(Founder and Artistic Director: Susie White)

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Gladiators in Southport, posted by Meroe

After all the medieval and Viking events we’ve had this year, the event on Saturday 12 September took us back to our roots in the Roman period.

We were thrilled to be asked to join our great friends Deva Victrix Legion XX, from Chester (or Deva in Roman speak!) for a special gladiator event at Connell Court Care Home in Southport.  We had a ball.

Meroe, Phoenece and Naima with the lovely ladies of Deva Victrix

Having been a bit worried by the weather forecast for the day we all gave a huge sigh of relief when the sun came out – the gods were clearly smiling on us.

Phoenece, Naima and Meroe did a short set of just two dances - the warm up act for the main event which was a number of scantily clad gladiators beating hell out of one another – but all great fun.  

Naima and Phoenece getting ready to dance

Naima and Meroe - just a few last minute adjustments!

Our audience was made up for the families and friends of the residents and they were all up for cheering on their favourite gladiator.

We did manage to get some of the staff and younger visitors up and dancing – one young lad in particular was very good.

Connell Court staff joining us as well as our "ace" dancer Alex.

We had just enough time to make a quick change from our Egyptian costumes in to our gladiator dancer outfits, while the head of the ludos (that’s the Roman name for a gladiator school) introduced his finest gladiators to the crowd.

These gladiator events are always quite moving because the oath that the gladiators make at the start of each show are the actual words that they would have used centuries ago …

“to be burnt by fire; to be bound in chains; to be beaten by iron; this I will endure!”

We then got to do our gladiator routine.  It’s been a while since we’ve done this so it seems appropriate to tell you a bit more about it.  The whole routine is to one of the tracks from the Gladiator film, and is done with veils – all very theatrical – but the idea being that the veils represent the souls of those, who may very well,  be about to die; looked after and held safe by the dancers. Each dancer offers a “favour” in the form of a coloured ribbon – one for each gladiator.  During the routine you can normally hear a pin drop and this event was no exception. 

Gladiator Dance (photo by Gill)

With our dancing done for the day we settled back with the rest of the crowd to enjoy the show.  The highlight was clearly a new recruit from the audience – the one who could really dance.  He was given a new name – something more fitting for a gladiator – Short Articus! He was pitted against the meanest looking one of the bunch Anti-Claus and certainly held his own.  You can check out how he got on by clicking this link  - Short Articus.

After show photo with some of the residents and staff

With the show at an end we chatted to the staff and residents and then returned to the 21st century.  Now we’ve been lucky enough to perform at a number of events who have looked after us well, but cups of tea on tap, a superb buffet – and yes that did include cake – for all the reennactors was over and above the call of duty, but very welcome.  So a big BIG ‘thank you’ to the staff at Connell Court; to all the residents and their family and friends, and especially Garry and Gill for inviting us to join them all.

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Calling all Dancers – Ya Raqs is recruiting!

How many of you out there attend belly dance classes and LOVE it? Have you ever thought about joining a dance troupe so you can perform, in public, the dance that we all love? 

If you have, then this might just be for you.  Ya Raqs has been performing all over the UK for 10 years now and we love it too, and we are now looking for new members.  As those of you who follow our blog will know, we specialise in the folkloric styles of Egypt mainly, but there is a dash of Tunisian and a sprinkle of Moroccan too!  

Our Bedouin dancers in a show in East Grinstead, West Sussex

When we look back at where we have performed over the years it makes for a quite an impressive list – top of it has to be the Great Court at the British Museum, but not far behind we have the World Museum Liverpool, Rylands Library in Manchester; the amphitheatre and Grosvenor Museum in Chester, Lancaster, Carlisle, Stockport, Wellingborough, Godmanchester, Welwyn, Henley on Thames, Warrington, Northwich, Wrexham, Doncaster and even up on Hadrians Wall.  I could go on, but I think you get the gist.

Our Tunisian routine from a show in Henley on Thames

What Ya Raqs offers is more than just a performance team but also mini-me dress up for the children; workshops for all ages and abilities; real henna tattoos and wash off glitter tattoos in the style of henna for the children, all of which adds colour and fun to a wide range of events.  Everything from village fetes to charity events; birthday parties to corporate events.

Mini-me dancers at an event in Doncaster
Henna and glitter tattoos during an event in Caergwrle

Now the best bit – would you like to be part of this?  Have you got what it takes to be part of Ya Raqs?

We’ve got lots of ideas for a fabulous 2016 dance season including the introduction of a little bit of Turkish and just a hint of Algerian to add to our ever growing repertoire!  So we are looking for new dancers to join us.  Therefore if you have a love of folkloric style dance; if you enjoy performing and if you can commit to just one rehearsal a month then get in touch to find out more - yaraqs@hotmail.co.uk - we’d love to hear from you.

Monday, 7 September 2015

Warrington Medieval and Viking Market

So far this year we’ve had a medieval event down in sunny Wellingborough; a Viking event in even sunnier Godmanchester and now we've just had a Medieval AND Viking festival in Warrington – and for the record it was really sunny there too!

Billed as a Crusader Troupe, we joined the medieval knights and Viking hordes for Warrington’s Medieval and Viking Market.  It was a fantastic day.

After a quite early start we made our way to our site for the day.  This was an exciting moment for Ya Raqs because Meroe had spent the previous week beavering away with needle and thread and what felt like several hundred yards of chiffon, to turn a rather plain gazebo into a splendid new home for us. 

Our new "home from home"

All this because we were suddenly aware that our other tents – which require to use of guy-ropes and tent pegs - simply weren’t going to work on the paving slabs of Warrington town centre.  It all seemed to work really well – at least Naima and Phoenece certainly made themselves at home and settled right in to some drumming!

Naima and Phoenece settling in nicely!

Our brief for the day was busk, busk, busk.  So with our magic music box strapped on to a trolley we worked our way round market stalls of the town, weaving our way between mysterious knights in armour, the odd medieval nun (odd meaning on her own, not “odd” odd!) and Vikings who had somehow managed to park a mini-long ship right in the middle of the town centre!

Vikings arriving in style
Viking traders hard at work - this was the backdrop to one of our sets

Being a market there were of course shopping opportunities – I think the total haul for the day was a couple of necklaces, a ring, a bracelet, a bee shaped charm, several slices of delicious home-made cake and a fairy!  We certainly cannot be accused of failing to do our bit to keep the Medieval and Viking traders gainfully employed!  

Our day ended with an opportunity to dance with the wonderful band Serpentyne.  This is starting to become a very happy regular event. As any dancer will know, begin able to dance to live music is always very special and over recent years we have built up a very special relationship with the very talented members of Serpentyne.  The Ya Raqs ladies were certainly excited by the prospect. 

Naima, Phoenice and the thumbs-up from Kebi

So we settled down to watch and listen to the show and were very pleased to dance to some of the pieces and to get members of the audience up and dancing too.  Some were more enthusiastic than others.  Naima managed to pull a gentleman out of the audience who could do the most amazing back bends and certainly had all the right moves!

Naima with our fantastic mystery dancer - don't know who he was but he was great!

Meroe and Kebi enjoying the show

Meroe was feeling particularly pleased, because she had the opportunity of dancing to one of Serpentyne's latest pieces, called Game of Thrones.


All too soon the day came to an end and we had the challenge of packing away our new little home-from-home.  There was a certain amount of debate about which bit went in which bag in order to ensure that the next time we have to set up home it all goes smoothly! Still not convinced we got it right. We'll find out at our next event when we have to put the tent up again!

Aisha, Tameri, Kebi and Meroe - now which bit went where?

We should say a big 'Thank you' to Mark Olly for inviting us to join this event, which is now in its fifth year – it was a super event.  We had a great time and very much enjoyed meeting some great Medieval and Viking folk, not to mention the good folk of Warrington – we managed to henna and/or dance with quite a number of them!  We hope to see you all again very soon.  

And finally, a special thank you to the Mysticknight for allowing us to use some of his fabulous photographs of the event in this post.

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.