Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Nile Group Opening Gala June 2011

oh what a night.................!


Last night i went along to the opening show at the Pyramisa with the girls who are currently staying with me in 'Hotel bellylorna'. If you are attending the workshops in the festival- and pay for at least 7 of them... then you get opening and closing night shows included in your registration fee. Otherwise you pay $50 for a ticket. When i heard who was in the line up for the opening i decided it was well worth the money and a night not to be missed!

Saying that- The night must have started pretty much on time, since when we arrived, only a little late (Cairo style) Nour had already performed her 1st number of the night. She was elegant, and fun and beautiful and gentle... a show that was worth the entrance fee on its own! We all especially liked her khaleegy which was again, soft and passionate... when she whipped her hair round, you really felt is was the enjoyment of the move which instigated the action... rather than because that is 'what you do' in khaleegy. It was a bit like watching a cat stretch in fact. Mesmorising.

After the buffet (an experience a lot less traumatic than usual due to the destressingly low numbers in attendance of the fesitval this year since the revolution) we watched a dancer i hadn't seen before, Margurite (forgive me any spelling mistakes here please!) She is russian.. but has been taking lots of lessons with Lubna Eman ( a lovely lady and obviously from these results, a very good teacher!) The style was 100% Egyptian... which as all foreign dancers knows is our holy grail... to be mistaken for Egyptian while on stage! The only thing i think that would have improved her show was maybe less choreography. Although everything she did was moves perfect... I felt she kept herself safe away from us the audience. Mind you, nerves alone could do that to a girl i guess!

Tito was next on stage... with backing dancers who were all dressed differently but all dressed in past Tito costumes- it was bizarre- like a lookalike competition. Novel idea though. In the group that went with me... 2 of the girls hadn't ever seen him perform live before, so they were, of course, enraptured. He does dance in the most manly way out of all the male oriental dancers i have seen, although the headscarf he was wearing didn't get lifted up like hair and flicked an inordinate number of times.... A fun show with him standing dancing on top of a tabla too.

Camelia was beautiful.

 Her dance was the most contained i have ever seen her dance... and i think that added to it. Her main piece in her show was a reproduction on a moulid (holy festival) and there were stilt walkers, 'punch and judy' puppets, tannnoura, fanoon, a fortune teller, jugglers, even a wee old man 'selling' erk soos (a licorice drink). She came and went during this carnival in about 5 differnt costumes... and it was a entertainment on a massive scale. unfortunalty though... becuase her dancing to me was so lovely in her 1st set, i was frustrated because i wanted to watch her dance again... rather than the circus show (as lively and entertaining as it was!)

Last but not least, Asmahan. Her entire band were wearing shirts made from the egyptian flag, she was carried onto stage in a box made from egyptian flag and her 1st costume was a 'brides' dress with a full net black skirt, white and gold eagle on her stomach and a red shawl.

.......these she stripped away to finallly be wearing a very tight very revelling costume of red whie and black. My 'flag' costume looks like a galabeya in comparison!

Her dance was lovely, and very soft.. which is always what i though i would like to see more in Asmahans dancing... but it felt more like the passion or power had disolved a bit, which was sad. It's not a surprise though... She is not based in Cairo anymore, so no longer getting her daily high energy exercise fix in her show each night. and she is not the only one to have less daily practise! All of us dancers in Cairo are performing much less since the revolution since the numbers of tourists in town will take time to increase and people are employing dancers less and less at weddings....

What i will say about Asmahan however is that she has always been one of the most welcoming and interested and caring of all the dancers here in Cairo. When i first arrived here to work she gave me a lot of very good advice about work here. A very generous lady- and this comes accross in her dance too. A nice shot of Asmahan and Khaled Mahmoud-

I have to give credit to the Nile Group organisers who cannot possibly be making any kind of profit with such low attendance levels... but who, despite the cost to themselves,  put on an amazing show for us all the same. This surely is a fantastic festival to attend.. since there won't be any issues of having difficulties seeing the teachers at the front of the classes! I recommend you support it and Egypt and come to the next festival if you can!

I also have to give photo credit for al these shots to the lovely Delia Lewis who is currently staying in Hotel Bellylorna with me. Thanks for letting me use them here D !!!

The entire night ended after dawn.

 Hehe- thats stating the obvious isn't it... I mean.. the entire show finished at dawn when we jumped a taxi back to Hotel Bellylorna to dream of shimmys and hair flicks!

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Performances Performances

Yesterdays blog was intended to be something completely different... about positive experiences i have had here in Cairo recently... I am not really sure where the 'men' issue came from ... well- thats a lie isnt' it (stopping herself writing!).... obviously it is all around me and constant therefore had to spill out somehow! This blog really is my therapy at times! So now I'll write the blog that was intended for yesterday.....

On Friday night I attended Linda Cleary's 'Up on the Roof' open mic night at Darb 1718. It's a monthly event and this was the second month i had been able to attend. Darb has been very impressively proactive and used the money they have made from donations from the event towards making the venue bigger and better- there is now more roof on on the roof.... and yet again was packed to overflowing!

The acts included some I had seen before, and some new artists. One of my favourites of the night was a young girl who had written a poem to her 'baby girl'. All about what this unborn baby's life would potentially hold in store for her. What that baby girl's brown eyes would see. It was very interesting and beautifully written. In fact, I'd love to read it.

It was interesting to watch artists develop their performance. There was one comedian who i had seen perform at the open mic night held at The Pharoahs and he performed the same set, but much improved. There is something special about witnessing that .. like watching a work in progress... seeing what was kept, what was cut... I liked. The next open mic at The Pharoahs is June 7th. 7-10pm. Their facebook page is http://www.facebook.com/?ref=home#!/event.php?eid=188691417847114

A favourite of the open mics nights (and indeed the organiser of the one at Pharoahs) is Habib. His poetry and rapping is alway professional and entertaining.. but on friday he did some freestyling too and i loved it. It was like the performance volume and tempo had been turned up high. I hope he does more of that at future events. Improvisation for me is always so impressive whatever art form it takes.

The strangest thing throughout the night was trying to focus on acts... while the Adhan (call to prayer) was loudly calling from a nearby mosque. It's a performers and organisers nightmare i would imagine! When you hear the Adhan you are supposed to switch off all noise that could interfere with people hearing it... so usually people will mute the TV or radio when they hear it. Taxi drivers usually switch off their music or instantly change the radio station so you can hear yet another version of it being called at the same time. My heart went out to the girl reading her poem when it called... you could see her internal struggle- the show must go on... or do i stop and wait... or what, what should i do? It wouldn't have been as much of an issue if we'd been inside... but on the roof it was loud and clear. Mind you- the car horns and other city noises dont stop to make way for the art either. Hmmm, An interesting dilemma that events organisers in most countries in the world don't have to take into consideration! Indeed... Since the time of the sail of  The Pharoahs boats (where I work) is fixed... I guess there are often times while i will be performing through the Ahdan, but we can't hear it on the boat so I have never had to consider this issue before.

I enjoyed my performance on the Golden Pharoah last night. It was interesting for me to see the influence the Randa course i did last week, has had on my dancing already. I never want to dance like someone else, and although Randa has always been an inspiration for me i often get the comment- yes but you make her moves your own. Which is all i can hope to do really with any of the dance, since its all been learnt from someone! On stage,  I felt my sharp moves were sharper, stronger. Also there was more big use of space both in movement and in my own body shapes. I had more confidence facing the audience and saying - This is Me. I enjoyed it. (don't think my Tabal did... he had got 'used' to me and was having to work hard to keep up!). Glad i am working fro the next 3 nights to explore these changes more and looking forward to dancing for a group of friends who are coming to the show tonight!

And must give this a mention... My friend Ellie is going to be performing on tuesday night at Villa 55, Maadi! (http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=152981084772415&ref=ts)

So far, thankfully for her, it seems it is easier as a foreigner to break into the singing world here than it is to be a dancer. Although why i am surprised by that I don't know since i can't imagine anything that would be harder (I'll never forget that first year for me in Cairo!). I am really happy for her and fingers crossed this is that start of a fabulous career for her in Cairo.

I wonder if there are any other UK artists currently, regularly performing in Cairo...?  I think we might be the only 2 ?!

Saturday, June 04, 2011

are there any MEN in Egypt?

Cairo nights have really changed since before the revolution. I used to always say i felt safer walking in the street here at night than I would have done in UK... but that, unfortunatly, is no longer the case.

I dont know what has caused it. The realisation that people can 'get want they want' if they go for it on mass? (often the abuse comes from groups of young boys). Maybe because there are far less police on the streets so people know they can get away with crimes? or perhaps its just down to boredom? since Cairo shuts down eary these days with restaurants and bars closing before midnight. Shops which used to be open til the last customers went home, now pull down their new post-revolution shutters around a time when Cairians used to start their shopping for an evening!

The comments have increased... and although i have become thick skinned towards the various phrases that get thrown at women (Egyptian girls too- not just foreigners...) , the number of boys trying to touch also seems increased. In the last week i have had a stone thrown at me, hundreds of comments, one grope ( a child under 10) and two attempted gropes (both teenagers who regreted it since my reactions seemed to have speeded up and will have a bruise to remind them of their actions for a day or two...)

Why walk about at night then you might ask...? fair question i guess... except that the latest attempted grope happened at 5.30pm whilst walking from my house to get a taxi! It makes no difference at all. I am so tired of it. I wish .... oh , so many violent things. I hate what this constant bombardment of abuse is turning me into.

So if any Egyptians are reading this...please
- women- educate your brothers, sons (rather than giggling when your habibi, who you are sittting on that bench on the corniche, throws a comment out at me and you giggle rather than berating him!)

 men- likewise educate yourselves and those around you.... It is NOT the way forward to make yourselves stronger by putting others down. Even if the most beautiful woman in the world walks by you- THERE IS NO NEED TO COMMENT. I'll repeat that- THERE IS NO NEED TO COMMENT! You may think its a compliment, that you are being 'nice' but any comment which is not asked for is UNWANTED. Oh and be careful welcoming woman walking alone to Egypt. The tone of your voice can turn a beautiful, caring sentiment into an intrusive, frightening attack. It is amazing how sleazy the phrase 'Welcome to Egypt' can be!  Bite your tongue. Say nothing. PLEASE!

Prove to me you can BE A MAN- that you know when silence is the biggest compliment- that it shows to me you can respect and care for my feelings.

Prove to me you can BE A MAN, and speak up, when others in the streets throw stones, words and hands out at women.

Dont prove it to me..... prove it to yourself!

I have spoken with many 'men' here about this... and their instant response is - 'but of course they comment- you are beautiful'. This is as insulting as the comments. It implies that men have a right to impose their thoughts/hands on me just because of my looks? These same 'men' who consider themselves educated, westernised, caring, above such things are the ones who completely ignore comments hurled at you by idiots when you walk with them in the street, ushering you quickly into 'somewhere safe' instead. Instead they should be defending you and defending the dignity of all Egyptians. BE A MAN.

Stand up men..... you dont want to live in a world of mice and men haters... yet this is what women turn into when suppressed and abused through generations.....

Speak out... to the abusers... not to the victims. BE A MAN.

I LOVE Egypt... I have lived here for over 5 years. i want to continue living here... The animalistic attitudes of the 'men' here towards women is the number one reason why I would ever consider leaving.