Sorry for the delay in getting this post up online, but it has all been a bit manic here at Ya Raqs HQ and there doesn’t seem to have been a moment spare to write up the Stockport event. We can now put that right.
The sunny weekend of 17th and 18th October took us to Stockport and one of the latest events we’ve ever had in our dance season. It has been some years since we had the pleasure of performing for the good folk of Stockport, so it was great to be back again.
We set up our little home from home in the shadow of St Mary’s church but it was this proximity to the church that was the source of a heart stopping moment during the course of the weekend. As those of you who follow us will know, we have our own PA system – for the benefit of the sticklers for authenticity out there, it’s not really a PA system but a large black box on wheels in which our shy little musician Ahmed lives! Well Ahmed, being the fantastic musician that he is, also has the ability to run a radio mic, which comes in quite handy when we do our workshops. However, one side effect we hadn’t banked on was that he also picks up other radio mics in the vicinity. So you can imagine our surprise when we switched Ahmed on, on Sunday morning, so that our little mini-me dancers could dance with us, only to blast out at full volume the sermon that was being given in the church at the time! It took Meroe a while to work out what was happening, thinking to herself “I’m sure that’s not normally part of Ahmed’s musical repertoire!” This was rapidly followed by a look of sheer horror which flashed across her face as she wondered if this phenomenon was a two-way street and the congregation had just had a burst of the Musicians of the Nile mid sermon! Thankfully we think not, but it did make for an interesting moment during the weekend that we’ve not had to deal with before.
|Naima, Meroe and Phoenece.|
Thankfully the rest of the weekend was memorable for all the right reasons. So what else did we get up to? Well the whole weekend was just so much fun, despite being rather cold, and we have to say – just between us, these Medieval and Viking folk are really rather nice and very friendly – but don’t tell them we said so!
We busked round the Medieval market in front of some amazing Viking tents and one point we even had one or two of the market traders joining in. We browsed the craft stalls; checked out displays of swords; kept and eye on the knights training; we were even tempted by some wonderful home cooked food – those family favourites such as squirrel pie! OK, so we didn’t actually eat squirrel pie, but we did manage to get through one or two cakes and some very welcome cups of tea courtesy of the little café in the church.
We were very lucky to have the opportunity of performing with our friends Serpentyne not once but twice during the course of the weekend. At the end of their final set on the Saturday afternoon, we even managed to get Kebi and Naima up and waltzing with members of the audience – not the type of dance we normally do, but great fun and to a wonderful track from their new album which is out soon, so keep a look out for that.
|Naima and her waltz partner dancing to Serpentyne.|
When not dancing with Serpentyne we drummed and busked round our tent as well as running some workshops in the centre of town.
|Tameri getting in some drum practise.|
|Phoenece, Meroe and Naima performing a set in the market centre.|
|Tameri with one of Stockport's fabulous dancers.|
Our final workshop on the Sunday afternoon has got to go down in Ya Raqs history as being one of the biggest and best we’ve ever done – boy can the children in Stockport dance (the adults aren’t too bad either)! We normally hand out sparkly hip belts for our mini-me dancers to wear during the workshops and this was one of those rare occasions when we ran out of belts! Everyone was very good and the crowd was incredibly supportive. At the end of the workshop we normally teach the mini-me dancers how to do a zaghereet. This is a trilling sound that is made during weddings and festivals and is often associated with a celebration – some say it even dates back to pharaonic times. What normally happens is the Ya Raqs dancers demonstrate, the mini-me dancers then give it their best shot and the audience – who are encouraged to respond to all of this – usually stand there in silence, or if we are lucky we get one or two brave souls who will have a go. But not in Stockport – oh no! We were completely bowled over by the wall of sound that came back at us as our audience zaghereet-ed (if there is such a word) like professionals - very impressive.
After a tea break and the taking of the now traditional “cake photograph” we headed back to our tent to discover a surprise gift.
|Kebi and Phoenece with cake - of course!|
Most of the set dressing that we haul around the country with us comprises of cushions, drums, brass trays and middle eastern coffee pots, but thanks to a very generous gift from one of the Medieval stall holders we are now the proud owners of a Saracen helmet! Everyone we met at the event felt that although we had a lot of bling we didn’t quite have enough of the right sort of bling at the tent. What we needed was something a touch more medieval – what better than the helmet of a Saracen. Our story – and this is what we are sticking too – is that it belonged to none other than Saladin himself! We are still working out a family friendly reason why he would have left his helmet with us, so watch this space for an update.
|Our surprise gift - the helmet not the Medieval man!|
Thank you so much to Mark Olly for the invite to join them in Stockport and to all our new friends in the Medieval and Viking world for welcoming us so warmly into their fold. We very much look forward to working with you again in 2016. And as for the people of Stockport – wow! You were all great, thank you for dancing with us.