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Teaching Melaya to my regular students

Oh we had such fun today!

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!



I've just derived a ridiculous amount of pleasure from being able to use my Cairo tag in my email today!

Cairo in sight

I know! Two posts in one day! I haven't done that for aaaaaaages.

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.

FUN TIMES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


A delayed rant.

I found myself having a bit of a rant this morning. Not to anyone in person- I was driving to work at the time, and my thoughts wandered, and there I was, getting all aeriated about something, and nobody to rant at. Which is something of a disappointment, so you're getting it now.

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!


9 more days...

I am feeling a bit ragged at the moment. Before half term, I was committing more evening time to my students than is good for me, because of performing, and I haven't quite recovered. I just deleted all the whiney "Wah I have too much work" stuff, because you don't need that... But I do.

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.


Arabesque Nights

I've been a bit off the London scene in the last few months. There hadn't been much that drew me there, and it's a faff to get up to London and it's expensive, and yadda yadda. I've kind of been just hunkering down recently. Most of my dance stuff outside of teaching has been concerned with my students, providing extra curricular rehearsals and additional lessons, so that they could benefit from the opportunities to perform.

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.

A potentially brilliant idea

I am missing Cairo a lot at the moment. So much so that when a couple of my students tonight suggested a holiday there, I pretty much agreed to try and organise it! Well, I say *I* would organise it, what I mean is, I would ask Kay how feasible it might be. I suspect I wouldn't have the numbers to justify a whole holiday for my students with Kay. But it might be possible to arrange something with Yasmina.

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!


Choreography on Caffeine

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!

Lesson Observation

I last had a lesson observation (by my then boss, whose job I now have) about 4 or 5 years ago. I got a glowing Grade 1 back then, and she asked me to become a mentor tutor, which is what led ultimately to me having the job now.

Our normal policy is that tutors get observed every other year, so it was high time I got observed again. This time it had to be by my boss, the Curriculum Manager, because I can't exactly observe myself.

I got the notice on Friday, that it would be Monday or Tuesday, and speaking with my boss today, it became clear that it was tonight. I was all ready for it, but a) we got moved to a different room and b) my students just got struck dumb and scarcely said two words to me while she was there. I now look like the worst teacher ever! I am honestly thinking I'll be lucky to scrape a Grade 3 (Needs Improvement). She didn't stay past 9pm, so I won't get the feedback until tomorrow afternoon... But I know it's going to be awful.

Of course, after she'd left, things started to perk up a bit. But seriously, I couldn't have had a worse off-day.


Hassan - bad start!

So last night I was at the Centre way early, on account of having to be there for work, and it not being worth anyone's while for me to drive home and then back out to Farnham again. So the plan was to do some practising and video it. I had been super-efficient before leaving house in the morning, and I'd remembered to take all my teaching gear with me, as well as a charger for my phone (which is now my music player). I'd even remembered to take my camera, so that I could video the practice.

Regrettably, by 5.30, when I had done all the work things I needed to, I found myself without the mezag for Hassan. I tried, but I felt all stiff and wrong for it. I did myself a nice long warmy-uppy mobilisation, and tried again, but that didn't do the trick. And then I found out that although I'd brought the camera, it's batteries were dying on their backisdes, so I couldn't have videoed myself, even if I'd been up to working on Hassan. So I decided that I'd rather do some dancing that I would actually enjoy than stick at something that was making me feel all faily.

So instead I had a play with Tigi Tigi. This is supposed to be my next choreography for class. It's fabulously fun, and I had a ball working on it. However, what I've taken away from that session is that the way *I'm* dancing it is far too fast for a class choreo, and that the attitude I'm taking with it requires quite significant Acting Sha'abi, which may be too big an ask. I'm going to have to tone it down somehow, and I'm not sure how, yet. I also need to think about how I want to costume it, because it's not "belly dance" at all. So while I feel I gained quite a lot from the session, it created as many questions as it answered. Oh well, I guess I'll work it all out somehow or another.

The lesson was very interesting. I'm trying to make sure I work on everyone's personal goals, so that involves actually pinning down everyone's personal goals in the first place, and then working out what I can actually do about them. Sometimes it's quite easy, a physical correction, a reminder. But some are going to need more contemplation by me and co-operation from the student in question.

Hassan Ya Koulli

Or however you choose to spell it.

I have opted in to the Bhuz Challenge for this. It's a piece that I will be performing in the not too distant future, so I will reap the benefit of that level of rehearsal and preparation. At least that's the theory. It also helps that it was one of our Double Dream Hands numbers, and we did a lot of discussing and analysing of it, and I will be revisiting that particular resource.

I want to do some video-ing of my practice runs, but I'm not sure when I'll have the chance to do it. I have the space/time to do it before my Monday or Tuesday classes, and all it would need is me getting my act together beforehand.

It won't be Tuesdays for the moment, because I've promised that pre-class time to the two people who didn't come to class last term, and consequently don't know the Mashkalni routine, so I'm going to be teaching it to them in the next couple of weeks, so that they can join in the performing fun. Other students who want a bit more practice are welcome to come along, but essentially it's for the benefit of those two particular students.

But I'm feeling quite inspired by the idea.

At last, a Shakira I can really get behind!

I've saved my favourite of the new dance discoveries until last, I think. This is Shakira. No not *that* Shakira. Egyptian Shakira. And even if you watch none of the other vids, I urge you to watch the last one- it's a belter...

This was the first vid of hers that I saw:

And I fell in love with her...
Here's a bit more Oriental. With Sagat:

This one's got a nominal amount of Melaya in it:


And now a bit of Sha'abi. I ADORE this clip, which I gather is from a movie. It is FAB!!! Not just for the dancing and sha'abiness of it, but because of the stuff that's going on in the background. Enjoy!

I'm kicking myself because I was watching her in a video where she was dancing at a relatively swanky wedding, dressed in a beautiful evening dress type costume, but with little cat ears and slouch boots. Most of the time the vid was shot from the thighs up, so you didn't see the feet, but as soon as you did, it hit you over the head with incongruity. But can I find that video now? Can I heck! (it's no good suggesting I look back over my browser history- I've watched FAR too many YT videos to be able to work out which one it was). Oh well, it will just have to live on in my memory!

Shakira does appear to have a Facebook page or two, but there's not much on there. She also appears to have tried to set up a web page (I found two potential domain names, including the one mentioned on the FB page, but neither one of them actually has any content on it). She's got a YT channel, Shakira Egypt, but again there's not much on there. (Warning- there's a very un-pc "jungle" style video, featuring some very ooga-chaka style backing dancers!)

I've compiled my own Shakira playlist of course, as I have done with all the others.

And that's all for now, folks. I hope you've had as much fun from these videos as I have.

Ghazal (I'm almost certain)

This is the dancer whose name I found hardest to work out. I'm pretty sure she's Ghazal.

I love her sweetness. She is the epitome of Dallaa. She is also a total sauce-bucket!

And now a baladi set

And one where you get to see all the leg action

There seems to be an account for Ghazal's videos (not all of them!). Since the name of the account is in Arabic, I can't be certain, but I think it's called Fenana Something Ghazal. Anyway, it's here.

But of course, I've set up a playlist full of loads more vids, here.

Just one more dancer to go...

The notorious Safinaz

I decided that in the interests of truth and understanding, I had to show my students some video footage of Safinaz. She's not my favourite dancer, but she is popular (and not always for good reasons), and she's obviously a part of current Egyptian dance culture.

So let's start with a fairly acceptable video (nice costume, good choice of music, not too much outrageous bust jiggling). Watch out for the accent at 3 minutes 30:

Going more sha'abi this time:

A well sha'abi Taht il shebbak plus bonus Fifi in the background (and OH how I WISH I knew the story behind that tv appearance!):

This one caused some consternation among my learners, because of the use of knives by the boys:

A rather nice Enta Omri. But the costume... The eyes, they burn!

There's more on my Safinaz Playlist.

And if you want to read all the goss, here's a link to various articles on the Albawaba Entertainment pages when you search for her name.

Tonight it's Raqassa Haifa!

When I started my researches, I was searching Youtube for a specific dancer, because I wanted to show her to my students. And having found some footage of the dancer I was aiming for, I got sucked into exploring the right-hand sidebar, which makes tempting suggestions of other videos to watch. I really enjoy trying those suggestions out, especially when the clip title is in arabic and I've got no idea what it's saying. Somehow or another, from a dancer I knew about I found myself watching videos of dancers I didn't know at all. And that's how I found Haifa.

It took a while for me to work out that's what her name is, but I can just about recognise a few arabic letters, and google translate can sometimes give me a reasonable starting point.

Haifa is cute! She's got a beautiful calm elegance, with real strength and centredness. But she is also joyously playful.

Then I found a cute Melaya tableau, featuring Alexandrian sailors! Look away now if you're offended by short skirts, there's a lot of leg in this clip.

And finally, tonight I found a lovely Sa'aidi set, of Haifa dancing to El Dooa, which my students will recognise, as this was one of our class choreographies years ago!

I have started a Haifa playlist, but it's still a work in progress. But Haifa seems to have a couple of YT channels, which you might like to check out, here and here.

You're welcome...

Some of my recent Youtube "research"

In which I share some of the videos of dancers I've taken a liking to.

I found out a couple of weeks ago that the Adult Learning Centre, where I teach of a Tuesday, had acquired a swanky new smart tv. Which meant that instead of playing dvds at our end of term video night, I could potentially hook up my laptop to the tv, and play video clips from my hard-drive. This immediately set me to wondering what the best use of this super duper new technology might be.

And my immediate thoughts were, the trouble with playing dvds is that essentially, I can only show my students those dancers who have already made it, who are sufficiently famous to be on the International Dance Scene and have got dvds made. What I would really love them to see is the current dancers of Egypt. Not Dina and Fifi (they've seen them plenty) but the dancers who are currently dancing in the clubs. I'd seen a few clips of Sofia, a dancer we saw in Cairo last year, and I thought it would be great to show her. That was my starting point, and since I have a tendency to use the right-hand column in YT to go off on video excursions, I ended up finding a whole load of dancers I fell right in love with (and not entirely knowing how I found them!).

Over the next few days I hope to share them here.

But for now, let's start off with Sofia. We saw her at the unknown nightclub (see here: http://beafarhana.livejournal.com/824684.html). She was luscious and very watchable. Well worth waiting up till 3.30 in the morning for.

But why am I telling you, when you could see for yourself?

Here's Sofia:

And one where you get to see all the legwork!

And she was in a movie, "Pussy-cat"

I hope you enjoy these as much as I do.

For your further viewing pleasure, especially as one of the vids I liked didn't allow embedding, you can check out my Sofia playlist.

It's on again

From Dusk Till Dawn, that is. I may watch it for Selma Hayek vamping about...


Proper real sha'abi!

Down to the white patches on the jeans...

PS - how come I haven't had a sha'abi tag in all these years?


Hipnotic thoughts

It was great to see Hipnotic good & busy.

I liked Aradia's baladi a lot. I liked Badr al Banat (what's that supposed to mean?) doing Khusara Khusara- they had a lot of nice group transitions, good formation work. I liked Spiral Ivy doing sword work- it was well done.

Other acts brought out my judginess. If you choose to dance to Shakira, I *will* judge you. If you do a load of swishy skirt dancing, I *will* judge you. If you go to the loo *just* before your one and only performance, so that you hold up the whole running order, I *will* judge you.

I think Mirage did well with our Mashkalni, which was Party Central. I think we all were smiley and happy with it, and it's nice to see something a bit different, which I think we were.

My own solo was a bit of an experience. I was due to start on stage, because the version of Mawoud I was using has a big whooshy intro. I walked out and stood in readiness, and waited for my music to start. And it signally failed to do so... It turns out the mp3 file just wasn't playing on either of the ipods available. misspotsitt thought she might have that version of Mawoud on her ipod but couldn't lay her hands on it. So it became a case of "ok, whatevs, gimme something to dance to..." and I ended up playing ellariaal's game of improv. I ended up dancing to something I have never heard before in my life, and trying to make it look interesting. It was quite hard, as the music was very samey- I kept waiting for a chorus or a middle 8 or something that sounded different, but there was none, it just kept on being all 4x4 all the way through... Oh well, everybody knew I wasn't dancing to my music, and that I was winging it, and they were very supportive!

It was an object lesson to my students - *this* is why I teach them to improvise!
Just posting this because I really liked the way she uses travelling movements, and I want to do some noting and copying of combinations. Esp as I was just thinking to myself that next term I need to do some more travelling moves with my students.



I've left my mp3 player on "all songs" so it's playing them alphabetically. I've just had a delightful 20 minutes or so of all the different versions of Ahwak I've got on there. It's such a beautiful song!


A quick Strictly Come Dancing post

I heartily enjoyed tonight's show.

I am voting for Mark Wright, who seems like such a lovely man, and whose dancing skills surprised me in a very good way from the start of the series. I really liked this tango routine. I don't find his partner very sypmathetic, but we're not voting on her, are we?

However, honourable mentions also definitely go to Simon from Blue, who has perked right up after being a bit rubbish a couple of weeks ago, and did a cracking Samba tonight. Also Jake from Eastenders, who did the most macho Macarena I've ever seen. And I really liked Pixie Lott's Charleston, which was breathtaking. I'm less impressed by Frankie from the Saturdays. It doesn't help that I hadn't really heard of the Saturdays (I'm so old!), but she is a bit of a personality-free zone, so however good her dancing might be, I'm not moved.

Now that the really bad dancers have gone, the bar is much higher, and the celebs need to be good and really on their game, to get through. I suspect that Steve the animal show guy, who seems to be a total sweetie, and Sunetra, are going to be the ones at risk. But what do I know?I would never have thought the hunky rugby guy, who could actually dance pretty well, could be in the dance-off.
We finished the choreo properly tonight. Strictly speaking we finished it two weeks ago, before half term, but tonight was more of a full house, and I could see it taking shape the way it was in my head. I wasn't sure about it until tonight, but it's going to work.

It still needs a lot of learning and even more practice, but that's what the rest of November is for. It really helped that everyone (except me!) was dancing it in a thob, so that I got a really good sense of what it was going to look like.

There are some really cute bits in there, and some bits that are going to look good in performance. I'm feeling happy about it.

Teaching last night

I've really been enjoying teaching the Mashkalni choreography, this term. I was dubious at first, because it's quite simple and has a lot of repetition, but actually, when I look at it properly, there's a lot of other non-repetitive stuff in there that is partly easy peasy and fun, and partly A Right Bugger. There's definitely enough there that it stays interesting to dance.

I've been teaching technique as well as choreo, of course, throughout the term. Last night was due to be Percussives, but I relented. Percussives are what I call that really strong travelling tuck & pull back move that is so Egyptian. (Does anyone have a proper name for that move?). It was due to be the pinnacle of meanness in my plan to make my students really work their core this term. But I relented. I have to confess I just wasn't feeling it. (Reminds me a bit of the story of the singer who is studying music, and tries to get out of his singing exam by saying he didn't have the Saltana, but his teacher scathingly telling him well then he'd just have to do the exam without the Saltana).

And then my music lead (that connects mp3 player to speaker) died on me and I was having to do the whole lesson with just the Mashkalni music which I had on cd. So I embraced the improvisation foisted upon me. We practised the technique that we use in the choreo a bit, and mostly learned the routine all the way through to the end. I'm really pleased that we got it done because it meant the students could see the piece as a whole, and see what they were working towards.

It's been a half-term full of illnesses & absences. Given that it wasn't a particularly big class in the first place, it has meant that on any given week I've had to do a fair amount of catching up for the people who weren't there the week before. There are a few who I'll have to do the same for again after half term. But that's all good, it's revision. And we'll have a few rehearsals in the weeks before Hipnotic, so we should be able to get it reasonably good. There are two bits that need a LOT of work, because they're complicated and people are not all doing the same thing at the same time, which confuses some students. I totally understand that, and I accept it as the price of making up complicated routines!

A new Beginners' class

Back when I wasn't in charge of planning the dance curriculum, my curriculum manager (who was super-supportive) tried in vain to get a Beginners' class running. I swear, we must have tried it for about three years. And we never got more than three enrolling at any one time.

So I can hardly believe that this one is up and running. It's not even borderline, I've got a healthy 10 people enrolled, with two more who gave it a try-out tonight saying that they were going to enrol. And I'm still getting email enquiries about it. It's so much nicer not feeling like my classes are on a knife-edge. If it turned out that one of these ladies ducked out, it wouldn't jeopardise the whole class. And that feels quite comforting.

Not that I'm being complacent. I don't *want* to lose any of these students. Not even one. They all seem enthusiastic and I want them all to love BD like I do. So I will do my best to *make* them love it.

One student was saying she used to come to my lessons, like 20 years ago! I'm fairly sure I haven't been teaching quite that long, certainly not in Surrey - I've done 16 years with Surrey Adult Learning, in its many different names and configurations. But I was teaching in Berkshire before I started in Surrey, so I guess it's close to that. Blimey, that's a bit scary!


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