Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Liverpool World Museum 22nd and 23rd March 2014, posted by Naima

Our second event of 2014 was at the World Museum in Liverpool. Meroe, Kebi, Aisha, Tameri and I all headed over the water to Liverpool. Well not really over the water – more under it as we went through the Mersey tunnel!

When we arrived at the Museum, we were shown to our changing room. Once we had set up our performance arena and got changed into our costumes, the music started to play and we were joined by the lovely people of Liverpool who had come with their families to see the attractions at the Museum.

After our first performance, Meroe did a workshop for all the little girls and a couple of boys who wanted to dance with us. We dressed them up in sparkly outfits and afterwards they were given a certificate to say they had danced with Ya Raqs at the Liverpool Museum.

We had a break for lunch and did another 3 performances. Each time we had a lovely crowd clapping and zaghareeting along with us - Meroe had shown them how to do this beforehand!

It was all over too soon and we had to pack up - tired but very happy that everyone had enjoyed our performances. The lovely staff at the Museum told us we had 420 watching us during the day.

Sunday started on a beautiful sunny day, and we were back to do it all again, but this time without Meroe, who had a prior engagement with Hossam and Serena Ramzy down in London.

It was a little quieter than on Saturday, but that didn’t deter us from putting on our usual brilliant show. As soon as we started playing our captivating music, people came from all over the Museum to watch us. They were even watching from the balconies overlooking our dance arena.

We even managed to get the staff up dressed up and dancing with us. We then took a welcome break for lunch and had cake, which seems to be a tradition of Ya Raqs.

A member of the museum staff dancing with Naima and Tameri

The crowds were a little smaller than they had been on Saturday, but there were still about 250 people who enjoyed our show. There were certainly a lot of happy boys and girls who couldn’t wait to be dressed up and dance with us. They even got a memento to take home with them - one of our special dance certificates.

We had a great time and would like to thank all the lovely staff at the Liverpool World Museum not only for their warm welcome but for making us feel at home. They helped to make it a fun weekend for everyone, including us. We look forward to a repeat performance in August. So if you are free the weekend of 16th and 17th August why not come to the World Museum and join in the fun?

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Club Baklava – February 2014

The dance season for 2014 got off to a cracking start for the Ya Raqs girls as they travelled all the way to sunny West Sussex to perform at Club Baklava – one of the newest Belly Dance Show Cases in the UK and the brainchild of Hossam and Serena Ramzy.

The Ya Raqs girls were thrilled that their performance for Hossam and Serena back in September had made enough of an impression for them to be invited to dance at Club Baklava 5 in East Grinstead this year.

Meroe is currently undertaking the Advanced Dancer course with Hossam and Serena, and she was already in East Grinstead for one of her monthly classes. But the others made an outing of it and headed south by train on the morning of Thursday 20th February. It proved to be quite an eventful trip with Naima almost getting stuck in one of the turnstiles on the London underground - but they finally made it the Poison IV club in one piece!

Kebi, Aisha, Naima and Phoenece performed first – a revamped version of Aziza. There hasn’t been much of an opportunity just lately to perform in our lovely glamorous dresses, so this was a real treat – it went brilliantly and the crowd went wild!

Kebi, Aisha, Phoenece and Naima - photo courtesy of Chris Parfitt

The second half of the show saw Meroe performing a solo to Enta Omri I in a dress she made herself especially for this show – given that Meroe isn’t much of a dressmaker it wasn’t at all bad, and fitted the music perfectly.

Meroe's solo - photo courtesy of Chris Parfitt

There was then a quick change for Meroe and a complete contrast to Enta Omri as she joined Kebi, Mish Mish and Aisha to perform a Bedouin routine to Efrooh Bawadina. The choreography was originally written by Serena Ramzy, but had been adapted for Ya Raqs by Meroe. The routine certainly lifted the mood in the club and the crowd went mad – in a good way. All the girls were on a high, made even better by a big hug from Serena who said that they had done her choreography proud. The costumes – made by Meroe and Phoenece – looked amazing too!

Aisha, Meroe, Kebi and Mish Mish - photo courtesy of Chris Parfitt

It was a great night and we are grateful to both Hossam and Serena for giving some of our girls this opportunity to dance somewhere new. The rest of the show was equally brilliant with lots of very talented dancers and we look forward to dancing with some of them again in the future – not too far in the future hopefully, so watch this space!

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Hossam Ramzy Weekend – Chester 2013

Well who would have thought it – Ya Raqs sharing the bill with Hossam and Serena Ramzy! But that is exactly what happened the weekend of 14th and 15th September.

Meroe was lucky enough to persuade Hossam and Serena to come to Chester to do a full weekend of workshops. It was great. Serena taught two fantastic routines – a Saaidi stick on the Saturday and a drum solo on the Sunday. It wasn’t just a case of learning the steps - Serena and Hossam took the time to explain the music and how you interpret the music so the routine is both fun for the dancer and fun for the audience, but more importantly true to the music!

As part of the weekend there was a hafla in the evening which was a sell out – no great surprise given the line up. Meroe and the other dancers who had been at the workshop worked a minor miracle to transform the hall into a little piece of Egypt.

Highlights from the evening for Ya Raqs was a solo from Meroe, and the chance for Kebi, Aisha, Naima and Phoenece to dance a Bedouin routine with Serena – completely unchoreographed, although you would never have guessed it.

Dancing with Serena

It was a fantastic night, with some amazing dancers – thanks to all those who performed Mina Bryant and her group, Caroline Thorpe, Jane Hammond, Rhiannon Garrett, Heather Honeyman, Cecile DaSilva, Mark Carylon and particularly to Serena and Hossam Ramzy.

Meroe and Serena

There will be more events like this to come – in fact we are plotting and planning to bring a similar event to Manchester in 2014 – so watch this space!

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Ya Raqs at Wellingborough - the movie

Click here to see Ya Raqs dancing with Serpentyne at the Wellingborough Medieval Festival in July. Thanks to Maggie Sand of Serpentyne for the video.

Friday, 27 September 2013

Doncaster 2013, posted by Kebi

Autumn has arrived, so it was off to Doncaster for the Ya Raqs girls, for the last outdoor event of the year, the St Leger Festival. It was wonderful to meet up with the boys and girls from Deva Victrix and the VIII Augusta. We had seen very little of them this year.

The Saturday was somewhat windy and cool, a bit of a shock after the wonderful weather we have had this summer. Nevertheless the awning went up in record time and we were soon dancing for the entertainment of passers by (and to keep warm).

The girls managed the Dance of Death wonderfully, with veils that at times seemed to want to take flight. Naima did brilliantly on her first performance of the dance, in difficult weather conditions. The gladiators were on form and the show went very well. But not everyone was happy! More on that later.

Naima ready to dance

The Dance of Death - with gladiators

Saturday night involved yet more dancing; of the night club variety. The Buzzcocks were playing in town, so we decided to head out for a meal and go watch the concert. We had a wonderful Sicilian meal in Fratelli’s. The waiter was Tunisian, so we showed him some photos of our Tunisian costumes. He was really impressed and quite emotional that we loved his country’s music.

At Fratelli's

Later, we were on our way to the concert, and just popped into a bar, which was playing music from the 60s 70s and 80s. We had such fun dancing, we missed the Buzzcocks! (Some of the Romans went and said they were fantastic.)

Dancing the night away

The Sunday started a little warmer and sunny. We danced all afternoon, the children loved dressing up and joining in. One lady arrived at 10 am with her chair and a picnic and sat all day waiting to dance in Meroe’s workshop.

Taking a break

A group of children sat happily watching the gladiator show, yelling support for Leonidas, and calling for his opponent to die horribly. The look on their faces as they got what they wanted was priceless. Their jaws practically hit the floor.

After the trainer had tamed the bear, and the gladiators that the bear had dispatched had been removed, the bear reappeared with a sign on his back, "Equal rights for Bears!" He was not happy about being left out of the Dance of Death. So to the amusement of everyone, he had his own mini version of the dance performed by Meroe.

The day ended with Aisha leading the performers in a dance to Way Down by Elvis Presley. It's funny how they were somewhat reluctant to come into the arena yet when they were there we couldn’t stop them dancing.

Doncaster was as much fun as always. We were well looked after by the Premier Inn staff, (who remembered us, even out of costume) and the staff of Doncaster council. It is a lovely way to end our season.

Monday, 16 September 2013

Ya Raqs in the spirit of baladi, posted by Meroe

The weekend of the 17th and 18th of August was the first of two weekends of training for members of the Ya Raqs dance troupe. Phoenece and I went off to Haileybury for an amazing dance weekend organised by Juliana Brustik and Judy Hammond – dancing the spirit of baladi with live music. What made the weekend really special was that Noor was able to join us – proving the point that once you are a Ya Raqs girl you are always a Ya Raqs girl!

The course was run at the incredibly impressive Haileybury and Imperial Service College in Hertfordshire. We started off on Friday evening with a gentle relaxation class to get ourselves ready for what was going to be a really busy dance weekend.

Haileybury College

Phoenece and Meroe in the dining hall

The whole thrust of the weekend was to have a great understanding of baladi music and how to react to it. Judy and Juliana spent the first day with us and in the afternoon we danced to live music from Tim Garside. The last class of the day was a drumming class with Tim where he managed to get us all sounding incredibly musical! After a quick tea and change into our party outfits, we spent the evening dancing away to live music from Tim. Unfortunately Tim had to leave about at about ten o’clock, so that is when we put the CD’s on and danced – not quite ‘til dawn – but ‘til very late given how tired we all were!

Dancing to live drumming by Tim Garside

The next day was a real treat: a dance class with Anne White from Planet Egypt, supported by three incredible musicians – Guy Schalom, Gamal el Kordy and Louai Al Henawi. Anne helped us to feel more confident with our dancing and with interacting to live music. Absolutely brilliant.

It was a wonderful weekend and we learned a lot, but what made it even more wonderful from a Ya Raqs point of view was cake – yes they pretty much had cake on tap! Great food, great venue, amazing teachers and cake – what more could you ask of a dance weekend? Can’t wait until the next one.

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Licensed to Thrill in Medieval Wellingborough, posted by Meroe

The last weekend in July took Ya Raqs to sunny Wellingborough in Northamptonshire. The weather forecast for the weekend had been dire, and we debated for some time over whether or not dancers in Medieval England would have worn wellies! Deciding probably not we headed south with everything crossed, praying we’d have at least some dry, sunny spells during the weekend.

The trip down was great and the prospect of probably missing out on our now traditional ice cream meant that Meroe, Phoenece and Tameri felt justified in sharing an enormous Eton Mess while the sun was actually shining.

Meroe and Tameri, with yet more ice cream

In Wellingborough our accommodation for the weekend was the Hind Hotel – thought to have been the stopping off point for Cromwell before the battle of Naseby – and complete with ghosts of those who overheard Cromwell’s plan and who were either murdered, or killed themselves as a result! Having had a very nice meal in the Vietnamese restaurant, Saigon, in Sheep Street, we went back to the Tithe Barn to sample some mead to get us in a Medieval mood!

We woke on the first day to glorious sunshine – hot sunshine at that – and set up our home-from-home in front of the 15th century Tithe Barn.

In front of the Tithe Barn

What a busy day; I don’t think we sat down for longer than five minutes. First set in front of the Tithe Barn, then one up in town centre; a third near the Bewitched CafĂ© and then two more back at the Tithe Barn. All this in between mini-me dress up, workshops and lots, and lots, and lots of henna! Thanks to the incredibly tasty quiches and homemade cakes from the local scouts we kept going (but we did have to eat lots of homemade cake!).

Lots of visitors to our tent during the day including the court jester Devilstick Peat who joined us for a well earned rest at the end of the day and helped us polish off the last of the mead!

With Devilstick Peat

Exhausted, but in a good way, after day one, we treated ourselves to a very nice meal at La Rocca.

Given what a super, sunny day Saturday had been we were a little apprehensive about Sunday, but we woke to clear blue skies. A slightly easier day on Sunday; only four dance sets rather than five! Still lots of mini-me and lots more henna, all interrupted only briefly by a heavy shower that lasted no more than about two minutes. At least today we had been presented with our licence to dance by order of the Kings Justiciar.

The licence, with the (not very) small print

The trouble is we hadn’t read the small print where it clearly says that we were only allowed to dance from Monday to Saturday, so we were on pushing our luck dancing on the Sabbath! Not only that, but on this particular day the court had set itself up right in front of our tent, so we couldn’t even sneak a dance or two in without them seeing us! Thankfully the Sheriff was suitably entertained, so turned a blind eye!

The highlight of Sunday has to have been dancing with the fabulous Serpentyne – a medieval Folk Rock group. They had invited some of the Ya Raqs girls to dance to two of their songs. This was going to be interesting since neither group had worked together before, nor had any of the Ya Raqs girls heard the songs before – but it worked really well. So thank you to Serpentyne for asking us to dance for them.

Dancing with Serpentyne

All too soon the weekend came to an end and we had to pack up our little home-from-home and head back. We had a great time. Our thanks to the organisers of the Wellingborough Medieval Festival for asking us to be part of such a brilliant event; and most of all to the people of Wellingborough for making us so welcome. Hope we get a chance to see you all again next year.