Tuesday, 29 March 2011


As the last few days of the old month slip slowly by, it's time to look back at the goings on of recent weeks. March was a time of haflas for Sakura, with three very different events following hot on one another's heels. Rather than do in-depth reviews which probably won't mean much to a lot of you, we're going to look at these in general - and use them to reflect on what makes a good hafla. Of course we may at times drift off and become distracted by the minutiae, but just bear with us and we'll get there!

So here goes ....

The month kicked off with a hafla at Burnley. This is a regular, three times a year event run by our teacher Chris and another East Lancashire teacher, Chriso. It is deliciously informal, and intentionally so --- just turn up, pay on the door and give in your name and music if you'd like to perform. It's held in a large room in a club, with plenty of parking, which is a big plus point for any hafla. There are always a variety of dances from the hostess' classes, which span a huge age range from the 'Recycled Teenagers' (an Age Concern group whose joy and enthusiasm always go down well)  to the little girl - aged around six - who hit the dance floor during every break, soloing and joining in with improv with equal confidence and providing a great floorshow. In addition to this there are always performances from other local dancers, so that there's a really good mix of Oriental, Tribal and Fusion. A lovely thing about this hafla is that you see lots of the same folk - including their families - there each time so it's a great chance to catch up. The audience is so supportive, which makes it an ideal place for dancers to take their first nervous performing steps! Sakura didn't perform this time around as we'd both been ill, but because of the lack of formality we could be relaxed and not feel we were letting anyone down. We did however tread the dance floor with our tribal class which was huge fun. The only down side was that we had to leave a tad earlier than usual ...

Exactly a week later it was time for Accrington hafla, Romy's first foray into organising an event. And it has to be said, her organisation paid dividends - everyone knew where they were meant to be and when. The hafla was held amidst the grandeur of the Town Hall - in the ballroom, no less -  and we had great fun ascending and descending the magnificently ornate sweeping staircase in our 25yard skirts! We were performing on a stage, which was a whole new experience for us as far as improv goes; one of the things we are working on is building up that beautiful connection with the audience that we see in performances by troupes such as Gypsy Caravan and Gypsy Heart, and we did feel at times that we were grinning out inanely into the darkness! Obviously something else to work on! Again there were a range of performances including Tribal, Oriental - and comedy! Despite being anxious about her first hafla Romy was a lovely hostess and her class were unfailingly supportive of every act, which was really appreciated. It was good too to catch up with friends again, including from our 'old' Egyptian class.

The third and final hafla of the month was another Sakura regular - Kate's Merhaba hafla in Liverpool. Again this is held in a large room in a club, with good parking! It's also a Saturday hafla, which is always a bonus for us in terms of lots of getting-ready time (although on this occasion we'd slipped up and booked ourself on an all day art course too!). This time around it was a joint hafla with the Northern Arabic Dance Association (NADA) so there were dancers from as far afield as Newcastle. In terms of organisation. it probably comes somewhere between the previous two, with music and running orders sorted out before the event itself. Like Chris and Romy, Kate works hard to ensure that the event runs smoothly and enjoyably for everyone, and the Liverpool folk are really warm and welcoming - that's why we like it! We danced in the first half, and were delighted to find that there were two other improvised tribal groups up there - go, improv! Now although we've said that we'll not do in depth reviews here, a special mention does have to go to our friend Jo. We've seen her perform sword fusion solos a few times now and loved them all, but her performance at Liverpool was a triumph! Wonderful dancing, moody and mysterious - and spins to die for! Yay!

So - three very different haflas, all of which we enjoyed but for different reasons. So what actually makes a good hafla for Sakura?

Obviously venue is important - roomy, comfortable, easy to get to ...   So are the range of dances (although having said that, being tribalistas we love a good all-tribal hafla too!). Pretty things to buy go down well, as does winning the raffle (both of us won in Liverpool!). Bars and food are good, although invariably we just CAN'T eat until we've performed (which can be an issue if we're on late!) and after Cayte's experience of having to (unexpectedly) perform after a couple of vodkas at Sarah;s wedding that's a bit of a no-no too!

However, one thing above all others is an essential for a good hafla ...

The people!

Friendly, welcoming hostesses, a warm, enthusiastic audience, the chance to catch up and have a bop with friends. That's what REALLY matters. That's what gives you that post hafla buzz and leaves you going away wanting more. And that's what Sakura were lucky enough to experience this month!

April is looking like a quiet month hafla-wise for us - lots of workshops (including the wonderful JoY festival in Yorkshire - Indian and zilling sessions - and an improv workshop later in the month) and a chance to practise and hone our dance skills ready to step out again in May!

Until next time - happy dancing!

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