Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Sunshine in Leith!

The lovely Norma Bain in Edinburgh has shared these photos of my night at Mimi's which yes, is in Leith, and has agreed that i can share them with you too.............. You can see perfectly in these what i mean by the sunshine acting like a spotlight on me while i was dancing!!!

Not so sure about the facial expression i am pulling here- but the costume looks good.....

Ah yes- me in my civvies... and all those wonderful cakes... not that I got a chance to sit and eat really... but that was my choice... I just wanted to dance and dance!!!!!!!!!!!!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Krys in Kent

When I danced in Kent, I was lucky enough to have the fabulous portrait photogrpaher, Krystyna Fitzgerald-Morris as a guest. Thank you so much Krys for these- I love them all!!! You can check out her work at www.krysphotos.co.uk

 This one HAD to be included for comedy value!!! Captions welcome!!!

Me and the girls...........

Crazy ladies...........................!!!!

Swansea shots!

In Wales this weekend we were lucky enough to have Ant Howell at our hafla, a wonderful photographer... here are some of my fav shots he took (mainly of me!!) . There are quite a few because I found it really hard to choose which not to include!! Thanks Ant !!!

Yes - this is me dancing on a chair in front of a bar!!!

These next shots i couldn't resist. Farhana did the most amazing Henna I have ever seen.....

Look at the concentration on Zag's face as she works.... !!

Photos from Edinburgh show

I am blessed when I do my UK performances by meeting people who really know what to do with a camera... here a a few of the shots taken in my Edinburgh show... which was an afternoon tea party - but in the evening! The sun appeared just as i started to dance and it was like I had a spotlight on me!

Thanks to Elspeth for organising the night for me at such a lovely venue (mimi's cafe!)

here is a lovely photo that Caroline took, shows the cakes,and the sunshine both off to perfection;

and thanks to James Campbell in Edinbugh for the following shots;

Wiggles in Wales

This weekend I flew down to Wales to perform and teach there in Swansea. I have been to Wales as a kid... but not since, and i can’t really remember much about it, so I consider this my first trip there.

I loved it.

The people were all so lovely and friendly to me. I have so many interesting conversations and lots of people asking about the politics of Egypt just now and where bellydance stand in the middle of all of that. I told them my hopes, fears and prayers and we are all just waiting to see what will happen in that, and everything, since Morsi has become president. ‘Hanshuf’ (we will see)

Sophie was the host for the whole weekend. I hadn’t seen her for years but had met again in Cairo and she used to come to my dance classes at Edinburgh University, long before I moved to Cairo. On Friday, I was collected at Cardiff airport by Sophie’s other half, Aram, who is Kurdish. I am totally ignorant of the Kurdish language, music and dance and we talked about lots of interesting things on the journey to Swansea. It was like home (Egypt) watching the way he interacted with his friends... driving into a carwash owned by other Kurds and just getting out the car, helping them wash some cars, in return they helped him wash his, then we drove away. We also were given the best chicken shawerma, free through his connections! A friendship barter service, filtering into professional and personal lives. It was lovely and friendly and although I see it often in interactions between Moroccans, Iraqis, Egyptians etc living in UK, it is not something that the Brits tend to do.

It is not that we don’t help our friends, of course we do, but we usually wait to be asked for help, not wanting to offend someone by suggesting that they can’t handle something on their own., Or we offer help but seldom just roll up our sleeves and do things. We usually keep ourselves to ourselves. For instance, if I was having a problem financially, I would go to the bank to get a loan, which would then cost me even more, since I would have to pay interest; however that would still be preferable in my eyes and culture than going to my friends or even my parents and asking to borrow from them. My thinking would be, ‘It is my problem, and I need to get myself out of it’. When I have discussed this idea with Egyptians they are shocked, especially at the idea that I wouldn’t go first to my family. For them, it is normal, if you have money in your pocket to happily give it to friends, because you know eventually when you are having issues, you can go to them and they will help you. It is not even a, borrow now and pay back a week on Friday type arrangement, it is more than often an open ended loan! I can’t help feeling that in this in many ways, assuming no one takes advantage and everyone acts with a high moral code, that this is the ideal way to be, since then the money is in the place it is most needed all the time rather than sitting building up in one place and not helping anyone.  Of course, that is the crux of the matter isn’t it- the assumption that everyone will act in a ‘good’ way.

Anyway- I digress.... belly dancing in Wales...

The hafla on the Friday night was extremely enjoyable. I saw some lovely dancing and met a lot of very friendly interesting people. There was even a man there who had recently taken up tabla, and at the end of my show I had everyone clapping a beat for me to continue dancing to, and persuaded him to get out his drum and join in, he was nervous but did it. I have to say- I was very impressed when I learned he had only been doing it for 6 weeks!!! We had a wonderful night and although numbers could have been better, we were aware we were competing with the rare Welsh sunshine and also the opening night of the Olympics. So all in all- I would class the night as a huge success.

 One woman, bless her, was in tears after my dance and took me aside to thank me for reminding her how much she loved dance. She had been involved in the UK bellydance scene and then given up dancing because she had felt she had been up against people who all took things too much to heart, that is was becoming bitchy and that had spoilt her enjoyment of the dance itself. She told me that my dancing had reminded her what it was all about, and supposed to be about, and that she was going to start dancing again. I was sad to hear her reasons to quit in the first place- but very happy to be part of her returning since she has a lot of talent and would be a shame to waste it especially when she loved it so much.

 I wish everyone involved in dance, wherever they are in the world, could remember, that even when it is our job, our profession, and even when there is competition for jobs, that by putting other people down, or spreading gossip about other dancers, all you do is create a ‘them and us’ type atmosphere which is excluding to many people and means no one gets to experience the pure joy that dance can and should bring! Be nice ladies!!! Soapbox moment over....

The workshops were a huge hit. The largest number turnout on the tour so far and it was like standing in front of a room of sponges... they took everything I threw at them. It was impressive to see a difference in people’s dance even just after the first two hours! I was asked more than once if I would please move to Wales and people were only pacified when I agreed to come back soon! One woman told me that in her training as a teacher, she  had always been told that a good teacher does not actually teach, but rather guides people into learning and discovering for themselves. She said that this in particular was what she loved most about my workshops, that I was generous and it had been obvious to her that I wasn’t holding back anything from them, but i also wasn’t spoon-feeding them. I agree a lot of what I cover in my workshops works the brain as much as the body!

I really love dancing in Egypt. It is my dream come true. My own band, Egyptian audiences, being part of the culture. Sometimes however I really miss these human connections and sense of appreciation I feel when I dance outside of Egypt and also reward when I help people progress in their own dance. In Egypt people there are impressed at the foreigner who dances like an Egyptian. In this UK tour so far I have felt that people are impressed that one of their own dances like an Egyptian- but also can teach it in their own language, with cultural references that help them understand how they too can dance like an Egyptian. Anyway- what I am saying is... I love both!

On Saturday night my friends took me to a sheesha club. Because smoking indoors is illegal in UK, private clubs have formed where, for amembership fee, you can go and join other likeminded people for a puff on a sheesha pipe. It was ‘another world’ type experience. One minute I was in a French restaurant, eating frogs legs (as one does) and next I was in a street in Swansea and then I was in a Bedouin tent surrounded by Turks and Kurds and various Arabs all of us watching Arabic TV and smoking sheesha and largely speaking in Arabic. After that we were in what seemed to be a gay club dancing to funk and disco! All of those cultures and experiences in one evening! It was fantastic!

All in all, I loved my weekend in Wales and am really looking forward to organising another one as soon as we can! Thank you to all, especially Sophie and her family, for making me so welcome and showing me how lovely Swansea and the people there can be!

Kent and Cambridge

forgive me...only just publishing last weeks weekend review... never mind having written this weekend in wales (which was fabulous....) here goes;

Kent and Cambridge

It is really quite lovely how excited some of the women in the UK bellydance scene get about coming to a show or doing workshops with a ‘real Cairo Star’ (their words, not mine!!!). In one workshop it was really hard to get people to respond at first, which is not a problem I usually ever have, so I couldn’t understand it. Then their teacher told me there were a little overawed at having their first workshop with an ‘International teacher’.  I laughed out loud and told her to tell them not to be so silly... I may live and work in Cairo, but I am just me, Lorna from Scotland!!

This weekend I was hosted by two lovely dancers, who are also lovely people, Ann Hall in Kent and Emma Chapman in Cambridge.

In UK these days there are so many bellydance events here, there and everywhere that I am always very grateful when people who haven’t hosted me before take a ‘risk’ and do so. Thankfully, as yet, they have never been disappointed and have always asked me back again. I hope I am not tempting fate by saying that when I still have 5 out of my 8 tour cities to go, although I am fairly confident since I know that one of the Manchester workshops  on 4th August had sold out by last week! Fingers crossed for this coming weekend which will be my first time in Wales and thank you in advance to the host there, Sophie Smith who is hosting for her first time ever, in order to get me there (book your places at the workshops and halfa in Swansea now if you haven’t already!!!)

Back to Kent. On Friday night Ann had organised for me to perform at Mandaloun, a lovely Lebanese restaurant in Rochester. I really recommend it! The private function venue was lovely but strange, it was a vault which felt like being in someone’s wine cellar, or inside the intestine of a large animal! It was just perfect for the 48, mainly, women, who came along to partake of the very generous deal the restaurant owner, Joseph, gave us. This is obviously a clever man who understands how to best advertise his venue. Tickets were £25 per head, which included the show (me!) and a 3 course meal (I swear some of the best Arabic food I have ever tasted anywhere in the world, especially the baba ghanoug) AND all drinks included. Alcohol or otherwise!!! Can you imagine? What a fun night!!! 

As I went round at the start of the evening, introducing myself to people and chatting I realised that a lot of people were interested in the same things about my life in Cairo, so I asked Ann’s permission, which was happily given, to do a wee 10 minutes talk about my life in Cairo before we even started the dancing. It is lovely to see so much interest for the country I have chosen to live in. Not just about the dance and trying to imagine the rollercoaster lifestyle of a dancer there, but also about the politics, specifically since revolution and the election of a Muslim brotherhood president. Thank you Kent ladies for making it such an enjoyable night! Most of the time I couldn’t even hear the music because the clapping was so supportively enthusiastic!! Fun.

Cambridge is a stunning city. Especially when seen in the sunshine! My train arrived in early so Emma showed me the college she had attended, and also where she had gotten married! It was like stepping into a film set. Young pretty girls wearing flowery summer dresses were everywhere, cycling on their bicycles which had wicker baskets on the front! It was all very quintessentially English, and beautiful. Since it was a stunning day, between the 2 workshops we went out to sit in the sunshine and then I discovered that Emma had previously suggested to her ladies that we picnic on the grass and people had come prepared with food to share and picnic blankets and everything! It was lovely, as was the sampling of the locally made cider after the workshops had ended!

I loved teaching all four workshops I did this weekend. It is always very interesting to see how people interpret the music differently and how they respond to the ideas I throw at them! It feels too much like blowing my own trumpet to write how good they were... but maybe if I am lucky then some of the ladies who attended my workshops will add their comments to this blog entry so you can see how they felt about them, and hopefully they liked them! Emma did, and has already written a blog entry about them which you can see at www.emmabellydancer.co.uk . Thanks Emma!!

Heading back to Edinburgh now... will be performing there on Thursday night, in a lovely wee venue where I will be dancing whilst my audience enjoy Cairo style afternoon tea..... i.e.  Cake and sandwiches, but in the evening rather than the afternoon! Really looking forward to it, I just hope there will be space enough to swing my stick around!!!

Customer Service

This was written last week- but the tour is so hectic i am only getting a chance to publish it now!!!

I am on a train... comfortably making my way from London to Edinburgh. But only just!

I missed my 9.30am train by 0.28 seconds!!!!

Thankfully the lovely lady who is head crew of the 10am saw my distress and told me that the ticket office would endorse my ticket for her train...........

 I didn’t even know they could do that- but seemingly if you have a good enough reason they will.

The ticket office man wasn’t very convinced by my surprise that the journey in the tube took so much longer than I expected it to. He has fair point; I should have left more time. Hindsight is a wonderful thing! However, in my defence, the blister on my hand from pulling around a heavy case on the tube and the fact that my phone was a good 5 minutes behind time were also major factors!

Thankfully, eventually, he agreed to take pity on me and the lovely lady was waiting on the platform for me and sorted out storing my huge case and pointed out where the best available seats were too, so I have a window, table seat, with a plug point!!

Helpful, friendly service. Staff that just wants to make their customers happy, not for a tip or any sort of selfish reason.

UK may have a long way still to go in terms of friendly customer service, if you compare it to the USA that is... but compared to Egypt it was like fresh air.

There are good and bad everywhere, I know that. I also know that if I missed a train or bus in Egypt, unless the man behind the desk took a shine to me, or to my wallet, then the chances of a free, new ticket are very unlikely!!! Also I find a common problem in Cairo is people only looking at their own tiny section of the overall service. So a waiter in a restaurant, for instance, might not take your drinks order, or empty plate when passing and may well even ignore you if you are sitting in an area that is not ‘his’.

I sound fairly disgruntled with Cairo just now, don’t I? I am a bit. No specific reason but I guess it just seems to me to be harder and harder living there. Maybe it’s me, getting weary after nearly 7 years living there, but I am not the only person I know who feels that the city is changing, especially since the revolution, and unfortunately not for the better.

Then again, in Cairo it wouldn’t be 17degress and raining in July!

(Although... to be fair- it is 30 degrees and sunny in London- mind you, in London you have to pay £10 for a sheesha!)

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Where am I going to...?

... I hardly know myself!!!

This time last week I was in Cairo, watching the news daily to find out what new wonders will unfold under a muslim brotherhood presidency...

Now I am in a lovely house in London planning the weekend of workshops and shows and dodging the rain, but more about the weather later!

At the weekend I was dancing in Newcastle (Newcastle Northern Ireland that is..not England!!.) for an Egyptian/Irish wedding (which was amazing fun, Thank you Laura and Garhy for inviting me to perform for you and your guests!). On the sunday I was teaching a 3 hour workshop in Belfast to a dance thirsty bunch of bellydancers... by the end I had them stick swinging with glee and walking like drag queens....... you just had to be there! As the Irish would say.. it was great crack!

Over the next week I will be in Kent Friday 20th for a performance; http://www.facebook.com/events/358380127568823/?ref=ts

and again in Kent on Saturday 21st for 2 workshops;

and then Cambridge on Sunday 22nd for workshops;

then I have a day in London to recover (available for private classes- just email me! bellylorna@hotmail.com )

then off to Edinburgh for a Performance up there on Thursday 26th July
(contact Elspethswishandhips@hotmail.com for all the info- lets just say- if you like cake, and bellydance- then this evening is for you!!)

and then Wales....... but that can wait til the next blog entry! otherwise i will confuse myself too!

In other, non PR related, news..............

It has been interesting being back in Uk for a few days. The weather is yucky of course, not too much rain but not exactly sunny either. I had forgotten what it was like to hang about a supermarket doorway hoping for the rain to ease off a little before the walk home with heavy shopping bags. (A huge plus in Cairo is of course in addition to sunshine almost everyday, it is free and easy to get your shopping delivered to your door at no extra cost!) Talking about money; the cost for getting around on the tube for a day is much more than taxi's everywhere in cairo! I miss that from a financial aspect.. but then the freedom to do everything and not have hassle is amazing too!

As I got out the tube this evening with my lepoard suitcases... wearing my lepoard jacket and mini skirt...(Just call me Bet Lynch)  the taxi driver leaned out his window and said... 'Ya assel, Ya mozza'.... actually, no he didn't ....  I am lying.

He did comment though.....  He shouted- ' hey miss- everything matches!!'  I could hardly disagree, nor stop myself from laughing out loud with relief!

What a difference to be able to smile and laugh with people, in airports, shops, you name it, without being frightened. In Egypt, often that would be only asking for trouble. So sad how it has become for women there, and almost all the noticable change has been since the revolution. I really hope that everything settles politically there so important issues such as human rights, never mind women's rights, can begin to be addressed ....

.. right... now I have to get back into some workshop planning........ chat more soon!

Monday, July 09, 2012

Saaidi, Saidi, Sa'idi

However you spell it... the music and dance from Upper Egypt is by far my favourite at the moment!

This morning I have been putting together my 'Wild Saidi' workshop for my upcoming UK tour.

I honestly hadn't realised how much I have blended the oriental and folkloric styles together to create a style and moves that are 100% me!

I am not one to boast ever about my accomplishments...in fact my friends often tell me I should stop putting myself down!...  However, today i will blow my own trumpet a little...  I honestly believe I have something really good to offer to any dancer who wants to learn how to put saidi dancing into their oriental show in a new and exciting way.

That does just sound like a plug for my workshops (and yes it is too... details below...!) but actually it was a bit of an eye opener for me today and i just wanted to share it ... I am loving dance right now and it feels GOOD!

I will be teaching 'Wild Saidi' in the following UK cities;

Swansea- 28th July   bellydancesophie@hotmail.com
Manchester- 4th Aug   www.tasteofcairo.com
London- 11th Aug   www.bellylorna.com
Edinburgh 18th Aug   swishandhips@hotmail.co.uk 

Anywhere I am teaching 'Lorna style and technique' will get a wee saidi section in there too!!!  (Belfast, Kent, Cambridge, Bristol tbc, )

Looking forward to swinging my stick with you all...

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Lovely graphic design with arabic script from YOUF studios

A good friend of mine here in Cairo, Youssef, has started his own graphic design business... He has designed a lovely logo for me out of my name in arabic...

Nice huh?!!!

If you are interested in finding out what he could design for you.... (whether you are a dancer or not!) then have a look at his facebook page to see some of the other things he has done and 'like' his page!


Noisy recycling in Cairo!

This morning I was woken by lots of banging going on......... at 9.30am. Now that might not seem early to you- but when my usual bedtime is somewhere between 3am and 5am, it is very early!

The building directly opposite mine is being demolished. They have made impressive progress in one day... and what is interesting is the salvaging that is going on. All the steel rods that used to hold the cement floors together and being picked out the rubble by hand and straightened by hand and set aside. I guess to be used again or sold. I can’t imagine that being done in UK, but there I guess the cost of labour might offset any value of the materials there. Egyptians are great at recycling, although not the type that involves you separating out your household waste, that all gets gathered together and some family somewhere sit around a huge mound of rubbish and separate it by hand. The amount of ‘old’ ‘broken’ things that get fixed or reused for the same or for a new purpose will never fail to impress me!

The workers ripping this building apart are wearing ship ship (flip flops!). I can’t imagine that adhering to health and safety rules either!

Seemingly all the neighbours’ biggest complaint is that their cars are covered in dust now. I would just like to point out... what’s new??!

So, from the rods used to hold the building cement together- to the techniques a dancer uses to connect her moves together... now I am sitting in a peaceful cafe (well- not very peaceful when the TV has football on, but better than drilling!) structuring some of my upcoming workshops for the UK! The gentle bubble of the sheesha pipe is making me think of shimmys!!

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Workshops in Wales

One of the lovely things about travelling around doing workshops is the chance to make new friends and catch up with old ones...

The girl organising my upcoming workshops in Wales (sophie) used to attend my bellydance classes when I taught at Edinburgh University! It's going to be lovely to see her again after all this time and i am really looking forward to the whole weekend!

If you are in Wales (or near it!) see you there..............

Dates for your summer Diary!

My Summer tour dates.

If you are in UK this summer, and want to either see me dance, take a workshop with me or have a private class here is where i will be.

For private classes please contact me via email bellylorna@hotmail.com

There are still lots of details TBC in the listing below- but i wanted you to have the dates now- so you can plan!

BELFAST - Sunday 15th July- workshop 1-4pm
contact info@jeweldancers.com

KENT - Friday 20th July- Performance
Saturday 21st - Workshops
contact ann@medinabellydance.com

CAMBRIDGE- Sunday 22nd July- workshops 12-2pm and 3-5pm
contact http://www.emmabellydancer.co.uk/workshops.html

EDINBURGH - Thursday 26th July - Performance-TBC
contact swishandhips@hotmail.co.uk

SWANSEA - Saturday 28th July- workshops and Performance
contact bellydancesophie@hotmail.com

BRISTOL - Sunday 29th July - workshop-TBC
contact bellylorna@hotmail.com

MANCHESTER - Saturday 4th August - workshops and performance
Sunday 5th August- private classes in Manchester
contact hello@tasteofcairo.com

LONDON - Friday 10th August- Performance TBC
Saturday 11th August- workshops 11-1pm and 2-4pm
Sunday 12th August- workshop 12-2pm
contact bellylorna@hotmail.com

EDINBURGH - Saturday 18th August - workshops
contact swishandhips@hotmail.co.uk

GLASGOW - Sunday 19th August- performance at Nur

From Sunshine to showers?!

I have just today returned from 4 wonderful relaxing days in Sharm, filled by sunshine and smiling.

I need to get out of Cairo more often. The busy city does gets under your skin when you are constantly involved... the noise and pollution and stress wears you down, in fact, time by a pool was just what the doctor ordered. I loved every second of the trip. Plus it was amazing to get a chance to spend quality time with my cousin and her little girl who had come over for a week. I do really miss my family in Scotland, although I suspect living away from my home country means that when I get the chance to see them then we all appreciate the time together even more!

The next week is going to be the rev up though to my UK tour... 5 weeks, teaching and performing all over Scotland, England, Ireland and Wales! I am excited and nervous at the same time! Although I am very scared about all the weather reports coming from UK just now... rain rain rain? really???

If you read my blog on a regular basis but are not going to be in the UK this summer... I will apologise now for the next few blog entries- which will most certainly be mainly (if not totally) concerned with advertising my whereabouts this summer! I promise I will dot in interesting excepts about 'Cairo versus UK'  throughout the summer too!!!!

so- the advertising begins.... not in alphabetical order, nor date order nor in any other preference really just because I am sharing all the flyers that have been made for the upcoming tour! here goes...MANCHESTER...............

Monday, July 02, 2012

my new website...

I've got a new website......!

It is still a work in progress.... but the main thing is that it has all the information for my upcoming tour in UK this summer (July/August).


Feedback welcome! As are Bookings for my workshops !!!
Also there are opportunities for private classes, at very reasonable rates...

I will be 'appearing' in the following locations;

Bristol (TBC)

So, for the 1st time ever i will be teaching and performing in all 4 nations! Hope to see you there!