Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Fancy a cuppa?

So, in case you can't keep track of where I am these days ( I wouldn't blame you , I can't either!) I'm home, in Cairo and last week I did a Bellydance performance that was very different to performing on the boats, my usual work in Egypt.

 I have always stayed away from performing in bars, seeing it as a 'lower' or 'seedy' venue to perform. Frightened of the hassle, or of the stigma. However, I was very wrong to worry. I had an amazing night last week. Everyone who came was just there because they love Bellydance. On the Pharoah, people would be there to do the cruise on the Nile, to celebrate a wedding, to show off part of Egypt's heritage, and occasionally for the bellydancing. On Thursday, 100% of my audience appreciated dance and was there to enjoy it.

In UK, I have often performed for audiences who are just there for the dance, but they are usually all dancers... Watching you to learn from you or judge you, but always evaluating, studying. I always enjoy the performance, and thankfully they do too. But as every dancer will agree, dancing for dancers is very different than dancing for 'normal' people. And no, us dancers are not normal!!!

This audience I really felt was there because like the dancers I usually perform for, they too love Egyptian music and dance. Some came because they knew me, but had never seen me dance. Others because they couldn't believe a Scottish girl could dance, and others came because they had seen me before and brought friends along with them this time to 'show me off', "The Scottish girl who dances like an Egyptian".So yes, there was an element of evaluating, however, the majority had come because they knew there was to be a Bellydance show and they wanted to see.

 Within minutes, no, in fact,  within seconds of me starting to perform I felt they were just 'with me'. Not even just watching me, but actually part of the whole thing. My dance fed off them, and their enjoyment fed off me and the whole thing just felt alive. One could not exist without the other. I don't really know even how to explain that feeling. I will try, with a very British example;

For a cup of tea to be a 'perfect' cup of tea, you need good tea, the 'right' water at the right temperature, milk and or sugar to be added or not at the 'right' levels, but you need something else. You need to be in the mood for a cup of tea. You have to really want it to get that 'ahhh, now that's a perfect cup of tea' feeling. The dancer and all her skills and attributes are the cup of tea. The tea drinker with all their experience of past cuppas and current mood is the audience. One is nothing without the other. You get me? Or is that too British an example?!

A friend who has seen me dance many times before, said that she told a girl who was seeing me for the first time, one of the few non Egyptians in the room, not just to look at my dance, but instead to watch me and the audience and how we interacted together. When I brought the dance down into a stillness the room hushed, when I sped up the room erupted, even to the extent that When I lifted my arms up , they did too!

That's why I dance.

That amazing feeling of being part of something that is so much bigger than the sum of its parts. A room of people who become linked by a common experience. I feel lucky to experience that. Even luckier to be instrumental in creating that.

That's why, whatever happens I want to stay dancing in Cairo, to be eternally chasing that 'perfect cup of tea'.

costume by Pharaonix of Egypt

Here's some photos taken at the above gig. Sorry I don't have many with the audience in them... But you will just have to take my word for it that they were there and they were with me!

Costume by Eman Zaki Golden Lotus

Costume by Sagaat Bellydance

NB- my 'witty aside' to the above is that while writing this blog entry, my actual cup of tea that I had been making went cold. Now I have to microwave it. It's never the same after that is it? Ah well, kettle on again!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The joy of Bellydance

When I was in UK to teach at the JTA meeting in Newcastle, I also taught and performed at the Bellydance festival Jewel of Yorkshire (JoY for short!) . It is held twice a year in the north of England, in Saltaire, a little town near Leeds.

I taught 4 workshops, and I think my personal favourite was dancing baladi, with a stick. Wow. There was some energy flowing around that room by the time be finished! I love that although I am the teacher, I often come out of the class knowing so much more about the dance than when I went into it. An empowering workshops for me, and if I may be so bold as to say it for this students who attended too!

In the show I performed a saaidi dance. It was a lot of fun up there but the time was too short! By the time I finished I felt like I was just warming up. I have gotten so used to the half hour/ hour shows of Egypt, that the 6 mins slots in a hafla setting in UK just whizz by in a blink and leave me very unsatisfied!

I did have some wonderful photographers in the crowd though who where about to grab these fun shots of my show. Massive thanks to Sarah Selwood and Ian cartlidge, the official JoY photographers, and also to Mark Hurd, for all these joyful moments caputured;

We all shimmy together

I'm still alive! I think, to do my best blogging, I need to ban myself from both twitter and Facebook! Those I seem to manage to comment in ever day... And my poor blog gets left behind!

Here on my blog, you get a more in-depth Lorna, but if you want a little bit of Lorna daily then I recommend you follow me there, if you are not already!

Home for a few days now, full of a stinking cold. The problem with the pollution in Cairo, is that once you get sick, it always seems to take so much longer to get well again without the oxygen to help you! But hey ho, I will live. As my mum always says, 'oh Lorna, buck up, it's JUST a cold'! But a cold can really bring you down can't it?!

So I am staying home, trying to catch up on all the preparation I want to do before I head to china in two weeks time. For those of you who know me well, you will know that the word preparation and Lorna don't really fit together. I am a 'fly by the seat of my pants' kinda girl. I like the excitement and the freedom and the creativity that is involved in improvising. Whether that is improvising a performance or a workshop. I love living in the moment, connecting to what my audience and/or students are feeling and responding to and taking it form there. It's the interaction that I love more than anything. So the idea of having to come up with a month of lesson plans gives me a mental block, but I am trying. Wish me luck.

A couple of weeks ago I was in UK teaching and performing in Newcastle, UK.

It was my first time teaching in Newcastle, and I loved meeting the dancers there. I was honoured to be asked to teach the JTA, which is a group of bellydance teachers who wanted to meet together at regular intervals to share information and support each other. Such a noble and worthy cause! So I was asked along to teach the teachers, and what a lovely group they were too.

Often once dancers start teaching they become isolated. Despite standing in front of up to hundreds of women every week in class, I remember when I was teaching full time, how lonely I felt and that I had no one I could turn to for advice about problems with students, advertising, how to teach mixed level classes etc etc the list is endless. I struggled alone, and didn't see any other option at the time. These women are doing it right. Seeing each other not as competition but as colleagues, supporting each other and therefore the UK dance scene as a whole. If you haven't heard of it, and want to get and give support as a UK teacher I recommend you contact them about how to join!  is their website, which is still under reconstruction, however you can get info via a link on there. You need to have done a JWAAD safety course to join, but you do not have to be a JWAAD qualified teacher (which is the bit most dancers don't realize!). I recommend it, to all Bellydance teachers. Whatever 'style' you teach or 'school' you are from. Let's unite and help each other to build Bellydance in the UK rather than all feeling we have to do it alone!

Now, what I would like is an organization to link all the professional bellydancers in Cairo together, to share and help each other. To stand together against unfair treatment and pay. That's what we need now. A Cairo bellydancers union. A pipe dream, unfortunately. It would take a stronger woman than me to set it up, that's for sure!

Here's a pic of me performing in Newcastle. A relaxed fun very enjoyable evening. I look forward to returning to Newcastle as soon as I can!