I have realised on reading my notes back that I haven't named many names. That's partly because I didn't actually know a lot of the names. I'm so out of the loop.
There was Baladi. Quite a lot of Baladi. Mostly not very good. But I absolutely loved Jennie's taqsim progression which, to me, really had the spirit of Baladi. It fair warmed the cockles of my heart. The others didn't have the soul and they particularly pissed me off by wearing bedla rather than a galabeya, when there's really no excuse. Also there seemed to be a basic lack of knowledge of the meaning of the song they were dancing to. But then Lorna as the star dancer of the evening did an absolutely cracking Shik Shak Shok in her first set so I felt a lot better. She was saying it's far and away the most requested song she danced to in Egypt. And people online are so sniffy about it being “done to death”!
There was a Turkish dancer, Candan, and she did a lovely piece. I don't know enough about Turkish, to know exactly what it was but it had the traditional 7/8 rhythm and even I could recognise the Gypsy folklore elements. She had a sweetness about her which I really liked. Also I had skirt envy. It was a really pretty black lace/ed sequin affair. Another dancer I really enjoyed was Soraya, I can't remember what music she danced to but it was pleasingly traditional and she danced it with love. She was also wearing a glorious pale pink costume which made me want to wear pale pink, even though I know it would kill me stone dead.
There were two shaabi performances and I liked them both, but they could not have been more different. The first one was from an inexperienced dancer who seemed to have all the right components but somehow they weren't stringing together correctly. It looked like she was dancing somebody else's choreography. Her moves didn’t quite flow from one into another, but I really like that she was doing proper mahragani moves and was dressed in the right way with grungy t-shirt and sneakers. The second was a much more accomplished dancer, more polished and elegant in her dancing, but that allowed her to give the piece more “abandon”..
Of course, there were a few tribal, or at least tribal inspired numbers. Sorry I don't really remember much about them. You don't really want to hear my views on tribal anyway.
One thing that I found very irritating, and quite a lot of the dancers did this, was to stick a blooming drum solo on the end of every piece. It's not compulsory, people! If you pick a nice piece of music why don't you just finish when the music ends?
Being Arabesque Nights, there were a few off the wall numbers. Ishtar did Charleston to music from Bugsy Malone. Actually that was really fun and brilliantly well done. Infinity (dance troupe) did a routine in Mrs Santa outfits and gold leggings. There were a couple of burlesque routines.
And then there was the Donald and Melania routine from Lou and Itsumi. That is going to live on in our collective memory for a very long time. I've seen many comedy bellydance routines in my time and this is the one that's made me laugh the most. Lou was disturbingly good at playing Trump. I really hope that it gets onto YouTube somehow.
Lorna closed the show with some fab saaidi stick, dressed in her Santa costume, all red sequins and white fur, with a Santa hat at a jaunty angle. I do love her stickwork, it's just so damned Egyptian.
Now I’m very sad that Arabesque Nights is gone. It’s had a bloody brilliant 6½ years. I’ve always enjoyed it, as a performer and as a punter. We’re all hoping that Natalie & Jennie won’t be giving up on events completely, but that they have a nice rest from it for now - it’s well earned - and maybe come back to it some time in the future. Well, we can all hope!
Then I realised - I was thinking of 26th July Street in Cairo!
This is going to be a lovely post-Christmas treat to look forward to.
I'm going to be away for 12 days, the days are Spring-warm, but the evenings cool, so I have to choose accordingly. What I take has to be suitable for traipsing around dusty Cairo streets, and going out to restaurants & nightclubs in the evenings. So quite a mix of clothing needed.
I started by making a list of clothing. It included 10 tops, 8 bottoms and 3 dresses. I trimmed it down yesterday 8 tops, 6 bottoms, still 3 dressess. Today, after more and more trimming, I've got the list down to 6 tops, 5 bottoms, 2 dresses. I think that's as good as it's going to get.
I had to text diva_c to check whether I should take a swimming costume (yes, just in case we decide to go for a nice relaxing afternoon round the pool).
International adaptors, including the clever one I bought last time I was flying that includes a USB charging point. Corkscrew. Scan of my passport plus address of the British Embassy (7 Ahmed Ragheb Street, Garden City, telephone 02 2791 6000). Teabags of my favourite licquorice & peppermint tea from teapigs.
It's all starting to pile up on the sofa!
The thing that made my little choreographer's heart sing tonight, was that while they were doing it, they automatically did a sort of rise and fall with it. That was going to be a refinement that I'd planned to add when they'd got the basics under their belts, but, oh happy happy joy joy! they did it without even needing to be told to!
Whheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I'm getting all excited!
The last sessions of term are traditionally video nights. I was slightly stymied by technology for the beginners' class, but managed to pull something together from the video clips I had on my laptop and the use of two flashdrives and a smartboard. The improvers' class went more smoothly. I did my usual henna for those who wanted it:
PS I'm trying another phone app, ElJay, which does seem to be a lot easier to use than the official LJ app and doesn't capitalise everything I write. This may possibly lead to me actually posting a bit more.
It's to a piece of music called Nefsy, which I have absolutely no information about. It's a music file that Lulu Sabongi gave me. It's not any of the songs you get when you google "Nefsi". It's a bit cosmic and woo. I was thinking I might go Veil with it.
It's proving a bit tricky to choreograph. This is very much not my normal sort of choreo. It's very slow and sort of solemn. I can dance it for myself, no problem, It's all long lines and beautiful power. But trying to pin it down to an actual routine that I can teach to other people is difficult. Also, in my head it's a massive production number, with big silk veils and feather fans, and I know I can't rely on enough students to do my imaginary number justice- I've only got 9 in the class and it needs about 15!
Sigh. I'll find the way with this, I'm sure.
Safinaz has subscribed to my YouTube channel! I suspect this may be to do with me having a Safinaz Playlist.
I'm chilling and waiting for nail varnish to dry before driving back to Victoria Hall, ready for the show tonight.
Today's workshop, which was the one I was least sure about, turned out *really* well, so now I'm panicking about the stick one tomorrow, which I thought would be a piece of cake but now I'm thinking is the one I should have been worrying about instead...
Tonight I debut Tigi Tigi danced solo. The only bits that really impacts are the intro and finale. I can adapt the intro easily enough, to make it solo-friendly. The finale is a bit trickier, but I think I can make it sufficiently interesting.
Curriculum Managering work is far too much. Today I was in the office until 8pm, because stuff needs sorting out, and quickly. There's an important deadline on Monday, and I'll be lucky if I make it. Any other weekend, I'd come in on the Saturday and work in my own time, but this weekend I'm off to JoY.
Teaching is back to being exhausting, just because it's two nights per week, and I'm getting old.
I've also booked myself onto a sewing course, which I'm *really* enjoying, but takes up another weeknight, and I know I'm going to have to miss at least two sessions of it, because of Curriculum Managering duties. And also another one because I've volunteered to model for one of the Photography courses, in costume, on a time for CD basis, because it would be quite nice to have some up to date dance photos. The last lot of studio pics I've got are the ones Maani did for me FOUR years ago. I have got a lot fatter since then! Also I have other costumes since then. So it's about time I got some photos done.
Performing? I'm currently not feeling the performing love. Mirage are due to dance at the Weybridge Hafla at the Hall, and I'll do the Mirage performance with them, but no solo, I think. Unless... I might have to do something in my capacity as a role model to my students. Gawd, it's murder being a good teacher!
It's a "community boat" that you can rent. And I was just looking at the overall shape of it, and it reminded me of something...
It's not identical. It's more covered up, as you might expect for a UK Autumn, compared to a Cairo Spring, but I swear with a few lines of fairy lights and a nasty tinny sound system blaring out some sha'abi music, we could have ourselves a Cairo party boat on the Wey. Just think how it would annoy the neighbours!
But it is very slow going, and the programme I'm using to do the designing (Blue Griffon) is bewildering in its foibles. I cannot understand why one link works, when the next link, which is IDENTICALLY coded, except for the change of ONE number in the thumbnail image and the image it's supposed to link to, fails completely to work.
I'm seriously thinking of giving up and coding the whole damn page by hand in Notebook.
Tonight was excellent fun! Last week was mostly about how to wear the melaya, tonight was all about reinforcing the Sass and then actually having a bit of a dance.
I showed the students a range of video clips, including those suggested by the admirable Suzycat, and Redheadfae, so a combination of "real life" usage and use as a dance prop. I also included some Reda footage, and of course, Fifi at Ismaelia.
I was trying to explain that when an Egyptian audience sees the melaya, it's actually representing something. It's not just a pretty dance with a big black thing, it has a context, a meaning. I hope that part of the session sticks.
I've suggested that they might try creating a character rather than having to be themselves with this!
I had promised them Melaya after half term, because even though I've taught tons of workshops on it, to other students, I've never actually taught it to my very own students. Something of an oversight really!
Today it was just a gentle introduction, what it's all about, how to put the thing on (the easy way and the rather more complicated way), and how to strut about in it. Several of them have *really* taken to it. Next week, we'll throw the melaya about a bit more, so that it's less static, and then build up to how you'd put together a whole number by the end of term.
I've promised them some video footage, and what I'd like to be able to show them is some old movie footage of women actually wearing melaya, and to be able to show them the body language of wearing one. That will require a fair amount of research among my limited dvd collection, and films on YT. If anyone's got any recommendations, I'd be delighted to hear them.
One of the reasons I love to teach melaya is to dispel some of the myths, and also to bring the Egyptian back to bellydance. It's good to be teaching the real stuff!
Given the massive lack of student response to my idea of a school trip to Cairo next year, and given my huge yearning to be back there sooner rather than later, I have made a decision to go anyway. diva_c was posting about a costumier's holiday (sewing lessons with Eman, trips to the wholesalers) in Feb/March next year, which is when I wanted to be going, and it just sounded like too good a chance to miss. I emailed Rita, whose holiday it is, and I'm on the list!
I'm sooooooooooooo excited!
I'm in a position to make sure I plan the time into my teaching schedule, so I don't have to worry about making up missed lessons. It gives me time to save for save I must - I don't have a grand or two sitting around doing nothing any more... I've got a couple of small lumps of money coming in that can go towards the Cairo Holiday Fund. But I really need to be very disciplined about the spondoolies, and not fritter the CHF away on fripperies like electricity or food.
It was about Sa'aidi.
In the last few days, I've watched two smashing Sa'aidi clips online.
First there was this one from Hassan Hassan:
and then Catherine Barros posted this one, with Ashraf Kodak:
And maybe they *are* fakelore, but you know what? So what? Both of those vids make me happy, because they're still dancing the way that I see those Sa'aidi men using tahtib. They are still retaining all the masculinity, earthiness, pride, solidity, strength of the Sa'aid. They are JOYFUL to watch. They're exciting!
And last week, I saw two dancers at a hafla, who claimed to be dancing Sa'aidi, each danced with sticks and everything, but neither one of them had anything, ANYTHING, that resembled that grace. Admittedly, neither one of them is what I would consider a strong dancer, but there was nothing there. Neither one of them had anything earthy or strong or exciting or even fun about them. They had no uprightness. They had no sense of angles. There was no Power. There was not one thing about either one of those performances that gave me even a glancing impression of Sa'aidi. They were just dancing their usual way while holding a stick, not even using the stick, just holding it. It was like those dancers had never even seen any Sa'aidi, they didn't know what they should even be aiming for. I could have cried!
Maybe I have to make it my mission, this year, to perform some proper Sa'aidi. Not namby pamby girly Sa'aidi, but Sa'aidi as she is spoke. With Mizmars, dammit!
And in an hour, I've got to go out and teach dance. I love teaching dance, and I'll be fine once I get there and get going. But I caught myself counting off how many days to the end of term... That's not good.
But with the Mirror show on Sunday, and Arabesque Nights last night, the love is starting to come back. I should really do more, for myself.
Arabesque Nights was fun last night. The theme was Burlesque, and the show was called Fur Coat No Knickers. Quite a few of the acts were properly following the theme (not us, though). There was a Carmen Miranda act from Stephanie. There was a tribal improv troupe, Sigma, who did two numbers, both in theme, but with different angles. There was Kassandra doing a choreo to Perhaps Perhaps Perhaps (learned at JWAAD summer school two years ago, I suspect I know who from, from the style of it, but she didn't credit the teacher properly). There was Krystina in her alter-ago as Minxie Night, who wowed the whole room, with a very saucy burlesque number. I've seen Minxie before, at Summer School, so I wasn't totally surprised, but a lot of people were!
It wasn't all happy happy joy joy for me. There was a number by Alyah, which was just eye-wateringly dreadful- Melaya-Lef to Mashrabsh il Shay, which in itself is a good thing, that's exactly the right sort of music to use for Melaya, but then she had to ruin it by adding balloons to her mandil, her hip-belt (there's NO hip belt with Melaya!) and her bra. She proceeded to pop them (out of synch with the music) for the laffs. It was just awful, I'm afraid!
We danced Mashkalni, and our number was pretty much the antithesis of Burlesque, you can't get much less saucy than a Khaligi thob swathing you in yards and yards of chiffon! It went well, and I'm particularly happy that one of the performers was dancing in public for the first time ever. She's been dancing for about 2½ years, so I'm glad that she's broken her duck, and she'll be dancing at Haflah at the Hall at the end of the month. I'm hoping that with two male guests (the husband of one student, the brother of another) on hand to video and photograph us, we'll actually have some record of the dance that I can show off here some time.
This has the potential to be brilliant. Or a nightmare! If I did this, I'd have to make it clear that I need some alone time too. But this is definitely starting to become a possibility in my head!
I've just spent the afternoon drinking coffee and writing the end of term choreography (Tigi Tigi, since you ask). I have at suspicion that once there is no caffeine it will be too fast for any of us to keep up with.
I *think* I've found the right balance of fun, funkiness and achievability. Whether I have or not remains to be seen!