(Founder and Artistic Director: Susie White)

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

A First for Ya Raqs at World Museum Liverpool, posted by Naima

Mid August and we are back to one of our favourite venues for the second time this year – the World Museum Liverpool.   We performed here in March and thought we’d done well with an audience total for the weekend of 1,100 but this time we topped it.  An impressive 1,236 visitors over the two days!

When we arrived we were greeted by our lovely ‘minder’ Steve, who showed us to our very own dressing room. 

In with the bugs!

Over the years we’ve shared dressing rooms with some interesting people but never bugs!   We hoped they wouldn’t bite and they didn't - thank goodness!

We started our first day with a Tunisian routine followed by a Moroccan inspired dance with scarves, giving us yet another opportunity to wear all our lovely bling.  

Meroe, Kebi and Mish Mish all blinged up in their Tunisian costumes

We followed this set with a mini-me workshop for some of our small,  and not so small audience, who enjoyed joining us with a bit of swishing and twirling of colourful scarves.

Some rather fuzzy audience participation - it's a job to focus when there is quite so much swishing going on!

We had three more sets during the course of the afternoon- Ghawaazee, Bedouin and finally Nubian – and a more formal workshop with a chance for our mini-me dancers to earn their special Ya Raqs Certificates!  Meroe rounded off the day with a very colourful Nubian solo.
Aisha, Phoenece and Meroe in Ghawazee costume

Queuing up for the Ya Raqs Certificates!

As those of you who follow our blog regularly will know, we do try to keep our sugar levels up with some cake at some point during the course of an event - a must if you are dancing as much as we do! However, on this occasion we ended the day not with our now traditional tea and cake, but with ice cream.  

We're not quite sure what the ice-cream man thought as we all queued up in costume! But he took it in his stride - doesn't everyone dress like this in Liverpool?  OK, maybe not!

Forming an orderly queue - just blending in!

As nice as the ice cream was it was clear that some of the Ya Raqs dancers didn’t want to get caught!!

Naima and Aisha - camera shy, or just hiding their ice creams?

We sat out in the glorious sunshine after a super day for a well earned rest and were joined by a lovely gentleman called Billy, a 94 years young war veteran who entertained us with some of this war time stories.

Our new fan - Billy - with Aisha and Meroe

Our Sunday performances were just as enthusiastically received as our Saturday routines. We had some FAB dancers and our mini-me dancers enjoyed dressing up in the glittery and jingly costumes.   Those that didn't join us for the actual workshops were spotted swaying their hips and were quite happy dancing along to our music.  What was nice on the Sunday was that we had some grownups join us too - it is always a pleasure to have adults as well as children getting up and showing us their moves.

Our final performance of the weekend was a World Premier – by dint of the fact that it was in the World museum and it was the first time we’d performed it in public – a group stick routine. The original choreography was by Serena Ramzy, but she had very kindly given Meroe permission to tweak it a little so that it would work as a group dance.  We were very proud of our performance and it seemed to be very well received. 

We also got the opportunity to wear our new Turkish inspired costume, made specially by Meroe and Phoenece.  Watch out for a new routine that will be more appropriate for this new costume at a future event.

Phoenece, Meroe, Mish Mish and Naima in our new costumes

So, another wonderful weekend at the World Museum came to an end. Check out our video for a taste of what we got up to on the Saturday.


We would like to thank the good folk of Liverpool, who came to the museum on such a lovely summer’s weekend – they could so easily have gone to the beach - but they came to see us instead!  OK, so maybe we weren't the only reason they came to the museum.  

And last, but not least, a very BIG thank you to the lovely staff at the museum, especially Steve, who never fail to make us very welcome and always look after us so well. 

Saturday, 1 August 2015

Viking Godmanchester, posted by Kebi

Having barely caught our breath after Wellingborough Medieval Festival , we went back in time to the Viking era. This was the first Viking festival to be held in Godmanchester at the Woodgreen Animal Shelter Showground, and there was an amazing turnout of re enactors.

I can almost hear you ask "where does Ya Raqs fit in with Vikings?" and, to be fair, we did get asked this a couple of times. Hauk, who was our excellent commentator for the weekend explained it beautifully…..

Vikings or Rus, as they were known, settled in the Byzantine Empire. They traded, settled and married into the local population. Rus is the source of the modern name of Russia. So we know that the Vikings would have known of women dancers such as Ya Raqs and would have been familiar with the Mediterranean and North African coastline.

Actually quite a few of the girls fell in love with the Rus trousers. There are 3 meters of fabric in one leg! I feel a sewing spree coming on.

Rus "trousers"

Sorry I digress.  Meroe was unable to attend, so I was left in charge, well that was the plan! We put up our tent for the first time this year. We almost lost Tameri when a gust of wind took hold of the tent, but thanks to help from David and Roland, we got her up and well pegged down - the tent that is not Tameri! That night there was the most spectacular thunderstorm but thankfully we all came through it unscathed.

Tent, awning AND dancers all survived the elements.

Saturday was sunny and very hot. We performed our first set early in the day so we were able to spend the rest of the day dancing with the children and doing henna tattoos around the tent.

We also had ringside seats for the skirmishes between the various Viking bands. There was lots of shopping to be done as well - I bought some lovely silk and bracelets and earrings. Well a girl can never have too much bling!

After lunch we had the honour of dancing with Serpentyne . I had the nerve-wracking job of dancing to The Serpents Kiss from their new album. It is a wonderful song and Meroe had done a beautiful performance the weekend before, so I hope I did her proud.

Kebi and Serpentyne.

We soon had the crowd up dancing. At the start of this event we set ourselves a challenge – could we get the Vikings to dance? Well, yes we could and they were very good at it!

Yes! Vikings can dance too.

Sunday was a lot cooler. We had time to wander around the encampment. Alma, our newest troupe member and an excellent drummer, had a drumming session with Hràfn Rikardson who played the lyre harp. It sounded amazing.

The perfect combination! Alma and Hràfn Rikardson.

It was really nice to see all the families at the event. The children looked happy running around and mums and dads had fun dressing up and jingling around with the girls. It was a lovely weekend with something for everyone. Let’s hope this is the first year of many.

Mini-me dancers – large and small!

We should pass on a special thank you to Joe Bridge for some of these wonderful photographs.  If you want to see more of Joe's pictures from the event then go to his web site (Joe Bridge). 

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Wellingborough Medieval Festival – 27th and 28th June, posted by Meroe

Late June and we find ourselves back at one of our favourite gigs of the year – Wellingborough in Northamptonshire for the Medieval Festival. This festival is really going from strength to strength and every year there seems to be more happening - more re-enactors, bigger audiences and more fun for the whole family.

As usual the festival had a storyline running through the weekend. This year that story centred around a booze cruise that was being planned by King Henry in around 1415 and it involved a certain Edmund of Norwich, from Fotheringay, coming into town to find enough people to go to France to help carry the kings haul of cheap booze back home! I can’t vouch for the historical accuracy of this event but it certainly kept everyone entertained.

Now those of you who follow our blog regularly may remember that in previous years we’ve had a spot of bother for not having a licence to dance on the Sabbath, but this year we were covered. Aisha was ahead of the game and negotiated a very good deal for us, so we didn’t get into trouble.

All legit – our licence to dance!

This weekend is always very busy for us with no fewer than four dance sets each day, including workshops and free dance, where we invite the public to join in. That is before we start dressing up all the children in Wellingborough in sparkly belts and embroidered waistcoats, and before we start applying our gorgeous henna and glitter tattoos. And, as if that isn’t enough, we also had the opportunity to dance with Serpentyne again – both days! Phew! I’m exhausted just thinking about it all.

Almost before we’d got our little home-from-home set up the mini-me dancers had started to arrive. Our first was Olympia and I promised her and her mum to put her picture up on our blog – so here you go Olympia…….fame at last.

Meroe with our first mini-me dancer of the weekend – Olympia

The weather was really kind to us again this year and despite a minor hiccup in the form of heavy rain for the first hour of the Sunday morning, we were blessed with blue skies and wall-to-wall sunshine. On the Saturday one of our sets took place in the churchyard which for the 2015 event had been transformed into a medieval market. This meant that not only did we get to dance, but we got a bit of medieval retail therapy too!

Our first set before a spot of shopping!

Despite having lots of "official" dance sets to do we just couldn’t help ourselves and even when we were supposed to be having some down-time we danced – well this is Ya Raqs! So there were quite a few impromptu performances in front of our tent.

A routine in full swing in front of the tent.

We also got a chance to do a bit of drumming – something new that we’ve added to the Ya Raqs repertoire – I tell you, there is no stopping us!

Phoenece and Alma getting in some drumming practice.

The crowds were much bigger this year and so welcoming – we were even visited on Sunday by a couple who almost had as much bling as us! I may be wrong but I’m pretty sure if we’d have pressed a bit harder we might even have been able to sign them up – they were certainly game.

Graham and Lora Lawman pay us a visit.

Although we weren't quite so keen for all our visitors to join us! We did have a small problem with a monk trying to sell us dodgy relics!!! Given how worried we were about dancing on the Sabbath, the last thing we wanted to do was get in to trouble buying things we shouldn’t – particularly as the court was just next door - so we quickly sent him on his way!

Meroe, Phoenece and Mish Mish resisting the temptation of dodgy relics!!

Our final set on both days included a workshop in the main arena and a chance for our mini-me dancers to show off their new found dance skills. Very few knights were brave enough to join us this year, but one hardy soul – Greg from Condensed Histories – donned a sparkly hip belt (specially selected to colour co-ordinate with his medieval attire). He certainly managed to connect with his inner-dancer. Well done Greg – and well done to all our mini-me dancers – you were all brilliant.

Final Sunday afternoon workshop well underway.

We had a fantastic time – as always – but all too soon it was time to pack up our little tent and head back home. A big thank you to all the event organisers and particularly to David Smith, for making Wellingborough Medieval Festival such a pleasure to be part off. And thanks to the good folk of Wellingborough – you made us incredibly welcome once again – hope to see you all next year.

Friday, 3 July 2015

Midsummer Watch Parade Chester, posted by Phoenece

Once again Ya Raqs were invited to join this spectacular procession, a joyous and colourful celebration of Midsummer's Eve on the 20th and 21st June.

The Midsummer Watch Parade dates back to Tudor times and Chester’s parade is renowned throughout the country with records dating back to 1498. It was abandoned in the 1670s and revived in 1989. Today’s floats are loosely based on records of the original parade and include a unicorn, elephant, camel, and dragon. There is also a huge ship; a reminder that Chester was once an important port.


The procession was led by Karamba Samba, a Community Samba Band from Chester. School children processed proudly with their handmade offerings.

Karamaba Samba entertaining the crowds outside the town hall.

We met up with the caravan outside the town hall. This year we had an addition to our caravan, besides Balaam`s Ass, and not one but two camels – a dromedary and a bactrian!

Aisha, Kebi and Phoenece leading the camel train!

On Saturday the weather was a bit unsettled but it wasn’t going to stop us from having some fun – Kebi, Naima and I processed whilst playing our sagat.

Naima and Phoenece with the mayor’s chariot – maybe we’ll leave this to the professionals!

On Sunday the weather brightened up so Kebi decided to give her new frame drum an airing and Aisha played the riq. We got the chance to do some dancing to the beat of the drums outside the town hall.

Dancing outside the town hall – yes that is Aisha behind the drum!

It was a lovely weekend. Thank you to the organisers for inviting us to join them again this year - I hope we get invited back to this historic event next year.

If you want to find out more about this history of Chester’s Midsummer Watch Parade check out their website.

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

All dressed up and nowhere to go!

Well it’s not often we write about an event that didn’t happen - but there is a first for everything.

Ya Raqs were all geared up for a performance in Liverpool city centre on Saturday 25th April - all part of Merseyside Dance Initiative’s (MDI) celebrations of the 2015 International Dance Day. It was supposed to show off the vast array of cultures that make Liverpool’s dance scene so vibrant. But dear old Mother Nature had other ideas - and rain stopped play!

Now those of you who follow our blog on a regular basis know that a little bit of rain doesn’t stop us - we’ve danced in torrential downpours and when it has been blowing an absolute hoolie! So we turned up to the event just in case - ever hopeful!

But alas it was not to be - so what do the Ya Raqs crew do in a moment of crisis? Yes you guessed it - cake! We settled in to the café at the Bluecoat Chambers to sample their very best tea, coffee and cake and took the opportunity for a rather unscheduled, but very pleasant, catch up.

Tameri, Kebi, Aisha, Phoenece, Naima and Mish Mish in the cafe

It is a great shame that the event didn’t come off as planned, that is the nature of outdoor events in the UK unfortunately, but watch this space - we will be back!

Ya Raqs selfie!

Monday, 30 March 2015

World Museum, Liverpool

Our first event for 2015 took place the weekend of 28th/29th March at one of our favourite venues; the World Museum, Liverpool. It was a great success with over 1,100 visitors getting the full Ya Raqs experience over the two days.

We were delighted to be joined by our new member Alma, who added a new dimension to our performance with her live drumming to some dances. She was later joined by Meroe, Phoenece and Kebi to play a piece of music written by Hossam Ramzy. The drumming is clearly a big hit so watch out for it at future events – because there is much more where that came from!

Alma, Meroe, Kebi and Phoenece drumming

We performed four short dance sets each day taking the museum visitors on a journey through Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia and Nubia. Each set was followed by some audience participation.

Nubian dance

Kebi, Meroe, Phoenece and Naima perform a Bedouin dance

Nubian dance with Phoenece, Tameri and Kebi

Kebi, Phoenece, Tameri, Mish Mish, Naima and Meroe in their Tunisian finery

All ages were represented from children the age of two to a grand lady who will be 89 years young next week! We even got members of the World Museum staff to join in! They were all delighted to receive a certificate for participating in the workshops.

Dancing with members of the public . . .

. . . and with the museum staff

The certificate has been re-designed for our 2015 season to include a cute camel. This new certificate was designed for the benefit of those children who collect them at our events each year.

It was a really busy weekend, but being Ya Raqs we still managed to squeeze in enough time for tea and cake!

Mish Mish and Phoenece introduce Alma (L) to the Ya Raqs cake tradition!

We had a great time and want to thank everyone who came along to support us, but especially the staff at World Museum, Liverpool - we are looking forward to our second visit in August.

Kebi, Alma, Naima, Phoenece, Tameri, Mish Mish and Meroe with a new friend!

Saturday, 14 March 2015

All Drumming, All Dancing

Start of a new dance season and everyone at Ya Raqs HQ is raring to go. Not so much “All singing, all dancing” but more “All drumming, all dancing”.

Ya Raqs are very pleased to have a new member of the troupe for the 2015 season – Alma – not just because she’s a great person and a fantastic dancer – but boy can she drum!

So we took this opportunity to branch out into something a little different for the new season – we are going to introduce some live drumming to our performances.

After we’d got over the teething problems of exactly who was going to drum which parts, everyone picked up this new found talent really quickly. Before you knew it we were really starting to sound musical!

Alma and Kebi

We’re using two types of drums – Alma and Phoenece were playing the Egyptian “goblet” shaped drum called a tabla. Meroe and Kebi were playing large frame called a duff.

Will it work? Well who knows, but if the first rehearsal is anything to go by it just might. Meroe was literally punching the air for joy by the end of the session – it was just fantastic and so much better than she could possibly have hoped for.

Meroe, Phoenece, Alma and Kebi

So watch out! Not only will we be dancing our socks off, but at most of our future events it looks like we’ll be drumming our hearts out too. We’re going to see how this all goes at our first event of the season, which is at the World Museum in Liverpool the weekend of 28th and 29th March.

This is all pointing towards 2015 being a FAN-TAS-TIC year for Ya Raqs.