(Founder and Artistic Director: Susie White)

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Guilden Sutton Village Fete, posted by Noor

Following our excursion to Wales, last Saturday we were invited to an event closer to home: Guilden Sutton, near Chester.

This was a new event for us, but as soon as we arrived we were made to feel very welcome. We set up our home-from-home in the ring of stalls around the arena; one of the organizers commented that our colourful gazebo made the other white tents look very plain indeed!

The girls performed two sets, ringing the changes in between by swapping their red and silver head wraps for their Nubian headdresses with long veils.

Meroe, Aisha, Kebi and Phoenece

Kebi, Phoenece, Aisha and Meroe perform a Nubian routine

The workshop after the second set marked a first for us - we had so many children keen to take part that we actually ran out of hip scarves and dress-up clothes!

In between dances, Meroe and Aisha were kept busy doing tattoos. Lots and lots of tattoos. In fact, they were so busy that disaster struck; by the time we managed a break to go for the traditional Ya Raqs tea and cake, the tea tent had closed! Fortunately the bar tent was still open, so we had to 'make do' with a jug of Pimms instead.

Kebi ready to pour

Even then, there were a couple of last-minute tattoo requests to attend to.

Meroe and Aisha manage a quick drink before doing the last tattoos . . .

. . . while Phoenece, Naima and Kebi take a more relaxed approach

We had a great day: the weather stayed fine, we were very well looked after by the organizers who came round all the stalls with cold drinks, and we had an enthusiastic audience who were keen to get involved - I don't think that anyone from the local school quite expected so many of the Year 5 boys to be so eager to have a go at dancing! Who could ask for more? A big thank you to the Fete Committee for inviting us.

Monday, 7 July 2014

Fun time had by all at the Hope, Caergwrle and Abermorddu Carnival, posted by Kebi

Saturday 5 July dawned warm and sunny – a brilliant day for a carnival. Off we went to North Wales, actually not at all far from our home base, but in a very different landscape. We were in a valley in the Welsh hills in a village called Hope.

The tent and awning went up in record time. It was wonderful to see the tent again, it has not been out for some time.

Tent pitched and awning being set up

The carnival field was quickly transformed into a magical place with fairground rides, birds of prey, Punch and Judy show, Vikings, Romans and, last but not least, us!

It was lovely to see Noor back with us again for this event. She wore a wonderful Tunisian costume she made herself. She had come back to look after the tent while we were away dancing; once a Ya Raqs girl, always a Ya Raqs girl!

We were just enjoying a lovely cup of tea and cake from the Parish Council tent, when the parade arrived, complete with brass band, of course. Then we were off and running (so to speak). Aisha and Meroe were soon busy with henna and our new glitter tattoos, and the Mini Me was as popular as ever.

Meroe and Aisha hard at work

Our first set was a bit off-piste – well off the programme anyway! Well what were we to do? The arena in front of us was just sitting there, empty! We threw in a couple of dances which soon drew a crowd and as soon as they had watched us, the Vikings took over!

Kebi, Meroe and Aisha, by DFlockton Photography

Our first official set was in front of the main stage. The audience were warm and friendly and a number of children came into the arena and danced with us. They then followed us back to the tent to dress up.

Kebi, Meroe, Aisha, Phoenece, Naima and Tameri

Our second set was also well received and we had an even bigger group join us for a workshop - even one of the Dads took part! He did really well. All our workshop dancers were given a certificate as a keepsake of their efforts – they all did brilliantly.

It was a really busy day which just flew by. The tug of war, which took place right in front of our tent, was hilarious. Absolutely no cheating took place, of course!

The Romans recruited some junior helpers for the tug of war

But the Vikings still won! Both photos by DFlockton Photography

The end of the day came all too quickly but we still had time to squeeze in an ice cream before we had to start packing up. It was a lovely, fun day with brilliant weather, delicious cakes and ice cream and very friendly natives.

Meroe, Noor, Aisha and Kebi (with 2 ice creams!)

Phoenece and Tameri

Our thanks to the Hope Caergwrle and Abermorddu Carnival committee for inviting us.

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Ya Raqs in the news - again!

The recent post about the Funoon wa Alwane show in Liverpool mentioned that the event was being filmed by the BBC Arabic Network. And here it is, complete with Meroe's performance and interview!

Friday, 27 June 2014

Midsummer Watch Parade, Chester 2014, posted by Kebi

It was a beautiful sunny day as Phoenece and I wandered down behind the cathedral in Chester to meet up with the other participants in the Midsummer Watch Parade. Ya Raqs have been invited to this parade many times before, and have always been impressed by the noise and colour of it. What a surprise, as we walked around the corner, to find there were even more people there than in previous years. Midsummer Watch 2014 was set to be bigger and better than ever before.

Phoenece and the stilt walker before the parade

We went to find our friend the Camel - our regular partner on these parades - and on the way met a new friend, the Donkey. Phoenece was so taken with the donkey she kept petting it!

With our old friend the Camel

And our new friend the Donkey

We all lined up and we were off. There were large groups of children waving stars, angels and demons. There were Green Men, a Unicorn and a Stag, Angels, Demons, a ship and of course the Dragon. Phoenece and I were in front of the camel and we danced and played our sagat all the way around the town.

Phoenece and Kebi in Town Hall Square

The parade ended in front of the town hall. As we walked to take our place with the others, the master of ceremonies shouted at us “Dance!” so we did. Middle Eastern dancing to a Samba beat is quite fun. We did the usual Ya Raqs thing and encouraged the crowd to join in.

What I wasn’t expecting was for the dragon to try to eat me! All of a sudden I was enveloped in a colourful cloud of smoke.

Kebi and the dragon

I managed to escape, but the Master of Ceremonies was not so lucky. However, a brave child from the pirate ship stepped forward and slayed the dragon with her trusty sword.

Chester Midsummer Watch goes from strength to strength. It was a loud, colourful, joyous, fun event. I am already looking forward to next year. Thank you to Russell Kirk for inviting us to take part.

Have a look at these photos by DFlockton Photography, who captured the flavour of the event.

And if you want a bit more background to the parade then check out the website here.

Ya Raqs in the news

Brook Street Carnival featured in the local press recently. The article below appeared in the Chester and District Standard, complete with a picture of the girls taking part in the parade.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Henna tattoos - new!

For some years now, Ya Raqs have been offering henna tattoos to visitors at the events we have attended. These have proved very popular, but there are a couple of drawbacks.
- Even though we only use natural henna with no additives, we don’t offer tattoos to under 12s.
- The henna can take a while to dry, especially if it’s not a warm sunny day, so it can get smudged.
- The tattoo takes a couple of weeks to fade, so some people can’t have them because they have to go to school or work the next day.

Fortunately Aisha has been doing some research, and has come up with an alternative. The new tattoos dry almost immediately, wash off at the end of the day, and are suitable for all ages. Plus they can include colours, and those all-important glitter highlights!

Naima, Tameri and Aisha show off their tattoos


We will still offer traditional henna tattoos as well; the choice is yours!

Henna tattoo

Monday, 16 June 2014

Special Guests at Funoon wa Alwane

After weeks of rehearsals, and traumas over costumes – we feel like we’ve been sewing forever - Ya Raqs and Meroe were finally ready for their guest appearances in the show Funoon wa Alwane as part of Liverpool’s Arab Arts Festival at the Unity Theatre, Liverpool – and boy what a show. A sell out!

The whole Funoon concept is the brainchild of Nawarra whose aim is to bring together the colour and celebration of the folkloric dances of the Middle East and North Africa. Funoon wa Alwane is the third show of its kind and although cast members have come and gone over the past three years, the driving force behind the whole show has been constant.

Ya Raqs were incredibly honoured to have been asked to join the cast for this year’s show and were to perform their version of a Bedouin routine originally choreographed by Serena Ramzy, but tweaked for Funoon by Ya Raqs’ very own Meroe. There were a few heart stopping moments because regrettably Aisha had to pull out of the show at the last minute – less than 24hrs before show time – however Naima stepped in to the breech and after a bit of re-shuffling, the routine was back on!

After the initial technical checks for sound and lighting and a quick run through of the group routines, Meroe was interviewed by the BBC Arabic Network – we’re hoping to get a copy of the interview at some point and will post it here as soon as it comes through. That just left enough time for the Ya Raqs girls to have their traditional sugar fix before the performance – not ice cream this time but cake and lots of it!

Kebi and Meroe build their strength up before the show!

Then it was back to the theatre to get our make-up and costumes on ready for the start of the show.

Our first routine was danced to Efrooh Bawadina, which is a Bedouin wedding dance, so the Ya Raqs girls had the opportunity to wear their gorgeous red and black costumes that had been made by Meroe and Pheonece. Not only that but Meroe, who took the role of the bride in the routine, used it as an excuse to add a little bit more bling to her costume – as if she needed any encouragement!

Backstage before the Bedouin routine

When they came on to stage the whole theatre erupted and before long you could hardly hear the music for the cheers, claps and the zaghareets from the audience. I think they enjoyed it!

Meroe, then performed two solo pieces – first, her baladi routine to Farah Amira which was equally well received by the appreciative audience. She was very touched by the comments from audience members after the show.

Meroe's baladi performance

Her second solo was something new for Meroe – but given that she is supposed to come from Nubia, it probably shouldn’t be too much of a surprise that it was a Nubian dance in a fantastic new costume made for her by Bev Smith from Baladi Bazaar. Meroe glided across the stage and got the audience clapping and cheering once more.

Meroe in her Nubian costume

The show was brought to a close by the irrepressible Nawarra, who got the entire cast, and most of the audience, dancing on the stage for the finale.

The finale - photo courtesy of Phil Saunders

The whole show was amazing and we are grateful to Nawarra for the invitation to join the Funoon cast in 2014. Thanks also to Bev Smith for Meroe’s Nubian costume. Finally thanks to Naima for stepping in at the last minute to replace Aisha, and also to Phoenece who also had to change position at the last moment – they both did brilliantly. But Aisha won’t miss out completely because we are going to be performing the routine again in October in Henley on Thames as part of the Sheikh It! So she’ll get a chance to perform the Bedouin routine then!

The whole show was filmed by the BBC Arabic Network for a special programme on Funoon that will be broadcast very shortly. We’ll post a link as soon as the programme is ready.