Friday, 29 April 2011

Video of the Week - Samaya Tribe!

This week we're off to Seattle, Washington to share some dancing with the lovely ladies of Samaya Tribe. Genevieve DuPuy, one of their founding members, used to dance with InFusion Tribal (one of Cayte's first tribal 'crushes' - she used to watch their demo video over and over again just longing to learn that style of dance). InFusion disbanded in 2010, but as the dancers went their separate ways they became involved in some equally fabulous troupes. Samaya Tribe is definitely one of our very favourites!

"Samaya Tribe
A tribal bellydance collective with a focus on creating a vibrant and joyful improvisational dance experience.
Samaya Tribe is based out of Seattle, Washington and features a collective of dancers hailing from the city as well as areas both north and south of Seattle. Although the group formed in April of 2010, they have danced together for several years in a variety of performance troupes and classes. The troupe is passionate about sharing the art and joy that is improvisational tribal bellydance with audiences across the Pacific Northwest and beyond, and continually strives to contribute to, support and nurture this wonderful bellydance community that they hold near and dear to their hearts."

Samaya Tribe website

Once again several beautiful videos to choose from, but in the end we went for this one - firstly because Cayte has a bit of a thing about videos shot outside, and secondly because we particularly LOVE the first piece of music (it's on the sakura performance list for future reference!).


So much to love about this! we love the way each girl is 'showcased' in her own short solo at the beginning - but is also supported by the tribe so that she isn't alone. We love the way in which the dancers interact with one another and the audience, and the way in which, especially during the solos, their own personalities 'shine through'. They are very much together as a tribe but have still maintained their individuality.We also love the way in which the girls have used moves from different formats but have done so thoughtfully and from a strong base, which has resulted in a reflective cohesion rather than a manic 'hotch-potch of all the moves they simply fancied doing. And of course we love once again that effortless flow to their dance.

Thank you Samaya Tribe - you're absolutely fabulous.

You can find out more about Samaya Tribe at their website here and Facebook page here. Genevieve DuPuy is also a dance teacher; check out her Facebook page here and website here.
Until next time - happy dancing!

Thanks to Samaya Tribe for the images in this post

Monday, 25 April 2011

Of dancing, drumming and delicious dresses!

Wow - what an amazing dancy-drummy weekend we have had! We just couldn't resist blogging to let you know all about it. Are you sitting comfortably? Then we'll begin ...

Early Saturday morning saw us packing our dance bags and heading back on our well-trodden pathway over the Pennines to Yorkshire. We - Cayte, Sarah and our lovely friend Janice - were off to Shipley for a bit of Tribal improv with our fantastic teacher, Chris Ogden. However, first things first; the Great Shipley Tea Shop Ritual! No workshop is complete without a pre-fuelling at Interlude, a lovely quirky little 1920s style cafe which just happens to be right around the corner from the dance venue (look at their yummy menus here). Joined by the fabulous - and more than a little warm - Jo (she was fresh from a Roses practice!) we were soon fortified by warm brie and cranberry rolls, cream cakes and ginger beer and were back off up the hill (urrrrrrgh!) to dance.

Aside : The folk who run this cafe are lovely - they have even undertaken to make a special vegan cake ready for Janice's next visit!

Chris' monthly workshops are always a real treat - well sized dancing space complete with kitchen for making brews, Chris' fantastic teaching, Stephen's great drumming and wonderful friendly folk. This month was no exception. After warming up and drilling a variety of moves and cues we had lots of opportunity to practise those in twos and threes; it is always good to have the chance to improvise with different people outside of our own group, not least because - particularly for Sakura where there are just two of us dancing together - we re so aware of one another and how we dance that specific cues tend to become less important and we go more with the flow. This workshop certainly did sharpen up our cues and was lots of fun to boot! Later we got the chance to improvise in larger groups and to perform for one another. Everyone looked so good and so confident - go girls!!

If you're thinking about dipping your toe into tribal improv, these are the workshops for you! They are very non-threatening - but even if you are terrified at the thought of leading, rest assured that we have all been there and that yes, no matter how much improvising we may have done we do all mess it up a bit (or even more than a bit ..) sometimes! The only cure is to actually get out there and DO IT! Once you discover the magic of improv you'll be hooked ..

The next workshop in the series is on June 4th - check out the Facebook page here. Alternatively, details of all forthcoming workshops are up on Chris' Wiggle site here.

Sadly that was the end of Sarah's dancing adventures for the weekend as she was off new-baby-visiting the following day (which wasn't sad at all - she loved it - but you know what I mean). However, at an equally early time, and after a brief foray around Stockport (having come off the motorway at the wrong junction) Cayte arrived at Jo's and we set off - southbound to Nottingham this time - for some slow drilling with the delectable Pauline Qu! Whilst it's a longish journey time-wise it's a particularly enjoyable one through the gorgeous Derbyshire countryside - we felt all renewed and inspired before we'd even arrived (and had spied more than one quaint little pub that we fancied!). Jo was an excellent tour guide pointing out lots of iron-age forts and stately homes - but was quite distraught to spot folk viewing the lovely farmhouse she's had her eye on for ages!

Pauline's 'Slow Moves' workshop is part of her 'Death By' series and as such she really put us through our paces sloooowwwwwly and tortuously, but hey, did it work!! I can now flutter and do a controlled bellyroll as opposed to a quick and hopeful flobadob! We drilled mayas, taxeems and torso rotations at - shall we say - more measured speeds than we could ever have dreamt were possible. Yes, it was hard, hard work but Pauline's fun style of presentation made for a really relaxed atosphere and we all had a great time - we'll be back for more! And my stomach muscles actually feel tighter this morning  (she says, hopefully) . . .

Pauline's workshop was followed by a great two hours of drumming with her lovely husband, Asif. We always love his workshops; he's one of our favourite drumming teachers. He really has the knack of being able to tailor what he teaches to all levels - with basic hits and rythyms for beginners being scaled up and made more challenging for the more experienced, and he provides lots of individual help and support too. Of course the workshop was made even more enjoyable by including my two favourite rhythms - Ayoub and Masmoudi (that one is just my all-time fave!!).

The next 'Death By ' workshop focuses on shimmies, and is once again followed by drumming. You can find details on the BTS website here. Don't miss out - you'll regret it if you do!

And now, finally, on to the crowning glory of the weekend! Several months ago we had spotted Pauline dancing in a rather fabulous Ghawazee dress, which Sakura had been most definitely lusting after!  Having already comissioned velvet tribal pants from her (which are gorgeous!) we took the plunge, grabbed some luscious fabric and put in our orders to the amazing Pauline/Asif Dream Team! And here for your delectation is the finished result! How amazing is that? It really is divine! This one is Cayte's - Sarah has a matching one inequally yummy teal blue. They were going to get their first showing at the Shekinah hafla on May 21st, but we are so taken with them that they may have to have an airing at Lowton hafla the week before! (Cayte has also decided she now NEEDS a tailor's dummy - not to sew on, but to display her costumes). Thank you (again and again!) Pauline and Asif!

Well, that's about it for now. Thank you to everyone - teachers, drummers and fellow dancers - who made this weekend so special. We love you all!

We'll be back soon - after a long tribal chat with Jo on the way back from Nottingham I can now feel a blog about Tribal and its whole philosophy coming on. It's all there - just waiting to spring forth into the blogging world!

Until then, happy dancing!

Thanks to Chris Ogden, Pauline & Asif and Interlude for images used in this blog

Friday, 22 April 2011

Video of the Week - Jill Parker!

This week it's time for one of Sarah's big bellydance loves, the fabulous Jill Parker!

Widely considered to be the 'mamma' of tribal fusion, San Francisco based Jill trained and danced extensively with FatChance BellyDance before moving on into fusion, directing Ultra Gypsy and the Foxglove Sweethearts.

"She's an exceptional teacher with a gift for demystifying this sensuous form, making its techniques accessible to new dancers, while offering tremendous insight for refinement to advanced dancers.

She is a wealth of knowledge, a warm teacher with a very giving nature. Jill's big heart and deep love for this form shine through in her inspiring classes and intoxicating performances."

Quote from Jill's website - check it out here.

As well as just generally being amazing, this woman seems to get younger and younger as the years go by .....

The video is just filled with grace and slinkiness - she is such a beautiful dancer. The fact that she studied and danced 'traditional' tribal so extensively before developing her fusion style really shows too. Some of us are still cursing the dreaded lurgy that struck us last year and prevented us from going to one of her classes in San Francisco! One day, Jill!                                                              
Until next time, happy dancing!

Thanks to Jill Parker for the photographs in this post

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Seven Deadly Sins!

I've been pondering this blog post for some time now .... and have even had an abortive attempt to write it (aborted because I sounded far too grumpy. Some of you may say 'What's new?' but there you go!). It originally started out as something more tightly focused - centring around a Newly Identified Phenomenon (of which, more later - just to keep you all tantalised!). Anyway, having read one of my favourite parts of  Merhaba magazine, Liz's regular column, I got to pondering and humming and hawing and all of that sort of stuff, as you do. And the topic sort of opened up and grew and grew ...

What Great Life Mystery you may ask has prompted all this pondering and deep cogitation? Well, it's a topic dear to all of our dancing hearts, that of haflas! Now in her article Liz gave some excellent advice for hafla hosts, and she also touched briefly on the thorny subject of hafla etiquette, particularly as it relates to audiences - and it was this that rung lots of bells for me and dovetailed nicely with the Newly Identified Phenomenon, which I shall continue to tantalise you with remorselessly for a few paragraphs yet.

Now before I go on I NEED to make a Very Important Point. Over the five or so years that I've been going to haflas the overwhelming majority of the audiences there have been fantastic. Yes, some are quieter and some are noisier (especially at our table. Not that I'm looking at anyone in particular here Jo!). Some audiences are mainly dancers, some have more of the general public, some may be family oriented. Some audiences clap, some zaghareet, some even hisssssssss (Glasgow -yay!!). But despite all this general wonderfulness, you know what they say - 'There's always one'.

And yes, very often there is. At least one audience member who doesn't quite get it right ...

So here it is folks - based on things I've seen over the past few years, here's a quick guide to Hafla Etiquette for Audiences via the Seven Deadly Sins of Hafla Going. Get yer 'I Spy' books out - how many of these have YOU spotted?

1) Whilst performances are in progress, the dance floor is, believe it or not, for dancers. Halfway through a soulful performance to Enta Omri is NOT an appropriate time for you to scuttle across - or even around -it for a toilet trip, fag break or to grab another vodka and coke. It's distracting for the dancer, annoying for the audience and, if there's a dvd, you'll be on there looking like a real prat. So hang on for a couple of minutes until there's a natural break between dancers. Just wait - easy!

2)  Music is an essential part of any dance performance. The dancers need to be able to hear it so that they can respond to it - and the audience needs to hear it so they can absorb the whole experience. Unfortunately if you and your mates are gabbing and cackling at the tops of your voices, then NOONE can hear it. Now the odd whispered word of awe and wonder is fine. A brief sentence or two between acts is fine - so long as you've got your eye on that dance floor and are ready to sink into respectful silence as soon as the next dancer moves into place. Otherwise, chat needs to be kept to longer breaks. If you want to chat ALL night there's very probably a really decent boozer just around the corner that would welcome you with open arms - the White Lion or Red Bull or some such. Though even they won't want chatter if there's a darts match on ....

3) At any hafla you are BOUND to have favourite acts, for whatever reason. There may also be dancers whose performances you can appreciate, though they may not be your cup of Typhoo. However, horror of horror, every now and then there may be an act that sails perilously close to the edge for you --- makes you draw a sharp breath, for whatever reason. Maybe they're billing something as bellydance, but to you the relationship between the two is about as close as a frog to a ferret. Maybe they're performing a style that you feel strongly shouldn't be platformed alongside bellydance. Maybe you find their costuming or music wildly inappropriate. Unless we've recently been canonised most of us have been there at least once. However, the time to moan or give vent to righteous indignation either verbally or by voting with your feet and stomping out (across the dance flloor of course) is NOT at the hafla. Not at your table, nor the bar nor in the toilets nor outside in Smokers Corner. Save it for the privacy of the journey home, please. You may not have appreciated it, you may even feel offended, but nevertheless each and every one of those performers will have practised (hopefully!), spent valuable time and money on costuming and then put themselves out there for free in hopes of entertaining YOU. They at least deserve a bit of respect for that.
Oh, and similarly if you don't approve of the venue/car park/beer/food or even if you're just peeved that you didn't win the raffle - save your thoughts until a later time when maybe they might be more appropriately voiced as constructive criticism rather than just whinging.

4) If you are really enjoying the dance and music do feel free to bobble along to it in your seat or wherever you're standing. It shows the dancer that you're really into it, and that's great. However, please do NOT ---- deep breath here ---- DO NOT do an all-out dance-along in full costume. Those four or five minutes are to showcase the performer, not you - please respect that! It's bad enough if you do this at the back of the room, but to do it at the front of the room ALONGSIDE the performer is - just not on.
And yes, sadly I have actually seen it.

 5) Why do I always end up in buffet queues behind somebody with all the decisiveness of Eeyore? Please people, keep things moving. And please don't pile your plate quite so high - there are 165 people behind you who would like to eat too, and you can always come back for more (unless someone else has piled their plate to overflowing and cleared the table of course). Oh, and if it's a Jacob's Join and you couldn't be bothered to bring a contribution don't you dare snaffle the last cheese roll (that I brought) from right under my nose. Ok?

6) And so here it is at last folks - the moment has come to reveal the Newly Identified Phenomenon that is ...Hafla Face!!! A few weeks ago I was sorting through photos of us from haflas over the past three or four years. I found what I thought (for a change) was a great photo of myself, and was just launching into admiration mode when I noticed something right below my left arm ...... No, not batwings!! I saw a face. The face of an audience member. And not just any old face, but a face that looked so aggressive, so 'looks could kill' that it stopped me in my tracks. Now of course being hopelessly insecure I immediately thought that this audience member (who incidentally was also performing at the same event) either a) Hated tribal or b) Hated our performance or c) Hated me or d) All of the above. I rooted around the depths of my computer and managed to find several photos of other dancers at the same hafla  and blither me, there she was on every single one. Not just straight faced, but with a true Death Stare. Now don't get me wrong, I am notorious for being captured on film with the most unbecoming expressions in the world. But not on every shot! And at haflas I make a real conscious effort to SMILE at the performers, because I know as a dancer how encouraging that is. I'm just so thankful that I didn't catch this lady's eye whilst I was actually dancing; it would have really discouraged me. So, audience, you get back what you give out - smile and be positive and the dancers will absorb it and reciprocate - and hey, you get a better and more relaxed performance!
Oh and of course if you do insist on keeping that grumpy Hafla Face then you may well ruin my photos. Which will make me cross.

7) You may well have to dash off at the end of a hafla, and the hostess may well be busy or indeed nowhere to be found. But please, please don't forget to say those two important words 'Thank You'. If you can't do it there and then, send an e mail or a Facebook message. After all, if they didn't put in all that time and hard work you wouldn't have a hafla to go to, would you?

DISCLAIMER : Whilst the Seven Deadly Sins highlighted above are all taken from real events, my comments are NOT aimed at any particular individuals. If you think it's about you, then chances are it probably isn't. It's like in class when the teacher says 'Keep your shoulders down and back' and everyone checks and corrects themselves - bar the one person with their shoulders round their ears.....

So there you go. Venting over. Back to Midsomer Murders for me.

Until next time, happy dancing (and hafla-going) wherever you are!

Friday, 15 April 2011

Shame-Free Blogging!

Today - Friday April 15th - is Shame-Free Blogging Day (thanks to Shay Moore for the heads-up on this one). One of her dance students, Arya, recently suffered a troll-attack on her blog, with offensive comments on her photographs. Instead of taking it lying down, she decided to standup and fight back - read her post here. She says:

'I am not ashamed of my body.  My body is strong, supple, and graceful.  It is firm in some places, and soft in others.  It rises to my demands (almost) without fail, whether I want to participate in a four-hour yoga workshop, make it through boot camp and two war zones, shimmy for two hours straight, make love with my husband, run for three miles, or stay up through the night with a woman in labor.  My body is shaped in a way that screams "WOMAN!", and I'm finally, blessedly, okay with enjoying that.

I will not be shamed!'

Go Arya!

Video of the Week - Two for One Week!

Yes folks - this week you not only get a troupe of beautiful dancers, but also a group of fantastic musicians! And not just one video - but two (cos we couldn't make any type of rational decision about which you needed to see most and we just love them both!). So you are really in for a treat!
Without further ado, let's get into the first video :

The dancers you're seeing here are Portland based ORIGIN (check out their website here.) Now, we have loved these ladies -and these videos - for quite some time now, but having heard this week that they are all going separate ways and are off to do their own respective things (please correct us if we're wrong here - we read it on Facebook ...) we thought it was a particularly pertinent time to make them 'Video of the Week.

The musicians in the video are NEGARA, who once again are Portland based - learn more about them here. If you are familiar with the musicians of Gypsy Caravan and Mizna you'll recognise a few faces!

'Negara creates a unique world-infused blend, with influences ranging from Middle-Eastern, North and West African and Spanish to rock, jazz and blues.  The music allows inventive strings and horns to ride over tightly knit percussion that can span the range from delicate to intense, from mesmerizing to infectiously danceable.  The music is rooted in ethnic tradition yet is thoroughly contemporary.'
Negara website

Time for video number two :

Watching these videos reminds us of those pavement paintings in Mary Poppins - the atmosphere they create is so strong that you feel that you could just step right into them.  The combination of laid back, hypnotic music and mesmerising, effortless dancing carries us right into that park - we are sitting right there on the grass in front of the stage, basking in the warm sunshine and just chilling!

Just as an aside, we also LOVE the  costumes the girls are wearing here. Although the full traditional outfit of pantaloons, biiiiiiig skirt, choli and tribal bra is pretty spectacular, these videos really highlight the fact that simpler can be just as beautiful - especially where it matches the whole 'feel' of the dance, music, venue and audience. Gorgeous!!!

So, there are your videos for this week - we hope you enjoy them as much as we did.

Keep your eyes peeled for a mid-week (or maybe even sooner!) blog - we can feel one coming on!

Until then, happy dancing!

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Stitch'n'Bitch with Tribal Jane!

Cake, good company, biscuits, craftiness, cake, dance chat, biscuits, dance dvds, cake, drinks, biscuits ..... what more do you need to create a few hours of general fabulousness? Well, just throw Tribal Jane into the mix and there you have it - the perfect Saturday afternoon!

Yep, today was the day for one of our regular stitch'n'bitch sessions, and despite having no crafty projects of her own to be getting on with, Jane was determined not to miss out - ever in hope of purloining part of someone else's project to make herself a new crocheted hat perchance? She thoroughly approved of the company she was keeping - and certainly added a lively note to our session!

It didn't take long for our little tribal friend to cotton on to the fact that food and drink is a key element of a successful stitch'n'bitch and in no time at all she was joining the rest of us in tucking into Jo's delicious Moroccan lemon cake and Sarah's yummy, straight-from-the oven fruity biscuits. It also, as you can see, didn't take long for her to decide to help herself to more cake! To be honest, we really don't blame her ...

Dance chit-chat is another important part of our afternoons, and Jane was most excited to hear of Jo's plans for her next sword dance. You could say she was inspired to have a go herself - unfortunately the only sword to hand was the carving knife. Not quite what you were thinking of, was it Jo?

Now, believe it or not, we DO actually do a bit of crafting on these afternoons. Because that's really the whole point of them -- especially when Cayte is organised enough to remember her glasses. And Jane was keen to help ...

Jo has acquired some beautiful cream lace fabric and is creating a unique and very special hip scarf for a performance - adding trim, individual handmade lacy flowers and delicate little pearl beads. It is truly beautiful (and she managed to persist despite having hurt her shoulder doing sticky things at dance practice that morning - get better soon Jo!). Tribal Jane obviously agreed, although we're not sure everyone would have trusted her with those scissors so near to such a lovely creation!

Sarah is crochet-mad at the moment and has been making a few pairs of zil muffs (including some deep raspberry coloured ones for our lovely friend Janice). She is spending most of her life at the moment trawling yarn shops - both 'virtual' and real - and has an impressive array of hooks (including a Monster Hook - check out her crafty Gingerbread Bunny blog for photos - it's awesome!). She was very glad of a hand when winding her yarn - there's teamwork for you!

Cayte had a few mini-projects on the go today - splitting an Indian skirt to make panels, re-sewing some long fringing onto a tie-band (this is a bit of a yoyo project - the fringing started out on a tie band, was taken off and attached to a belt and is now going back onto a band again. The circle of life ..) and finally wanted to do a bit of crochet of her own. This last task involved a bit more wool winding; unfortunately Tribal Jane was completely fed up with this activity by this point in the afternoon and crashed out on the couch ...Luckily Jo stepped in to help here - see, that's tribal spirit Jane!

Of course, watching a few dance dvds all adds to the whole ambience of a stitch'n'bitch session, and this afternoon was no exception. We all enjoyed watching lots of tribal lovelies on the small screen, and it gave us lots to chat and compare notes about. Tribal Jane was totally engrossed and enjoyed it so much that she just had to join in with a bit of drumming on her own mini doumbek.

All too soon the afternoon was over and it was time to pack away the yarns and fabrics, needles and hooks. However, there was still one remaining treat for us - spurred on by the chat and dvds and music, Tribal Jane just had to leap into action and have a bit of a bop on her own. We really wouldn't like to pin any particular style of dance onto this one, though there does appear to be a bit of Khaleegi head swinging in there. Anyway, she's very kindly given us permission to share :

Hmmmmmm - Tribal Jane : available now for workshops and performances in your area. All-male parties not catered for. Contact her at

Joking aside, we all had a fantastic afternoon. If you've never been to a stitch'n'bitch we'd thoroughly recommend it. All you need are a couple of you and you're well on your way. And should you need anyone to wind your yarn, Tribal Jane will always travel, as long as there's food involved ..

Until next time, happy dancing!

If you're wondering who on earth this Tribal Jane person is, you can read all about her here.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Video of the Week - Les Soeurs Tribales!

Ooooh - so many videos, so little time! This week we're (metaphorically speaking, sadly) off to Italy to see one of our our very favourite troupes and great inspirations - Les Soeurs Tribales! Dancers from this professional Milan based company have studied with a vast array of  teachers including intensively with Paulette Rees-Denis of Gypsy Caravan. They perform both fusion and improvised tribal style, with the latter including both 'Old School' format, where the Gypsy Caravan influences are very strongly evident, and their signature 'LST' improvisational format.

We make tribal bellydance our way of life. We are a tribe , wherever we go, whatever we do, both on stage and in everyday life, our gestures, our words, our mutual devotion and affection affect the eyes and hearts of those who look at us. Within Italian dance we are distinguished by not only the originality of our dance, but also for our way of life that is based on sharing.'

Quote taken from Les Soeurs Tribales website - rephrased slightly by us as Google Translate resulted in a rather unwieldy version!

Our video this week is of an improvised performance from just over a year ago, where you can see clearly both Old School and LST moves.


So, why have we chosen this particular video?

Well, we love to watch these girls improvising. They capture the essence of the Gypsy Caravan moves beautifully - moving with strength and intention but also with true grace and 'flow'. Significantly, when they move on to dance within their own format their creativity and unique interpretation of the dance is apparent , but at the same time they manage to maintain that fabulous Gypsy Caravan essence of ease and effortlessness (effortless to the untrained eye, we hasten to add. We know just what goes into making those moves look so good!).

Quite simply, they inspire us!

If you haven't heard of Les Soeurs Tribales before then learn more at their website, Facebook page and You Tube channel!

We would just love to take workshops with these girls, so it's looking like a trip to Milan may be in order.

Unless of course, Chris and Mandy ........????!!!!!

Until next time, happy dancing!

Monday, 4 April 2011

Simply The Best : We love JoY!

And so it is over. The last strains of evocative music have faded into nothingness. The weary traders have packed away the final few shimmering, jingling hip scarves. The doors have closed on the last groups of tired but happy dancers.The stage is bare and the lofty stairways and ornate rooms of the magnificent Victoria Halls return to emptiness and echoes of what was. And another wonderful JoY festival comes to a close....

The great stone lions that guard the entrance are left once more to brood alone in silence. And together with them we too reflect, amidst a stash of sparkly souk prizes, a pile of workshop notes and a heart full of happy memories. Why do we love JoY so? What is it that brings us back, not year after year, but half-year after half-year? What strange magic does it hold that compels us to return again and again?

Oh, the drama and poetry of it all!

Still, why DO we love JoY so? Well, here are ten good reasons!

1)  THE ATMOSPHERE. Friendly, welcoming, intimate. Compared to some bellydance festivals JoY might be considered small - but perfectly formed. But hey, it isn't THAT small. It's large enough to attract renowned teachers from all over the world - of which more later! And yet despite its success it has never lost sight of its vision, has never succumbed to the lure of abandoning that sense of intimacy in favour of an expansion into anonymity. Quite simply, it is what it is - and it's a winning formula!

2) THE TEACHERS. Yasmina of Cairo, Eman Zaki, Sara Farouk, Khaled Mahmoud, Mohammed El Hosseny, Khalida - just a handful of the internationally acclaimed teachers who have graced the floors of the JoY festival recently. However, JoY never loses its commitment to home grown talent too - this time, amongst others we were treated to classes and performances from, amongst others, Chris Ogden, Beverley Spracklen, Tracey Gibbs and Nawarra. The merits of this stretch way beyond mere name-dropping. The care with which teachers are selected means that they really know their stuff. This weekend for example we enjoyed a fabulous workshop on Bollybellywood, led by Katie Holland. Katie spends much of her time in India and so was not only able to teach us the steps but could also give us reams of fascinating background information about both the dance and its meaning and about the bollywood and bellydance worlds out there too. And she isn't alone in this - JoY teachers are certainly up there amongst the best!

3) THE WORKSHOPS. There really is something for everyone. This time you could have studied ATS or Khaleegi, Costume Making or Stagecraft, Drumming or Qi Gong, Baladi or Gothic Tribal Fusion ... or indeed, made your choices from many more options. The only complaints we ever hear at JoY come from limping, worn out souls who groan soulfully, 'Why oh why did I book on so many workshops - AGAIN?!' As soon as the booking sheet for the next JoY comes out dancers can be seen all around the building, poring over it, making their choices and handing over their cash ... sometimes BEFORE they've actually done all their workshops at the current JoY! And there isn't just something for everyone in terms of topics being taught - from absolute beginners guides to masterclasses for more experienced and accomplished dancers, JoY can cater for you regardless of your level of expertise. And what's more, it won't do it by cramming 80 or more of you into one room ... classes are deliberately kept small to ensure that you get the level of instruction and attention that you're paying for. Oh - and you certainly can't complain about the cost. You pay for exactly what you choose, so can do as many - or as few - workshops as you want. Next time these range from £5 up to £25 depending on the length and topic of the workshop and on the teacher. So again they cater for us all.

4) THE LOCATION. Nestling just north of Bradford, Saltaire is a great place for a bellydance festival. OK, so it may be a way to travel from Cornwall or Caithness (although our friend Carol regularly makes the trek up from Padstow) but wherever you choose is going to be a fair distance from somebody, and Yorkshire isn't TOO bad as regards being central-ish. Travel links are very good in terms of both road and rail links  and the hall is literally only two minutes walk from the station - as evidenced by the hordes of dancers making their way up from the station every time a fresh train arrives during a JoY weekend! Accommodation nearby is good (and not too costly) and there are things to occupy non-dancing partners (for example the historic Salts Mill). What more could you want?

Well, how about a beautiful building with a magnificent hall where you can relax over a cuppa and browse the souk in between workshops? How about large airy rooms under the same roof, perfect for workshops? Gardens in front, complete with those stone lions, where the hardened smokers can chill and chat? Indeed,what more could you want?

5) THE SOUK. And so on to the serious subject of sparkly acquisition! Now, at some of the larger dance festivals you walk into a veritable town full of stalls - and the heady rush you feel as you are bombarded from all sides by colour and shimmers is indescribable. But inevitably once you start to browse you do find lots of duplication - and indeed  an extensive range in quality of goods on offer. JoY usually has around 7 or 8 stalls, nestled around the edges of the main hall, but that is actually quite enough to give you that sparkly rush! And those stalls are high quality - Whirling Dervish, Pauline Qu,  Tribezuza, Shimmy Shop, Aladdin's Cave, Katie Holland with her Shakti pants, Farida complete with Eman Zaki .... whatever your style of dance and related needs, whether they be for costuming, props or dvds, the world's your oyster at JoY! There's a real bustle about the souk too - and about the tables in the centre of the hall where dancers drool longingly over one another's purchases.

6) THE FOOD. You certainly won't starve at JoY! Just visit the cafe at the back of the main hall and you can graze to your heart's content - sandwiches, pies, jacket potatoes, salads, cakes, fruit, tea, coffee, water ... and all of it delicious! I can personally recommend the scrumptious cakes and the cheese and onion pie to die for. Oh, and I mustn't forget the delicious fried egg sandwiches with tomato sauce - the front of my nice black t-shirt can testify to their yumminess! (Guess who had to spend the whole of Chris' zil workshop yesterday with her top on inside out to hide the mucky mess she'd made of herself? Jokes about eggy muffins abounded ...)

7) THE ORGANISATION. It's just impeccable, from the timely  and plentiful information on the website to the super-efficient handling of bookings to the smooth but friendly way in which everything is run during the event itself. Even the volcanic ash incident which prevented some teachers getting to the event last April didn't visibly throw Chris and Mandy - calm and serene on the surface, though no doubt paddling away frantically beneath the ripples! And it's a bit of a Forth Bridge scenario --- before one event is even under way they are busy making arrangements for the next, so that when we arrive the booking forms and details for the following JoY are all there ready for us! Huge thanks need to go out to these ladies and all their helpers. They never cease to amaze - and never let us down!

8) THE TIMING. Twice a year. Only six months to wait until the next one. Nuff said.

9)  THE HAFLA. Held in the Main Hall on the Saturday night, this includes performances from the festival's teachers and from winners of the Friday night competition. This year there was also music from Arcomnia, a local band - Jo tell us that they went down really well, and soon had folk up and dancing! We did miss the hafla this time around, but fear not - we pumped Jo for information and got a few soundbites for you regarding some of this year's performances :

Khaled Mahmoud : " His glistening gold and bronze fishscales and shimmery, glittery pectoral shimmies nearly took out my retinas!"
Tracey Gibbs : " A beautiful, heartfelt veil dance"
Chris & Debbie : "Fabulous, tight formations"
Beverley Spracklen : "Spooky but cute!"
Khalida : " Elegant. classical Egyptian, with wonderful musicality"
Moirai Tribal : " Beautiful costumes, elegant dance"
Mohammed El Hosseny : "Great Nubian and Saidi stick"
Katie Holland : " Truly beautiful Indian solo"

There you go Jo! Now that wasn't so bad, was it?!

And to add to the whole glorious show, 400 Roses performed in their 'natural habitat' this year - outside the hall - delighting festival goers and passers-by alike!

10) THE PEOPLE. Last but not least, the people. That's what makes JoY the joy that it is! Super-welcoming organisers and helpers who, despite being run off their feet, are never too busy to stop for a quick chat to check that you're ok. Friendly traders, who not only know their stuff but are so helpful and always up for a bit of banter! They make shopping even more of a pleasure than it normally is! Teachers who, no matter how acclaimed, aren't too proud to join the rest of us over coffees in the hall and are always ready to chat and answer questions. And finally the dancers ---- friendships formed, renewed, cemented in corridors, souks, workshops, shows. There are the JoY regulars - so many 'Hello's to say and catching ups to do since last time. The people you see every week in class - workshop info and souk buys to catch up on. And the folk you've never met before - the strangers who are just friends you haven't made yet - and who will become part of your sea of 'Hello, how are you?'s at the next event. They all contribute to the whole wonderful JoY feeling -- which takes us right back to Number 1 - the atmosphere!

So THAT'S why we love JoY. Chris and Mandy - thank you for all that you do. Don't ever stop!!

If you want to find out more about JoY then check out their website.

Right, I'm off for a bit of post-JoY rest and recuperation! Until next time, happy dancing!

Thanks to the beautiful Jeanette Evans - a JoY 'regular' - for the performance photos.

Saturday, 2 April 2011

Simply The Best : JoY so far

Well, the fabulous twice-yearly Jewel of Yorkshire festival is now well under way, so we thought we'd fill you in on events so far - it's going to be another good 'un! It all kicked off last night with the dance competition, and Sakura made one of their frequent trans-pennine expeditions to take a look at what was going on. The journey across wasn't as tortuous as we'd feared, given that it was rush hour on a Friday - and the time just flew by for SOMEONE who crocheted all the way across!!

From the minute we stepped into the magnificent building we were amongst friends- some from near who we see regularly, and some from afar who we only get the chance for a chat with at events such as this. We bagged ourselves a table at the back (handy for refreshments, toilets and for piling up our raffle tickets/voting slips/drinks/nibbles - and much more comfortable than sitting in the rows nearer the front. We are creatures of comfort!) and set about catching up with the latest news (gossip!) and eyeing up the deliciously colourful souk. We had intended to spend NOTHING but needless to say were soon among the pretty shiny things and the pennies were flowing ... earrings from Tribezuza for Cayte (in justification of this she has been craving these since Tribe Vibe last November - and she WAS their very first customer of the festival!), hand made journals (for dance notes) for us both and a remnant of fabric (a bargain at only £2!) that is just perfect for a costuming idea we're working on! We also took delivery of some luscious velvet  tribal pants that the equally luscious Pauline Qu has been running up for us - they're gorgeous! She had more fabulous stuff on her stall, and our friend Kate soon had a beautifully colourful tribal skirt off the display dummy and  into a carrier bag!

It was soon time to settle down, voting slips in hand, ready for the first part of the competition, the EnJoY award - a category for students who dance purely for pleasure. Despite nerves the girls all did really well (no mean feat when you're being judged by a panel including Yasmina of Cairo, Chris Ogden, Khaled Mahmoud and Moirai Tribal!) and Jasmine, in a stunning deep scarlet ensemble, was a worthy winner.

This category was followed by the Alternative Entertainer award,  a fun category for dancers of all levels who have an original idea to amuse, surprise or amaze the judges and audience. And were we entertained - circus dance. angels and devils, cartwheels and high kicks - you name it!
The lovely Malika walked away with the trophy for this one. We just loved her whole presence and sense of fun and the fabulous 'belly laugh' as Jo named it! The wonderfully eclectic 'Dancers Bizarre' earned second place here.

Finally came the 'Rising Star' category - for professional/semi-professional dancers. As you might expect there were some lovely performances here, with Queenie coming first and Emma second. Queenie's outfit was to die for - a stunning deep turquoise - and we loved the graceful extended quality of her movement.

Whilst votes were counted there was time for more chat, performances from last year's winners Heather and Helena, and a tribal fix from lovely Angela of Tribezuza. Then came the raffle - which left us all bereft of prizes and rather disgruntled (we had been totally spoiled by our recent successes at Kate's Merhaba hafla!). All too soon the evening was over and it was off to the car (too dark for crochet this time) and over the hills to Lancashire!

This was our first bellydance competition and we weren't sure what to expect - but of course being a JoY event it was a total treat! The whole 'feel' of the evening was relaxed and friendly, but impeccably well organised. Although we would never enter a dance competition (firstly because it's the community-led, non-competitive spirit of tribal that draws us to it, and secondly because we'd only sulk when we didn't win) it's horses for courses, and all the girls who took part tonight  are obviously really open to the idea and gave it their all which was wonderful to see. The whole topic of competitions and their benefits and drawbacks is a hot topic for debate, but in all honesty we enjoyed it. REALLY enjoyed it. Having said that, you still wouldn't get us up on that stage for all the tea in China ...

We're having a day off today - well, laundry/blogging/crafting/art journaling/finger nail painting - but we'll be back in sunny Yorkshire tomorrow for a couple of workshops (Bollywood and zils) so we'll let you know how that goes. In the meantime. if you're over there right now - enJoY! And if not - what DO you think you're doing?!

Speak soon - and happy dancing!

Thanks to the fabulous Pauline Qu for the photo of Malika