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Archive for July, 2010

So Monday this week, it was time for Caitlyn to host the Brothers of the Baladi on their “Oxford Leg” of their current UK tour. In their 35th year of playing together and their 2nd UK tour, I was incredibly excited and ever such a little bit nervous but very, very honoured to be asked by Caitlyn to perform with them as my live band!! Well, for two songs anyway! I’d picked out a couple of their tracks a month or so ago, when Caitlyn first asked me, two tracks that really appealed to me – Paint it Black – a cover of the Rolling Stones song, and Laz. Both provided plenty of challenges for me, being in a different rhythm to that which I’m used to, and repetitive slow sections, which, whilst very moody and fun to dance to, offered a lot of frustration when trying to decide on which moves I would use.

I decided that Paint it Black was a good opener and absolutely rockingly appropriate for a veil accompaniment! And then I could get fun and cheeky with the up-beat, stick rapping, Laz! So after running through several times over the weekend, I was feeling nearly ready to roll. I got to the venue on Monday evening, met the band, who were absolutely lovely, chilled out and super friendly, BUT then they asked me which tracks I wanted to dance to… duh duh duuuuuuhhhhh.. Ah. Problem. The instrument that is usually used for the melody of both of those tracks broke, for the first time ever, on tour a couple of weeks ago… is there anything else I could dance to? Not yet being familiar with their music, I was panicing big time – no, PLEASE can we do something?!?
Luckily the Brothers were brilliant and casually commented that hey, why not lets try a different instrument that it had never been done on before? They were so relaxed and lovely, that I thought – why not?! Secretly inside I was thinking “noooooo”.

Caitlyn opened the show with two beautiful dances, including a very exciting drum solo, then it was my turn….

It was brilliant, Paint it Black started up, I vaguely recognized it, but it wasn’t particularly resemblant of what I had been practising to, BUT what the heck, I just went with the music – I totally discarded anything that I had practised and went with the flow, twirling and whirling the veil around, reacting to the beats that I wasn’t expecting. Every one and then I recognize a section that I had previous danced to and was able to recover some of my practised combos, but 80% was improvised – AS I’M SURE IT’S SUPPOSED TO BE – and it felt good – slightly scary, but good!

Then Laz, this was definitely easier to recognize and the veil was flung into a corner and I could cool my boots a little more. However, I was more in the mood for freestyling and only really accessed a few of the sections of my planned “structured improvisation”. At least I got the final sections down, as it was very important I didn’t miss the final beat of the song!

Afterwards, I was buzzing, and in love with the band, who gave me so much support before and whilst I was on stage, and I was just so in awe of their ability to bring the room alive with the most exciting, danceable music 😀

I also learnt valuable lessons about letting go, feeling the fear and doing it anyway, trusting other people, and just trying to enjoy myself. Improvising is also OK, in little pieces, it’s something I definitely need to throw myself into a lot more, and I will do in the future.

I could then relax and enjoy Aimee’s stunning classical Modern Cairo affair and be very impressed with a debut by Magdalena – who had her first performance, which was a drum solo, after 4 months of learning!! Topped off with the very rockin’ Raqs Stars choreography from class to finish the performances for the evening. Fabulous. Then, more wonderful music, dancing, and letting the rhythm take control!

So, from me, it’s a big thank you to Caitlyn for giving me the opportunity, and a HUGE thank you and outpouring of admiration and new found love to the band, the Brothers of the Baladi, for allowing me the space to let go of my apprehension and give in to the music YEAH!

If you haven’t heard their music – GO LISTEN NOW – check out their website: http://www.baladi.com and let those toes start tapping, and hips start shaking.

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Wow, I am busy spinning round my living room at the moment, trying to rehearse for a bellydance show next week – Caitlyn has organised a show with the fabulous Brothers of the Baladi – Grammy nominated World Music and Middle Eastern band from Oregon – celebrating 35 years and their second UK tour!! They describe themselves as Turko Celtic Pan Arabic Global Rock and Roll yeeeeeaaaaaaahhh!!! And I am SUPER excited slash nervous :)))Poster for Brothers of the Baladi show, 26th July 2010

I’m dancing to 2 tracks of theirs – Laz, and their cover of Paint it Black – both really gorgeous slinky songs that I love BUT I’m a little nervous as this will be the first time I’m dancing with a LIVE BAND. Such an amazing opportunity and I really can’t wait (how can I ever go back to a CD player again?!?!). So hence the spinning and grooving round my flat, picking up pieces of our parquet flooring with my sweaty bare feet :s

I’ve just spent an hour working on Laz – I have a structure, I guess with a live band the thing is to know the music inside out, but not rely on too rigid a choreography, so I have section plans… I’m pretty pleased with the feel of this one, the beat is unusual though!
Next up is Paint it Black, which is really moody and sultry, I think this may be more of a challenge, but who knows, I seem to having a “good choreography day” today!
So, the details of the bellydance show are:

What: Bellydance party with Brothers of the Baladi
Where: West Oxford Community Centre, Botley, Oxford, OX2 0BT
When: 7-9pm
How much: £5
Who: Caitlyn, me (Annabel), Magdalena, Aimee
Why: Because it’s fun, you get to watch, dance, and listen to wonderful live music!! (why not?!?)

I’m also excited as I’ve had two invitations today – one to perform at Truck Festival on Saturday night, which I can’t, but I’m pleased I’ve been asked! And one to cover a Hen Do Bellydance party on Saturday, which I also can’t do, but again, it’s good to be in demand!! I’m also firming up plans for a Halloween Extravaganza and my creative juices are flowing! Anyway, back to the serious business of rehearsing now. Toodleooo…

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Hurrah! I am finally a member of MADN (Mosaic Arabic Dance Network UK) – my stuff arrived in the post this week – only 3 months late! I’m hoping to be able to take advantage of their Public Liability Insurance scheme next year, as it seems to be the cheapest insurance around for bellydancers by far. Along with my shiny membership card came the member magazine – Mosaic, and having a flick through, there looks like some interesting articles – I am particularly exciting by the “How to shape your eyebrows” article and the Real life tales of a Bellydancer in India. I look forward to settling down and having a good read!

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Off to Gothla 2010

I’ve just returned from Gothla 2010 and I’ve had a fantastic weekend of workshops, dancing, late night shaking it and making new friends. With 2 shows – the hafla on Friday night, with some breath-taking performances by the “professionals” and the Open Stage night in a big ol dark and dingy rock club, with all kinds of crazy tattoed beauties, mask clad and vampire bellydancers, doing their dark and wonderful dancing on the club stage. Brilliant, inspiring, a little crazy, but completely captivating!

I decided to take 3 workshops and not fit too much into my weekend, which was just as well as our first night in Leicester saw us (me, Nadia, and my 2 new friends Nancy and Bambi) heading to a dirty dancefloor in a club called “Mosh” on the other side of town. Cute, in a throw-back rock club kinda way, we ordered our drinks and set up camp next to the DJ (within whispering/shouting distance for requests…) and proceeded to pumple the dancefloor with our slightly out-of-control bellydance tinged dancefloor moves. For approximately 4 hours. Yikes. A LOT of fun, a lot of energy used, and a very late to bed night. Not the best start for a weekend of body punishing bellydance drills!
Luckily my first workshop wasn’t until 1pm the next day.
All my workshops were brilliant – I learnt loads and have been completely inspired to add more theatrical/burlesquey/even body popping to my own style of dance – lots of elements of stuff that makes me tick – without the need to be 100% gothy. A little smudge of goth, perhaps!


Fulya taught me how to use the hand-fan, in a saucy little burlesque style combo. Darkstar, relentless with energy, drilled a fab and rockin’ body break, wave, tick, tutt, strobe, pop and lock combo. Absolutely LOVED it, came away positively pumped with crazy energy. And this morning, I had the pleasure of 2 hours with Princess Farhana, mostly talking (which was very welcome) about some of her amazing career adventures – Lips and Lashes (a bull whip, bellydance double-act), her Roman Orgy fantasy stage show, which was some crazy idea she came up with and was lucky enough to have an even crazier friend who let her stage the production! And her act where she popped out of an opium pipe (constructed from Tampax) as the Poppy clad genie – GENIUS. I love it. Lessons on stage makeup, costume colours, the science of stage lighting, the art of flattering the technicians, how to start and end your show… all the tips and tricks from a real pro 🙂

We did get some dancing in, PF challenging us to hold poses for longer than comfortable, listen to specific parts of the song (drum, melody), dance super-slow, and then finally we had to perform a feeling for the others to guess (our group got innonent and then stupid, which was very, VERY challenging).

All in all a lot of fun, and I have come away bustling with ideas and new things to work into my classes (made the most of a one hour “stop-over” in Coventry, putting together my lesson plans for my next 5 week course, going to make a slot for improvising, and will start to introduce theatrics into my Thursday night class…. mmmm!!). It’s been an adrenalin fuelled, lace trimmed, kohl enhanced, boned, corseted, crimson lipped FABULOUS weekend of discovery of a new world of bellydancing, in all it’s dark and mysterious beauty and sometimes verging on terrifying (one performance last night was a girl who was caught in the clamp mask from Saw II – eeeeek!). Good one Gothla, I’ll be wearing slightly more eyeliner than usual to work this week!

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Packed my bags, and heading to Gothla!

I am so excited – I’m on a train to Leicester this afternoon! This wouldn’t normally necessarily be the biggest reason to be excited BUT I am infiltrating camp GOTH by attending the Gothic Bellydance event of the year, Gothla. Now, this is completely new territory for me, as the closest I’ve ever come to being a goth is wearing a lot of black eyeliner at Sixth form and always having quite out-of-control hair. Luckily I have two wonderful gorgeous friends, who are definitely more “in the scene” than me, who have gently encouraged me to come along for the weekend. And I must say I am VERY excited.

I packed my bag this morning with slight trepidation, not knowing quite what to take to wear for the evening dos. I figure my trusty multicoloured eyeshadow pallet, red shoes and an assortment of glittery vests and wet look leggings should do the trick?!?!? Oh there is much to learn. I fear I’m gonna be the 80s disaster movie in a sea of PVC corsetted godesses!

I have 3 workshops booked, Steam Punk Sirens with Fulya, Locks, Pops, and Ticks, with Darkstar and Drama Queen with Princess Farhana, and there are two nights of fun, tonight being the Hafla and tomorrow the Open Stage and Club Night. Whoooo whooooo, I feel like a teenager again, all wide eyed with anticipation and looking forward to colouring in my eyelids tonight with those colours that I haven’t dared use before…

PLUS I’m hoping (of course) that I’m going to pick up some seriously exciting moves to incorporate into my ever chaotic but hugely exciting smorgasboard of bellydancing styles.
Right, need to focus, a few more hours of normallity and then I get to take my first tentative steps into this new and mysterious world (Leicester, that is…)

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I’ve got at least 3 books on the go at the minute, and another one came through my door this weekend from Mr Amazon… Anyway, I took it upon myself to get some recommended books on the history and culture of our great art, and I am slowly making my way through the first of those – Serpent of the Nile (Wendy Buonaventura). It’s beautifully illustrated, which is a big pull for me, but it does remind me slightly of a text book, and when I’m trying to read it at night, my eyelids become heavy and I’m only managing little spurts at a time (I blame it on my university years, trying hard to read physics textbooks before bed… yawn). Anyway, it’s really interesting, and part of the JWAAD Teacher Training reading list, so I am, shall we say, savouring it at the moment (just a little on the go-slow….). There are some little gems, so as a wee tempter, here is something lovely I read from this book…

“All dance comes from life, and in particular from our need to express ourselves and make sense of our existence. By its very nature it is one of the most powerful means of auto-intoxication we have, developing energy in the body and then releasing it. Its raison d’etre is reflected in the origins of our word for it….. Dance comes from the Sanskrit tanha, meaning ‘joy of life’, while the Arabic raqs and the Turkish raqqase both derive from the Assyrian raqqadu, meaning ‘to celebrate’.”

I am also heavily embroiled in the mysteriously wicked world of Spices – with Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s “The Mistress of the Spices” – which I am completely captivated by – the language is soooo mesmerising, this one I really can’t put down and I spent maybe a whole hour escaping the sultry heatwave hidden away in the pages of this one (nearly finished). Also have “‘A Trade Like Any Other’ Female Singers and Dancers in Egypt” and my new, highly recommended (by the Bibliotherapist at the School of Life) holiday reading title “Bicycle Diaries” in my book pile. Thank godness I have a holiday planned (only 2 months away), I need to get some serious bookworming in….

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Lots to think about this week, I’ve been dancing crazy every night after work and it’s not gonna stop until Friday!! First up was Caitlyn’s Monday class where we did a lot more shimmy work and I realised that I seriously need to work on my shimmy layers. Just how in the heck do you isolate the upper body with a camel and the lower body with a shimmy. I take the shimmy up north and shake like a kitchen appliance. GAH. Caitlyn suggested starting with the shimmy and taking the rib circle on top. I’ve heard different techniques before about slowing the shimmy down to a side to side and adding the upper body camel and gradually speeding it up. Whatever method, this needs serious work…

Caitlyn also asked me to do a second dance for the Brothers of the Baladi show, so I’m working with Laz, a song in a 7/8 rhythm… challenging but exciting!

Next up, Tuesday, and my pal Carol lured me out to a second attempt at Zumba. Zumba is something I got VERY excited about in concept – being completely glued to the 30 minute advertorials they play over and over on Sky TV with hot boddied LA beach babes dancin’ and shakin’ and generally looking more than cool. I was totally sucked into the magic of TV shopping, my finger getting ever closer to speed dialling the 5 DVD discs for the price of 4 AND a free Zumba bar bell to work out with… The music was great AND it even incorporates bellydancing, so this has GOT to be good right? (I actually got addicted to the idea from watching clips on YouTube – this one – http://tinyurl.com/375y8s8 – is AMAZING, that guy Nathan does a whole new kind of bellydancing which is impossible to take your eyes off) Well… the jury’s still out for me. The first class I went to was very low key, seeming more like dancing for people who don’t dance. This one was much better – higher energy – 50 or so people packed into a dark disco, jumping around and flinging our arms about the place. It was very therapeutic (from a shaking off the lunacy of the day standpoint), very sweaty (which is great!) but very difficult to follow as I could neither hear or see the dude at the front. Still, it was funny and worked me out, so that was good, oh, and we had a dance “battle” half way through, which was fun. We’ll see, I may invest in that Zumba DVD after all…

So, here we are on Wednesday, and I returned to my Raqs Sharqi class with Katrina. Back to the wonderful 1/2 hour lying on the floor warm up, preparing my body for dance… ahhhh. We’re working on Classical Egyptian in this class, although I’ve missed 2 weeks, so long phaoronic arms, lots of travelling moves, with the orchestra booming behind me (well, in the CD player). Very challenging to identify the changes in the music, but really interesting and completely lending itself to my other main life challenge – to loose my inhibition in my dancing, let the spirit loose, blow caution to the wind and feel the dance!

So much to work on, I need to stay focused!

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