am so tipsy here in this world, I have no tale to tell but tipsiness and rapture"

This one describes why I dance.........
"Everyone has been made for some particular work, and the desire for that work has been put in every heart".
"Let the beauty of what you love be what you do".

Saturday, June 07, 2008


I am very happy. I am sitting on my lovely siwa cushions and rug, on my balcony, in the shade, reading my book and realsing that I can hear nothing around me except birdsong!!!

I feel very lucky to have this life at the moment!

I was working last night and danced to a song I have never danced to before... a friend who came to watch said that was her favourite dance out of my whole show! It was really funny really- I had asked for a song from the band, they repeated it- i said yes yes.... they said are you sure? i said yes of course.... turns out I had pronounced the name wrongly and they had never played that one for me before which is why they were so questioning! I realised my error in the 1st few bars- but it was too late to do anything other than continue- it was a lot of fun- i really love trying to guess where the music is going to go next- i dont always get i right, but it keeps me alert and on my toes and often inspires new moves too!!! Improvisation is definatly a forte of mine!

Tonight I will go to the costume shop before work, for a fitting ( for a new tartan costume!!!)... and all day I can lie around reading a very good book , 'The Beacon of Alexandria' by Gillian Bradshaw. I recommend it to anyone interested in Roman or Greek history, or in the history of medicine. I am enjoying it as its a very well written interesting story!

I should be doing some stretches- and I should be doing some arabic revision ( trying to do a little of that each day since the school cancelled the course I was to do due to lack of students at my level- grr!) BUT I am reading my book and feeling very happy with my lot in life. It's important to enjoy these moments...

Really- the birds are so loud its sometime distracting from the book! I am writing about this because I know a lot of you who have been to Cairo before, cannot imagine the sound of anything except traffic! Anyway.............. back to my book and the birds!

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Inspiration....and workshop info!

I had a hellish day yesterday. I am working on some new music for my show... and for some reason I just couldn't dance. I spent all day in and out my dance studio trying things out and feeling nothing was working and I couldn't dance and I should just give up and head home..... I even watched some DVD's to try and give me some inspiration... from the likes of Jillina and Dandash and Aida Nour... but nothing was working- seeing how great others were was just adding pressure and making me feel even worse about myself...........

So I went to work last night with a heavy heart. (Lightened slightly by the fact that I had 2 new costumes with me - a wonderful oriental style one from Hoda Zaki and a fun saaidi Trouser costume by Amera). I really expected to have one of those nights where you just want to give up and go home.

I had a FABULOUS night!!!!!!!!!!!!! I really dont know what happened- but everything seemed to be working in my favour- i felt great in the new costumes, the band were 100% with me and sounding strong, the audience were lovely.... I danced the best ever................. felt invincible!!!! wow- when it happens, the adrenaline you get beats anything in this world! That feeling of being on stage in front of everyone with all of them watching so intently they are hardly breathing- the control you have the pure joy at putting smiles on peoples faces.......... THAT is why i put up with the shitty bits of living in Cairo. THAT. wow. Even my musicians were waiting at the end to say well done to me with big smiles on their faces- that RARELY happens!!!

How it happened when i had felt so down about my dance- who knows.....I am just so glad it did!!!

If you need inspired in dance... then come see me!!!!- i can't promise to dance as I did last night ( although I'll be forever trying!)- but you will get my full energy and attention!!!!!

I am performing on the Golden Pharoah tonight (Thurs 5th), and tomorrow (Fri 6th) and then on the Nile Pharoah Sat 7th and Sun 8th, then back on the Golden on Thurs 12th. Hope to see you there.

If doing is more your thing rather than watching................. I am organising a workshop for Sat 14th June.

Starting with basic beginners level and working up from there...something for everyone!

I aim to make these workshops will be informative, fairly energetic and fun.

Open to all ages, shapes, sizes and abilities. Ladies only.

Spaces are limited so early booking is recommended.

Date: Saturday 14th June '08
Time: 12-3pm
Cost: 150le if booked in advance. 200le on the door.
Venue: Studio in the Sky, top floor, building 5, road 215, Maadi.

to book contact Anna Louise on or 010 150 0902.

please bring a scarf to tie round your hips. We dance barefoot. oh- and remember to bring your sense of humour with you!!!!! see you there!

So- a dance entry this time in my blog! 1st in a while- but I suspect more to come!!!

Sunday, June 01, 2008

sunday sunday

I know that here in Cairo a friday is a sunday....

but I find it really hard to motivate myslef to do anything really on a sunday even though thats supposed to be like a monday! (are you following this so far?!!!)

today I went to the arabic school, Kalimat, to enroll for a month of classes.... I havn't done any proper study of arabic for over a year and a half now- and I am feeling it... I know my grammer is shocking.... so needs must.

I did a test to see what level I should go into .... was very nervous in case I had gone backwards!!!!!..... but was happy when the teacher said that my conversational skills were about level 5, but my grammer was level 4- so have to start at level 4. Thats just fine by me!!!!!

so I am all paid up and due to start tomorrow- but they didn't know if they were going to have enough people to run the class.... so a little bit worried about that- fingers crossed some more turn up !!!!!

I decided I was fed up sitting at home online most of the day all alone, so I took my laptop to the Marriot bakery, where they have lovely AC thank you very much, and I don't have excuses not to just get on with the work- which is what I did. Every cafe etc in Cairo has Wi-Fi- its wonderful!!!

then I impressed myslef further by spending a good 2, nearly 3 hours revising my level 3 course work from the summer before last!!! Going over it I wish they had put me in level 3 again!!!!

off to Salsa now... its at Jazz up, in the Nile Hilton hotel and is on every sunday and tuesday through the summer.

oh and a comment about my Bowab (doorman). He seems to like me more when I give him errands to run. It would be the opposite at home wouldn't it? I am always shy to ask him to do stuff for me... but recently I have started to (he got 6 cushions I bought in Siwa stuffed for me today!) and he is much cheerier! Maybe before he thought it was a slur on him that I wouldn't trust him with anything... or something like that.Who knows...? Oh the cultural differences!!!

House proud

Let me start this entry saying I am house proud..... but not proud of where the house is- or should I say of the people who 'live' in this area!!!! I just walked home from a restaurant- 15mins walk..... The number of cars who trailed me, turned round and round to follow me, calling names.... just saying hello hello... i love you etc etc during those 15mins was amazing! Funnily enough I didn't feel scared- not really sure why. Maybe once the summer kicks in for sure and there are even more arabs in town then it will become more threatening- it did last year. Hate not being able to walk home- but then- I guess its hard to be scared when there are just SOOOO many people in the streets- not like at home if you walk at midnight there is no-one on the street except yourself- THEN being followed is scary- rather than here where it just feels downright pathetic!

Anyway- I wanted to show off my lovely curtains on my balcony. They keep the sun off the livingroom windows, give me privacy from the neighbours, and mean I was able to have hour today lying in the sun in my bikini- wonderful! If anyone knows the actual name for this type of pattern that would be great.... Its the material they usually make tents out of here to celebrate weddings, parties, festivals and funerals !!! I love it cos its so colourful and cheerful.

And this is the wonderful carpet I bought myself in Siwa..... the colours haven't shown too well , maybe due to the sun this afternoon... but I have this on the floor of my balcony- so I can lounge about outside- wonderful!!! Cushions are getting stuffed this weekend- so more pics to follow once the scene is properly set...........

Another Siwa purchase- I couldn't resist these palm leaf made baskets..... Great for hiding the washing power in!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

And of course - my dance studio................ Love this room!!!! Sound system. Mirrors (on 2 walls), lovely wooden floor, enough space for me plus maybe 3/4 students. Perfect for private classes. Fabulous. I have found myself just wandering in and out of the studio having a wee potter about in front of the mirrors- testing a few moves here and there- its a joy to have! feel very lucky to be in a place big enough to fit it in!!! I have even been known to go in there and do stretching for a bit too!!!!!!
Wen dancers rent out my spare rooms- they get full use of the studio if they want it.... so far it seems to be a pretty good selling point for my rooms!!!!!!! lots of people coming to see me this year! looking fwd to it!

And this next pic has nothing at all to do with my flat- but I spotted this can in the supermarket this afternoon and had to buy it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Scotland is never really very far away!!!!