Monday, 21 November 2011

Northampton for a day

Have just spent a day in Northampton, teaching for Carol and dancing at her Hafla. The classes were lovely – several familiar faces and lots of new ones. We learned Ariftu Albi Lamin and danced it in the evening. I dusted off a costume that I haven’t worn for a year or two so it felt like new. On the other hand, I had forgotten how much the little metal jewel clasps catch on the fabric of this one – so that was the reason I stopped wearing it, I remember now! The other workshop was Egyptian Funk, which is always fun to teach and a joy to watch the dancers at the end using their new moves with a lot of energy and gusto.

The Hafla was full of life and talent. It’s always good to see as many group dances as solos. Where else is anyone going to get performing experience? Oh, and teachers can give full rein to their imaginations with the choreography. There was a souk there with Krystina Gould looking calm and in control of the fashion show (!) and Galit Mersand (in her gold jeans, say no more). Sadly I left before the end to catch a train back to London. Midnight on a Saturday is always a zoo travelling across the city, buses and streets full of people slightly out of sync with the world around them, reeling a little or dozing on their feet. Then bath and bed – a treat of a day!

Monday, 24 October 2011

Boy Dancing

Here’s another clip I like. This boy is, I think, 10 years old, and this clip represents several things for me. First his glasses! He’s wearing glasses onstage because he isn’t trying to look like a goddess – how refreshing! Next the poi veil - he does it so well and very gracefully. They create a gorgeous effect that we’ve used in the Hoochie Coochie Girls show
I know it’s not traditional and, as you can see, the body is limited to being the servant of the prop, but I like the effect. Lastly, he can dance! I like the fact that someone with no direct sex appeal (in that he is pre-pubescent – you pervs!) can show skill in doing the moves without them being ‘sexy’ just because the pelvis is involved. We will never be taken seriously as a skilled dance form unless we can show the skill without the booty! Of course lots of dance forms are sexy – tango for instance. But the ones that are always have difficulty being taken seriously as ‘art’. There, lecture over!

Friday, 30 September 2011

New Music Course

Kay, Raphaelle and I have completed the notes for the new Music Module of the Diploma Course, which is now a stand-alone course for people who want an in-depth knowledge of music for Belly Dance. It has all been approved by the Open College Network and we’re raring to go!

I’m looking forward to running it twice next year, once in London and once in the North. I’ll take any excuse to stay with Kay and spend time with barmy Northern women! It’ll also be lovely to have Raphaelle over from Paris to teach parts of it. She doesn’t scare me……..

There’s all sorts of information in it about instruments, styles and rhythms, and we’ve added classes with live tabla and sections on famous composers and music. The great thing is it’s now open to people who aren’t studying for the Diploma, as well as those who are. Even non-dancers can come on it. I expect the occasional tabla-playing husband to turn up!

For more information go to:

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Samia Gamal Dance Clip

I thought I’d share some youtube clips that I love. Here’s the first one:

I love this Samia Gamal clip from 1953! She’s lovely as usual, although the femme fatale part doesn’t suit her. The black and white stripes are great, and what a body suit!

But it’s the backing dancers that I find mesmerising. The first 2 making the Charleston look like a military march in long satin skirts – where did that come from? The five latin dancers are my favourites, though. Keep an eye on the second from right when they’re in a line. The one at the far left is completely out of sync to start with. And the one in the middle is in a trance. Then Samia appears in the fabulous stripy suit, but what are they doing in the background? Well, they obviously don’t know. At least the oriental section looks a bit better and there’s a girl in the front with short hair who’s not bad, and is sure she is going to be noticed. Then Samia appears again looking gorgeous and all is right with the world.

I know they didn’t have a Hollywood budget, but a little rehearsal would have gone far. Of course dancers being the lowest of the low, it probably wasn’t deemed necessary…..

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Summer School

I said I would blog about the Summer School. There’s something about being together dancing for a whole week with no other distractions that’s very special, and every year we have weekenders saying they’ve changed their minds, they don’t want to leave, they want to stay with us for the rest of the week.

As usual I arrived early, and so did Sophie, Margaret and our team of Angels. Actually, Sophie, Claire and Margaret were an hour late this year because Claire’s car broke down. I don’t think it was because it was so loaded with stuff you couldn’t see out of the windows…… Anyway, never fear, because Clair asked the builders working on the clockhouse where she could get it mended. They recommended a guy who came and took it away. She recovered from the shock of watching a complete stranger drive away in her car, a couple of days later when he brought it back mended. Whew!

I did my unpacking. Every year I say I’m going to pack less stuff, and every year I seem to have crates and crates of equipment and, well, just stuff…. It’s strange, because I can do minimal packing for holidays if I’m flying longhaul, but the Summer School? No, I have to bring the kitchen sink for that.

The Angels did a lot of work before anyone arrived, putting signs on doors, organising swipe cards, checking studios and common rooms, organising a rota etc. I always hide from this so I can sit quietly and arrange all my teaching notes, making sure I have a file for each day. Any given file may contain an assessment form for someone doing their final Teacher Training Diploma Assessment, notes and music for a class, a tick sheet for a technique assessment, more music for a private lesson, notes for a meeting about JWAAD courses, yada yada yada as they say. Every year I say to Margaret “we can have a relaxed tea together every day” and every year we’re MUCH too busy. Oh yes, and everywhere now my ipod goes with me. Teaching with an ipod instead of CDs is a JOY (but I still have CDs as backup).

The Zar on Monday night is a turning point in the Summer School. Afterwards we sit around and drink hot chocolate, some people giggling, high as kites, others quietly spacing out. This year we had to stop Priya from going out and playing with the traffic – why does yoghourt from Tesco have such a pull for people who are out of their heads after the Zar?

Parties, parties. The Saturday night party had a lovely atmosphere, old friends and regulars, new friends and first timers, all boogying away and a casual, relaxed performance slot in the middle. We use the beautiful Red Room, and have our own small marquee on the terrace and the lawns are huge so there’s space to play. The last night party is something else entirely - there’s something about a large gang of madwomen who have just spent a week together really letting rip. This year we had a 70’s disco. How is it that music I hated at the time seems so fabulous now? You would think we would all be too knackered to dance, but we couldn’t stop. We Are Family is now our theme tune……..

These days I teach the Professional Development Course during the week, and I find it endlessly fascinating. Every dancer has her own unique style and personality, and it’s a privilege to be able to help bring it out for the stage. I love teaching the course but it takes a huge amount of mental concentration. Then when I see my babies dancing in the show and they do really well I want to cry. Actually I do cry sometimes but I don’t let on……

Usually after the Summer School I have a few days to unpack and unwind, but this year I got back, unpacked the van, repacked it and left for France the following day. I had three idyllic weeks with John deep in the French countryside, but that’s another blog.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Term is starting

My teaching term starts this week, and I'm all fired up after a long summer break. I have been planning out my term and what each class will contain, including my new, improved set of what I have called 'Jo's Supreme Control Isolations'. I can't wait to inflict them on my lovely students. They will develop muscular patterns they never thought of before (I hope!). Prepare to look in through the window of the studio at rows of dancers flaring one nostril while waggling the other - well, perhaps I've gone a bit far with that one.... Does anyone else dream isolations, or have I finally lost it? I went through a period a few years ago when I dreamt I was teaching every night and woke up knackered. I hope I don't get into that again.
Anyway, I am always relieved at this time of year because I choreograph an Advanced/Professional level dance for the Summer School, so I can use it again in September. Anyone who did it in the summer is only too pleased to go over and perfect it, because we never have time to bring it up to performance level and costume it etc. at Summer School. For the Intermediates (and brave Improvers) I have created a fun and funky dance, with 2 gangs. They don't actually attack each other, but I did consider it.....
I'll blog again about the Summer School. So much goes on there every year I'm not sure where to start. It is still one of my favourite things to do. We have a gas and some of the parties are off the wall. If you want to come along to a class in London click here to see how they work: