When I left Kenya after 3 months to return to the UK in May, I was worried! How was I going to have as much fun on my return as I had had there? I had no choice, with 5 big gigs, festivals and workshops booked in, I needed to return. However, without a doubt I have had one of the most exciting and eventful summers of my life!
I could have written a blog for each of these events but I have just been soooooooo BUSY so I am conjugating them into one big picture and video blog of the main ones.
I WANT TO SAY A BIG BIG BIG THANK YOU TO ALL THE PEOPLE WHO HAVE HOSTED ME, EMPLOYED ME FOR GIGS AND GIVEN ME ALL OF THESE DELIGHTFUL EXPERIENCES <3
Innocent Un-plugged Festival
Over the summer with several workshops at massive festivals combined with loads of private hen parties and several normal workshops I have taught literally 1000s of people dance. I really hope I have inspired a few to take up bellydance and those who already dance to just love it even more!!
Summer kicked off with the Innocent Smoothies Un-plugged Festival. A festival aimed at reconnecting with one’s self, switching off from all the usual technology. Attendees were encouraged to switch off their mobile phones (so photos are limited) and to leave their social media alone. The festival was full of exciting activities such as yoga, meditation, fitness and life coaching with some seriously big names in the business like DJ Yoda, Lucy Rose, Lazy Habits, Jake Isaac, Mr Motivator, Frisky & Mannish. I was honoured to be asked to teach my BELLYDANCE EMPOWERMENT WORKSHOP alongside them! The workshop was PACKED!! Within minutes I had everyone (males included) connecting with their inner femininity and feeling their hips.
In the evening I also performed – and I have to say that being unplugged worked. The audience was so engaged and relaxed. Nobody was distracted with their phones and I felt they were really into it all.
HIGHLIGHTS: My mum came with me and we stayed in a tent overnight. It was the FIRST time my mum had ever been camping. The gig came with free SPA TICKETS so the next day I enjoyed a relaxing in the outdoor hot-tubs and wooden sauna!! Also, the security guard for the event tent I performed in was Lovely – Bradley – we made great friends …..
Dancing With Dandash
Four weeks after coming back from Kenya and I was off again! This time for a month in Cairo. The main reason being to spend Ramadan with family. The streets lined with lanterns and bunting awaited me, as well of tons of celebratory dancing with family. This trip was made extra special with the meeting of Dandash, a true bellydance star. Her contact details were given to me by a friend and I took a chance, getting in touch, hoping she would be available to teach despite the religious times. I was in luck! She welcomed me into her home and INSTANTLY we hit it off. I was overwhelmed by her breathtakingly wonderful dancing. Her teaching skills were amazing. I also made good friends with her daughters who just casually hang around on the sofas as Dandash drilled me.
HIGHLIGHTS: Well, never have I felt so proud as when Dandash told me I looked like a mini her when I got the moves right but the greatest highlight came after the last class we had together. We had become good friends and her daughters were staying at their father’s house so we decided to go out. We got pizza; did some shopping; drunk juice. Returning to her house in a toctoc and then watching a comedy film whilst lying on her bed and eating leb (pumpkin seeds). We talked about everything in life and to say I was inspired by this woman would be an understatement.
Seeing the AMAZING FARAH:
For two years a very, very dear friend of mine, Farah Nasri, has been living and working in Cairo and finally, I had the chance to go and see her and CATCH UP. This was right at the end of my trip but we wasted no time in catching up, going shopping for bellydance costumes together and eating konafa cup cakes along the Nile. She showed me a whole other side of Cairo I had never seen. She was so hospitable and introduced me to all her friends and colleagues. We hung out with musicians, dancers and performers. It was such fun. One night, late after I had attended a family wedding, she took me to see the end of the Nile Festival opening Gala. After that the adventure continued with us partying at an Egyptian Cabaret night until the early hours of the morning; watching LOADS of different dance and singing acts!
Finally with only two days before I left I got to see Farah herself perform on the Nile Maxim. She and her team (orchestra and male backing/opening dancers ) were phenomenal and 100% on point and in sync. It was bellydance at its best - a TOP LEVEL show. WOW!
HIGHLIGHT: I loved Farah’s performance. Most of all – I loved seeing just how successful Farah has become in Egypt! She is a star performing every night on the Nile Maxim. I have never met a dancer so deserving, full of talent but also so hard working. I was so happy to see her reaching for the stars and I wish her even further success!!
Oxfordshire – Casbah Café.
Only 3 days back from Cairo and there is no time to relax! On the Friday night after my gigs in London I drove up to Kidlington with my mum for what would be an unforgettable weekend. The agenda to have the Zara’s Zouk Stall, teach 2 workshops, and perform 2 sets in the finally hafla. Intense is not the word but all of this was made so lovely by my amazing host Hannah and her family.
The stars were aligned for my workshop, I had taught my Empowerment workshop several times, each very special, but this time there was something extra… maybe it was all that dance inspiration I had brought back from Egypt. My best delivery of a workshop. It was so emotional and on point. There was laughter, tears and plenty of connecting with one’s pussy.
My performances in the hafla show at the end were hard to say the least – exhaustion had started to set in BUT the amazing vibe and energy in the room, partly because of the workshop, and partly from the lovely Hannah and her amazing parents, lifted me and I had OHHHHHHH SO MUCH FUN dancing in the show. The video has become quite popular!
HIGHLIGHTS: Errrr getting to perform and wear two new costumes which I had bought in Egypt the week before is a challenger for my biggest highlight but I have to say the highlight was just how much people enjoyed the workshops, so many people came up and told me that they loved them and to hear that meant EVERYTHING TO ME <3 I felt I had got something right!
Secret Garden PARTYYYYYYYYYY!!!
A week on and I was on my way to a gig I had been looking forward to. Last year I had also danced at the Secret Garden Party, a MAGICAL festival (attended by OVER 30 THOUSAND A YEAR?!?!). it was so much fun despite torrential rain and this year SUNSHINE was on the cards - I was excited.
I am so lucky to be part of a team (Sabrynah, Tara and me) put together by Sabrynah Ish as the main dancers on the Feast of Fools Stage. During the day Tara and I taught a follow along bellydance workshop. The crowd was fun and eager to copy our moves. In the evening Sabrynah, Tara and I performed a Bollywood / Bangra set alongside Imperial Doll Drummers – AND IT WAS OUT OF THIS WORLD. The buzz I got from performing for a crowd of thousands of wild partiers is just too much for words!! Our 2 hour solid set went by in seconds!!
HIGHLIGHTS: with the buzz of the performance and the magical state of mind which the festival had put me in, after the show we went on to celebrate by JUMPING IN and taking part in the festival. We ended up partying at one of the latest running stages. We danced to all the music with friends we had made (including Bradly who I met at Innocent festival and was working at SGP) - up until the SUN CAME UP! We finished partying at 7am! IT WAS ONE OF THE BEST DAYS OF MY LIFE!
Wales – Cardigan Festival
How I love Rose Barter, and a week after at SGP I was off to see her with my mum for the Cardigan Bellydance Festival. A festival I am proud to say I have been attending for 4 years now. We went down a day early so I could teach a fun, children’s workshop in the morning before the Hafla. The hafla, as always, was fun and I loved seeing how much all the dancers had progressed. It was also LOVELY to see several of the dancers performing in custom made costumes I had had made up for them in Cairo for Zara’s Zouk. They told me how beautiful they felt in them, and they looked it too. The following morning I was once again honoured to teach my Empowerment Workshop. So much fun.
HIGHLIGHTS: I was overwhelmingly surprised and taken back by how much I enjoyed teaching the children’s workshop! I had never done anything so rewarding. It was a class of girls aged 6-11 years old and I took to them instantly. They were SUPER COOL. We learnt a whole choreography in the workshop and then PERFORMED it that evening in the Hafla. They were brilliant! They named themselves Zara's Shaking Marshmallows and I was so proud of them – I actually am so sad that I can’t teach and see these girls every week. There was so much talent and potential in each one of them!!
The following week I was off to Huntington – and excited. This was the first time I was going to dance in this area of the UK and so happy as it was relatively close to my home. I had been non-stop traveling for what felt like forever.
It was a fantastically fun Hafla hosted by the lovely Alma, with a great audience and such a lovely stage, the lighting was top quality, as was the program and the way they decorated the hall. It made me feel so special to be the guest dancer.
HIGHLIGHTS: Meeting sooooo many, many new dancers! I hadn’t danced in the area before and so this was a world of discovery – everyone was so lovely – thank you!
Wedding Week a Zaffah to remember
Throughout the summer between the festivals I have danced at many fun shisha lounges, restaurants, quite a few BBQs, Birthdays, hen parties and loads of weddings. One week, August Bank Holiday week, I danced at THREE WEDDINGS, and a baby shower. Two of the weddings I did as duos with Tara – a person I love to work with.
The final wedding was a BIG ONE, booked almost a year in advance through Book A Belly. The pressure was on. They had booked me because they specifically wanted an Egyptian dancer and for all the drummers to be Egyptian. It was of course for an Egyptian wedding. I performed the Zaffah with the band and then, later in the night I performed a second set. The bride was so, so amazing and so beautiful. I was such a large part of her wedding yet the first time I met her was 3 minutes before the Zaffah began. I felt honoured to share her big day with her!
The band was brilliant. Before the Zaffah we had sat waiting (like most weddings it was running behind time) in one of the hotel rooms and got to practice together. I played my sagat alongside them and it was a laugh. I also used my sagat through the actual Zaffah. The second set was of course good fun to. Medo, the tabla drummer, stayed and accompanied me in the second set.
HIGHLIGHTS: Oh too many! The day was hilarious from driving up to Birmingham with Tommy the Egyptian DJ, Medo and the rest of the band was a road trip I will never forget! Before the Zafffah we were all practicing and singing together in a hotel room we had been given. Both Medo and I stayed for the entirety of the wedding to accompany DJ Tommy home. Hence, we partied at the wedding. They both looked after me so much right up until 6.30am - the time we made it back to London!! It was a wedding I will never forget!
BOOM! CARNIVAL TIME!
On the same weekend of the Zaffah, Bank Holiday weekend - the last weekend of the summer holidays - it was of course NOTTING HILL CARNIVAL WEEKEND! People who know me well, know that carnival is something I live for and though this is not specifically to do with Bellydance it has everything to do with DANCE – I didn’t stop all day!
This is the 3rd year, as an adult, I have been lucky enough to dance at carnival and it is an experience I am eternally thankful to Tara for. She has gifted and shared with me 3 of the most AMAZING DAYS OF MY LIFE – Yes, of my life. As always, Carnival, on the Lagniappe Float was brilliant. From the moment our mas started playing music I didn’t stop dancing. Good vibes were rolling and my all-time carnival dance partners were there to twerk, whind and grind with all day long in the most liberal, free, soul dancing way possible. All whilst in the most amazing costume ever!
NOTHING CLEANSES MY SOUL QUITE LIKE CARNIVAL. It is the pure freedom of the dance and dress that just sets me FREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE
HIGHLIGHTS: THE WHOLE DAY - IT WAS OUT OF THIS WORLD and I loved every single second!!
Lastly I would like to send a big massive THANK you to Cassandra Fox, Sallam and Kay from Love the Beat who I have had so much fun with and getting to know as they featured in the summer editions of Zameena.
Read them here:
June: Cassandra Fox July: Sallam Drum Special August: Kay Dance's Journey