Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Lorna in London!

Those of you who follow me on facebook; Lorna of Cairo (aka BellyLorna!)
or on Twitter; BellyLorna

......may have already seen my intentions for next week. For those of you that haven't; I was due to come home to UK for just over a week to do a family Christmas however today I have decided to change my flight and come to London early due to the current political situation. What has been going on in Cairo just now, and indeed the whole of Egypt, has had a noticeable effect in reducing the amount of work that is available here this week! People are either sitting by their TV's and internet this week, or they are out on the street protesting this constitution that Morsi wants people to vote on this coming Saturday. They are not going out for dinner cruises on the Nile!

so- Christmas is coming early-  I will arrive Friday 14th , Inshallah!

I will be in London, available for performances and private classes during that whole week 15th- 23rd Dec. (After that I will be in Edinburgh doing nothing but eating mince pies and partaking of the festive spirit with family, as it were- so you will have missed your chance by then!!!)

soooo.... fancy giving yourself, or a dance friend an early special Christmas present?

I have been told my prices are incredably reasonable for private classes and I am sure everyone who has had a class with me would be very happy to recommend it.... I have only ever had VERY good feedback anyway! Whether you have something specific you want to work on in your dance, or with a particular piece of music or just anything to do with Egyptian bellydance really... why not have an hour (or two!) with the only UK dancer currently performing in Cairo!

I am booking up the London week diary now- so get your request in quickly... I am free (at the moment) daytimes and evenings..... I am waiting for your emails.... Bellylorna@hotmail.com

.... and if i don't see you in London next week. MERRY CHRISTMAS !!!!!


Costume photoshoot

I though you might like to see some of the images that were taken at a photoshoot last month. The website is all in Japanese... http://www.egypt-4m.com/product-list/73 but you can see lots of photos there of lots and lots of costumes by a variety of designers too...

I have done two days of shoots for these people now... It is amazing how exhausting just putting on costumes and taking them off again can be... but we got through literally hundreds of costumes just between Luna and I alone... never mind the other days with other models! Fun, and interesting to try on costumes you would never normally pick off the shelf yourself- it was an eye opener to me ... some things I thought i would never suit actually look pretty good!!!

A fun, tiring day............. and good posing practice!!!















Saturday, December 01, 2012

100% me



Tartan and Bagpipes, Tabla and Bellydance.

It was all happening at the BCA club in Maadi last night!

I was so happy to do something I have wanted to do for a LONG time in Egypt. I performed Egyptian bellydance in a tartan costume alongside a Scottish bagpiper and an Egyptian Tabla player.

The audience was mainly British, with a few Egyptians there too.

I was in my element. A Comfortable environment, lovely audience and talented musicians. Who could ask for more?

But the joy of joys.... to be able to blend in the music and dance of my birth country into that of my chosen one.

It was like being able to be 100% honest and open about who I am.

A Scottish Bellydancer in Egypt.
.....................................................THE Scottish bellydancer in Egypt.

I have to thank Alan- for his talents on the pipes, and being prepared to take a risk in doing something new. He rose to the challenge perfectly and I suspect strongly there will be more collaboration in future!

I also have to take my hat off to my Tabal, SimSim. Before we arrived at the BCA, he hadn’t even heard any Scottish music and the only bagpipes he had heard were those often played here, by Egyptians, at Zeffas (the wedding procession). He really didn’t quite know what to expect.

Our ‘prova’ (rehearsal) consisted of Alan, SimSim and I standing in the bar, Alan with his chanter playing the songs I asked and me trying to explain what I wanted from the Tabla.


At first it was confusing. Partly because the whole thing was so new and partly because I was trying to explain things I really wasn’t sure how to talk about in Arabic! At first SimSim thought that if the song had a ¾ rhythm, then all he had to do was play a waltz rhythm beside it and that was what I wanted. It took a little time so explain that when we hear these songs on the pipes the rhythm is intrinsic with the melody, you just feel it- you don't have to hear it. It was interesting to see how it took him time to 'feel' the main beat. It reminded me of my first attempts at understanding Egyptian music and it's rhythms. Something that Egyptians 'just feel'. A eureka moment for me. I explained that his job was to add in the ornamentation, to follow my hips since the pipes would be carrying both the melody and the base rhythm. When he at last understood it was like seeing a light bulb switch on and the music just spilled out.

On stage we did many things, including mixing saaidi rhythms into Scotland the Brave where I mixed up hip droppy ‘pas de bas’ with saaidi horse step (anyone of my students from many moons will now be remembering the ‘dashing white pharaohs!!!). Dancing while brandishing a sword instead of stick. I even put the swords on the ground and danced over them in a highland sword dance style.

We performed maybe 45 minutes total over the course of the night and it was as exciting for us all as it was for the audience I think! We looked like we have worked together for a while; no-one watching could believe it was a first. I do hope we get the chance to work together again soon!!!

Thank you BCA for the opportunity ( I had wanted to do this at the St Andrews Ball my first year in Cairo and was told at the time it wasn't Scottish enough! Yeah right!)  and thank you my very talented musicians for being so open minded and enthusiastic.

100% me.  
Scotlandiyya/Masrayya 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

It's not fair! NOV27. Cairo

I am staying home today.... but so many Egyptians are not.
The crowds in tahrir square just now are in their thousands with many of the marches coming from different areas of the city not due to arrive for another hour or two at least.
The people are so angry about Morsi's power grab and they want to make sure he and the rest of the world knows it.
I have been watching it live on http://reuters.livestation.com/demo and the chants get into the heart of you. http://english.ahram.org.eg/News/59231.aspx explains what is going on.
Just now, Fatehy Gareeb, a young man in his twenties died suffocating from tear gas. I hope to God he is the last death today but I fear that it may not be. Not while the police are still fighting with protesters. The police have guns and tear gas, the protesters have rocks. I feel sick.

I know I said in yesterday's blog entry that today would be about dance... but how can I dance with all this going on in the country? I have to switch off Twitter and Facebook and Reuters and try and pack my suitcase with costumes for tonight's performance on the Nile Pharoah boat. Somehow I will put a smile on my face and entertain people, mainly tourists I am guessing tonight. I can't imagine many Egyptians leaving their homes tonight to go out for a meal. Most will stay home, or head to Tahrir I guess. . People at home are worried about my safety? I am sitting home, and then I am going to dance for lots of people who are coming out for a meal and to see a bellydance show... while 2miles up the Nile people are dying from tear gas. Warped? totally.

I hope that this time the people of Egypt will see that united they are powerful , but when they fight amongst themselves they lose that strength. Its a shame, in my biased opinion, that the Muslim Brotherhood have managed to brainwash so many people into believing that it is ok for their leader to put himself above all else, to make laws giving himself the power to arrest anyone he chooses on him own whims. I can't begin to imagine what is going on in these people's head- if anything.

My closest friends have said that one of the things which comes over strongly about me is I like things to be fair. What is happening now is NOT fair... young people should not be dying because they want the right to speak their mind and have the same justice applied to all. They die because they want to freedom to live their lives the way they choose, not by how it is dictated to them? It's not fair. They shouldn't have been pushed to this point.

I hope Morsi goes. I hope the secular/liberal leaders can stick together to fight this. I hope Egypt regains some level of 'fair' today. I hope there will be no more deaths.

Rabina Yostor (God be with us)

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Climbing that mountain


(a largly political entry- with dance reference at the end, bear with me...!)

Ups and downs and ups and downs... Cairo life is a complete rollercoaster, creating emotions which can leave you suicidal one second and euphoric the next.

I haven’t written in my blog for nearly two months! Those of you who follow me on facebook or twitter know I am still alive and well... but I figured I should maybe write to the rest of you to know what’s going on... especially since Egypt has hit international news yet again.
Let’s start with that then...

So, for those who haven’t been following it? Last week was a year since the fights in one of the side street off Tahrir which resulted in many deaths and injuries. People went to protest and remember those who suffered. It turned into a battle... which is still waging today...

The whole thing was enflamed by president Morsi’ s declaration which included many controversial elements, the most jaw dropping of them was that none of his decrees since June, and in future,  can be refuted by anyone, even my courts of law. I.e. he is putting himself above the law.

 I was stunned reading it... that he could put it there so blatantly. The ousted Mubarak didn’t even state his total control to his people in such a forthright way. In fact, that may well be exactly why Morsi is doing this now- so he doesn’t end up being taken to court the way Mubarak and his family are now!

That was on Thursday... perfect timing to ensure a full house in Tahrir, the traditional protest ground in Cairo the following day. But the protests were all over Egypt, and not just in Cairo. Fighting broke out and many have died and been injured since then. Morsi’s speech on the Friday evening only fanned the flames too. He pretty much said that he wanted a clear and clean opposition, but those who do so in a non clean way were thugs and vandals and would be punished the way they should be.... Most people have taken this to be a direct threat to those protesting in Tahrir. The good thing about all of this is that it might well be the catalyst needed to untie the liberals so that they do have a real chance of gaining the popularity of the people.
Today fighting has spread away from the square itself, towards the US embassy (which is next door to the UK embassy) since the army built a wall preventing them going another way... The fighting is not aimed at the embassies.

Why? To show Morsi that not all the people want Egypt to turn into an Islamic country, nor do they want a pharaoh when they thought they were voting for a president. In his speech he said he was part of the revolution... the activists disagree. They do not want a country led by the Muslim brotherhood. In fact, a few of the brotherhood members have come out against Morsi’s grab of complete immunity from the law too. He has rubbed quite a lot of people up the wrong way!

What is next? I honestly don’t know. No one does. Or if they do they are not sharing the game plan.
How do I feel?

On Friday- after hearing what Morsi had declared and knowing my gut response I knew it was going to be a huge protest. If I feel that strongly and I am not even Egyptian, then I could only imagine that those who had fought and died in Jan/Feb. 2011 and since, to get rid of a dictator led regime would feel very strongly. I had a huge sense of impending doom. Déjàvu if you like. Here we go again; into chaos and fear.  I found it hard to lift my mood all day, sitting glued to the news, twitter and facebook probably didn’t help matters.
 I keep having flashbacks to the ‘revolution’ (which many say wasn’t a revolution really since all it succeeded in doing was change the country from being in a regime under one dictator to under another). The sound of helicopters overhead turned my stomach. The sounds of gunshot in the street, yes in Zamalek (only 2 single shots and may have been harmless ) in my mental state made my stomach flip and nearly stopped me going to a gig I had that night. (Nearly)

Today the whole of the judicial system has come out in strike against Morsi's higher than the law attitute and what it means for justice.

 I physically wasn’t in Tahrir at all through the revolution- so I cannot claim to have taken part in any of the events over the last 20 months- but emotionally involved in it, I most certainly have been. I follow the news living here in a way I never would have dreamed to in UK. Although to be fair- the results of protest in UK don’t usually have such profound effects on my own life directly as they do here in Cairo.
I can’t plan what I am going to be doing even a few days from now... Tuesday I am supposed to be performing at the boat- but of course, just realised that a huge protest has been called for that day... so it will be a horrific night. I cannot see that one going off without incident. The anti and pro Morsi protesters have all been called up. If they meet, there will be incident, for sure. This week there was a sign up in Tahrir saying the Muslim brotherhood were not welcome in the square...

So how does a protest affect me directly? In no particular order;

- I don’t live near Tahrir, although since I moved after Ramadan it is true I am only one bridge over the Nile to it, rather than two as I was before! I have had pretty bad sinuses though the last few days- so that may be due to a cold or the pollution or to the remnants of tear gas in the air floating over.... But my point is I am not there in it. I am not seeing with my own eyes any of the fighting going on.
- But traffic of course is disrupted whenever the square is blocked off to cars. Cairo traffic even worse than normal is hardly in itself news.
- Tourism takes a hit too, although saying that, I did dance for a boat full of Dutch tourists yesterday lunchtime who were all very lovely and enjoying Cairo. Of course they don’t get to go to the museum, since that is also in Tahrir- but otherwise they were not affected, the ones who come here. The ones who choose not to come however, that’s another story. They miss out, and so does Egypt. So does my work place, and therefore so do I.
- Fear for my job. On a daily basis- in case gigs are cancelled due to unrest but also on a longer term basis. If Egypt does become even more Islamic ruled, what are the chances for a bellydancer? There is already news that all the nightclubs in sharia Haram, an area popular for bellydance, are being closed by the end of the year. Whether it is because they are just not making enough to continue, or whether it’s through religious or political pressure I don’t know. The talk is that they are being bought out by salafist individuals/groups (the more fundamental of the Islamists). From a burocratic point of view- will they renew my contract at the end of the year? Renew my work visa? Will they want foreign women here dancing... or are our days numbered? I can’t help but be on the side of the anti Morsi protesters when my life is held in such a balance.
- Fear for those in Tahrir and elsewhere in Egypt. Doing the only thing they know how to demonstrate how much they are frightened for themselves and their country. So many killed and injured already... and talk of large groups of men going round raping/groping women too. It’s frightening. So many suffering. I get upset by it. I admire them their courage, and pity them a little because I see what they are up against. It’s David fighting Goliath. Kids with rocks and Molotov’s versus police and soldiers with tanks and guns.


This blog entry probably won’t help people back home relax and stop worrying about me will it? Sorry about that, and please try not to worry. I do everything I can (except leave Egypt to keep safe I promise) I am writing now in one of my more pessimistic moods and feeling a bit low. I have been told by so many that I always sound like I am having such a party life here in Cairo. And I do... but also there is the spin; you sit all day watching the news, stressing, worrying and then go out party and perform at a birthday party. You write about the party. That is what I usually do anyway.

Next blog will be about the party.... all the parties... because right now I know people who know me especially are asking why the hell I am still here?!

Dance.

That’s why I am here.

Bellydance.

For those moments on stage that I feel I am where I am supposed to be, doing what I am supposed to be doing, and doing it well and being respected, appreciated and admired for it.

Still don’t understand?

Imagine someone climbing to the summit of Mount Everest- What do they feel when they get there- can you imagine? The joy, pride and disbelief at their own massive achievement against all the odds when they touch the top?

I get that feeling almost every performance, at least once. Imagine that.

It’s a strong drug. I am an addict.

That is why I am still in Egypt.
So I am praying that Egypt gets through this next hurdle it is facing, and remains the country I love. A country of dance and passion, music and memories. A country of contrast and culture. 

Come on Egypt. You can do it.......

Friday, October 05, 2012

So... the new band story.............




The Pharaohs phoned me in a bit of a panic 2 weeks ago. “We need you to work on Thursday (the dancer who was on the schedule couldn’t do it for some reason), but you can’t.” I assured them I could, no problem, but then they told me that Outi was working the same night on the other boat. The thing is, for the past few months Outi, a dancer here from Finland, and I have been sharing a band. It just made sense. Work levels since revolution have been so low, that by using the same band we could ensure they didn’t leave to try and find more regular work and they could actually make enough to feed their families. So, I had 2 days in which to find a new band for myself so that Outi and I could both work the same night!
Thankfully, just before Ramadan I had performed at a couple of weddings, and the guy, let’s call him M, who found me the bands for those (which were fabulous) was happy to put together a band for me on short notice.
The night of work we all met in a sound studio not far from the boat to have a quick rehearsal, or prova as they call it here. I knew the accordion player already, and seeing who the singer was, was a lovely surprise since I have wanted to work with him for a long time and we had actually discussed it just the week previously! I’ve got excited about new bands before, and often disappointed, so I was trying to keep it together- but it sounded great!
Then there was all the fuss. There is always fuss. On day 2 the tabal didn’t show up to one sail, then the accordion didn’t come to 2 and then the dholla left before the last one. It was a disaster. (Although musically I have to admit to being pleasantly surprised how well we did considering!) I phoned the guy who got me the band, M; only to find out that he had outsourced the job if you like, to someone I don’t know, let’s call him A, so he had to call him, who then had to call the musicians. 3 phone calls in each direction just to try and find out what was going on with my own band. It was ridiculous. So, when the singer told me that he loved working with me, but couldn’t unless he was the ‘chief’ the band leader I agreed. It makes much more sense than dealing with this chain of folk. Plus, he really does know his stuff and is easy to get along with, and I had asked him a year ago to form a band for me and at the time he couldn’t.
However, then the real fun began.  I had to essentially fire the man who had gotten me the band in the 1st place, M. He wasn’t happy, but understood. ‘A’ however was less than amused accusing the Singer of stealing his work etc. Setting the musicians up against him. Saying I had said all sorts of things, which I hadn’t since I still haven’t even met ‘A’. Trying to get the musicians to refuse to work with the Singer, threatening to cancel all their other employment with him. Did you follow all that? It was a mess. I swear that employing a band in Egypt is often like being a school playground attendant.

So, at the moment, I still have this band. The singer is band leader, which so far he does seem to do well and we will see how many of the musicians stay after I have paid them for this schedule of work. It is such a shame that the faff and politics takes away from the joy of making music! What I love about this band so far is they are full of great music ideas of songs I should listen to and learn and then they start singing them then and there. So every night at work, I get serenaded between shows! Is that ‘up’ worth all the downs of working with musicians.... absolutely!!!!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

That's entertainment...!


What do I love most about being a Bellydancer in Cairo?

Making people smile.

It sounds corny I know... but it is true!

Yesterday I had 5 shows;

The first two shows were a tourist group (from UK, USA, Australia and all over Europe). I had lots of people shaking their shoulders along with me and everyone smiling. I asked one table where they were from, and they said ‘Scotland’...... you can imagine their surprise when they found out I was too! Seemingly they spent the rest of the sail trying to work out my story- how did a girl from Edinburgh end up being a dancer on the Nile? I ask myself sometimes too! One thing is for sure though... and I figured I’d put it here in writing... no, I did not move to Egypt for ‘a man’. People have no imagination! I came here for the dance, for the music, for the sunshine... isn’t that enough? It is for me!

The next sail was a private charter too... and rather than tourists it was all Egyptians... two engagement parties had hired out the one boat, one group downstairs, one up. I couldn’t work out the connection to the two groups, but they were obviously related or friends or something, since most of the time everyone just piled onto one deck- whether there were seats or not. I am not sure I can explain how lovely and warmly welcoming everyone was. The older ladies especially kept calling me assel (honey) and hugging me. The first ‘bride’, we’ll call her that since Egyptians do despite it only being the engagement rather than the wedding, was very shy at first but then at one point in my show I felt a hand on my hip, it was her... feeling my shimmy!!! I looked surprised, she looked embarrassed (I think she must have done it without thinking!) and then we both, and everyone around us laughed out loud! Then all her girlfriends gathered round her and with their hands tried to make her shimmy too! The love was overwhelming. For the music, for the dance, for the people around and for me.

That is why I dance.

Upstairs the ‘bride and groom’ were younger and more self conscious. However, everyone who had just watched my show downstairs came up to carry on the party, so they soon got everyone up on stage... and let me tell you, that stage is not big at the best of times... so just imagine me trying to dance in the centre with about 40 other people on it with me!!!

At one point they pushed a young boy fwd and begged me to dance with him. He had Down syndrome. The love and care everyone was showing towards him was very sweet. One young man said, ‘he is the greatest of us all’... the boy was beaming with happiness as he performed his fabulous shimmies beside me... but he got just too excited.. and threw up.. all over the already tiny stage. Some guests just led him off and carried on dancing. I had a conversation recently with another dancer who said the worst thing to stand in barefoot was mashed potato. I beg to differ! It was hard to keep my nose from wrinkling up... but the energy and warmth of the people helped me ignore the floor beneath me. And you thought being a bellydancer was glamorous? (Once he had recovered the boy came back onto the stage so he could finish his dance with me and take his bow!)

The, another man was pushed into the centre of the circle beside me. He could certainly dance. One man smilingly challenged- “see, he is better than you”... then a few of them started chanting the man’s name. I didn’t know what to do... but I felt somehow it would be ok. A girl behind me asked me “what is your name?”... I answered, not realising why she was asking, and within seconds the entire engagement party was chanting my name, supporting me! What a rush! Over 100 people chanting my name!!!

The last show of the night was somewhat more subdued (at one point in the engagement I was up on a chair dancing so everyone could see me!!!). There were some ladies there wearing the full niqab.  I could only see their eyes. One lady stood up and walked out with her husband, as soon as I arrived on to the stage. I was sad, but fair enough, if she wasn’t comfortable then it was for the best for her and me.However, I could see other people round the room take note too. Almost as if she had passed a moral judgement on me, and therefore on anyone who stayed to watch. The mood of the room changed, people leant back in their seats instead of forward, the smiles moved away from the eyes. I tried to ignore it and carry on. Then the mood completely changed again to a very positive and relaxed attitude. She was back again... she had obviously just gone to the bathroom!!! I made eye contact and she was smiling and appreciative of the dance.

We had a great night.

.... and all with a new band... but that is a story for another blog entry! 

Friday, September 21, 2012

TGI Friday.....



When did that happen...?

Its Friday.... that equals ‘yippee it's the weekend’ yes....?

It has done all my life. In UK it was ‘last school day’ and then ‘last work day’ before the weekend.

Then, when I came to live in Cairo nearly 7 years ago, it became many things. ‘The pool day’, the ‘travel somewhere far before there will be no traffic day’, and ‘the catch up with friends who have normal working hours day’, 'the don't expect to hear from your Egyptian friends until 3pm day because they will be doing family stuff and/or sleeping day'.

This morning I saw someone had posted one of those cute ‘feel good’ images... this one just read FRIDAY, FRIDAY, FRIDAY, FRIDAY....

I presume it was meant to make you feel good, to know your working week was nearly over, to make you smile. I am happy if it did, if it does. Enjoy... Enjoy it to the max.

It didn’t work on me. It made my stomach tighten. It seems my attitude has changed since January 2011. Now;

Friday = protest day,
Friday = stay away from Tahrir day,
Friday = ‘be prepared for anything day’, but ‘not surprised if it all amounts to nothing day’.

Cairo has fundamentally changed how I view a day in the week! How unexpectedly bizarre it that?
And not just me... I suspect for everyone else living in Egypt and many other countries too!

TGI Friday?

More like TGI   .... another ‘no bad news’ Saturday. (Inshallah!)




Monday, September 17, 2012

Extreme Cairo



I have always called Cairo, lovingly ‘Crazy Cairo’.
It is still crazy... but now it does seem to be crazy in some negative ways that we didn’t see before.
With the ‘embassy riots’ around the Arab world I have had quite a few people writing concerned about my safety.
Thank you. I am totally fine, and staying safe and aware.
My plea- Please, beware of media projections of the situations... Things did become violent both here and in other countries, and my heart goes out to the families of those killed. Please note that the people who were protesting are a tiny proportion of the population. Both in Egypt and also in all the countries where tempers were raised. The majority of ’normal’ people in Cairo were opposed to what was going on by the embassy, calling these people idiots and thugs.
This violent behaviour does not demonstrate the teaching of the Quran, nor does it demonstrate the religious beliefs of almost all Muslims.
What we are seeing is the behaviour of a few fanatical nutters who are spoiling things for the rest... and bored youth who have nothing to do, and are easily led who are jumping on the band wagon.
I am not turning a blind eye to problems, nor am I painting a rosy glow over what is happening. I keep myself well up to date on what is going on where, and if there are times I feel there may be risk, i.e. like downtown last Thursday, then I just avoid that area.
Most Egyptian people with any sort of education, would  not even have given an offensive film the time of day, never mind set fire to an Embassy building, let alone an American school (as happened in Libya) just because one person who happened to be in America made a film about something that offended them. Never.
This is not considered admirable or acceptable in the eyes of the VAST majority here.
 In fact, the opposite; Most Egyptians I know were embarrassed and disgusted by the behaviours of those ‘people’ who are reacting violently in recent days.
I have been saddened by the negative comments and cartoons I have seen on facebook of late directed towards Islam. Come on people. We are supposed to be intelligent, tolerant and open minded, yet we refuse to believe that the fault lies only with certain people, the extremists, not with the vast majority of people who believe in Islam.
A Muslim is not the same as an Islamist or extremist! There may well be other ways to describe the difference, but, an ‘Islamist’ (or Islamic activists or militants) follows the words in the Quran as a political guide, not just as a religious one. For instance, Islamists believe that sharia law should be the law of the land. A person who believes in the Islamic faith, i.e. a Muslim, does not necessarily believe that the country should be governed by sharia.
We have to be very careful not to tar all Muslims with the same brush. Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world, and the vast majority of them are ‘normal’ people who just want to life their life without hurting anyone.
Do condemn the violence done- but make sure you know who it is that is guilty. Do not blame the majority for the fault of the minority. Do not exhibit the prejudice you hate when directed at you.
Please.
Why am I arguing ‘their’ side?  I am not Muslim, nor Egyptian, yet I am arguing in their defence? Yes, because I live here in Cairo and I see how it affects the people around me. I see how angry my Muslims friends when they are grouped in with the Islamists, the fundamentalist, the extremists- whatever you choose to call them. If you get punished for someone else’s misdemeanours you obviously become very defensive against those making the accusations. People who were non fanatical can become fanatical....
I have had my share of run-ins because of narrow-minded and extreme views. I recently lost my home because I am a dancer and that was deemed an unsuitable occupation for anyone living in that apartment block. However, I know that the people who hold these prejudiced views are often uneducated and easily swayed by public opinion.
 People in Egypt have lived in fear for a long time; If they speak out against the government they were/are imprisoned. If they speak out against religion, likewise (see the current case of Alber Saber http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/09/15/egypt-s-coptic-christians-worry-they-ll-be-targeted.html )
People are frustrated and angry and they have been silenced for a long time. The revolution in Egypt January 2011, has shown people that their voices can be raised. Of course... there are a lot of people whose voices we wish would not be raised, extremists included (in my view) However- this is supposed to be democracy. So if we want everyone to have a voice, the nutters get that too, unfortunately they often have the effect of shouting their views rather than discussing... however it’s a long road to progress!
I agree there is a line that should be drawn between exercising your rights to personal expression and offending people. But where does that start and finish? One person’s morals are not that of another’s. What offends me might seem perfectly normal to you. What I do (bellydance), I see as art. Some see it as offensive to their beliefs. I avoid those people, and appreciate it when they avoid me. They don’t have to change their attitude, as long as they leave me alone. And vice versa.
Offending someone’s beliefs is NOT the same as attacking people... I never support violence, verbal nor physical!
The big argument is whether the recent unrest has been really to do with the film, or if that was the catalyst for something bigger. Certainly a lot of people object strongly to American international policy. They talk about it quite openly. Just because someone is against this policy (there are many Americans who are too) does not make them a terrorist or an Islamist. I personally believe the film was just the match which lit the fire that has been built over very many years.
The future for Cairo is unknown. I personally hope for a balance... where education and tolerance can increase and people can be allowed to believe as they want, without pressure from others. It is a bit of a pipe dream I know.
My fear, and that of all the Copts, Liberals and many moderate Muslims too, is that the extremists might get their way, since it often, unfortunately, does work that people who shout loudest get what they want. Negatively reacting to Egypt, or to ‘Muslims’ as a whole does not communicate a message of tolerance and peace. Countries that are torn politically and economically as well as religiously need time and patience, not something else to fight against.
I hope for a more peaceful Egypt... and for more love, for all, not dependant on what nationality or religion you follow. I am not optimistic it is true, but I can only hope.
... and yes.. I am watching and waiting... and keeping safe!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

A normal night's work...



So, I am at home today, unable to meet friends, or organise work stuff because I have totally lost my voice. Therefore I am staying home to rest and try to recover! What to do... yes I could sit on facebook all day (and have done for some hours now...) but there must be something more productive to do... that doesn’t expend any energy- I know I’ll write a blog.

Hmm- but I have nothing to write about.

Wait. I performed 3 shows on the Nile Pharaoh boat last night and I have nothing to write about? Really? I do the job that dancers all over the world dream about, but having nothing to say about it? There is no way that could be true!

Here goes, last night’s work:

Of course, I only found out yesterday that I was working last night... so my labisa (dresser) wasn’t answering her phone, for a change so I had to go alone. At least this time I knew I would be alone so I was able to pack costumes that I knew I could get into without help! However- then the lift didn’t work... and I live on the 11th floor... so I had to walk down with heavy costume case. Not a great start to the night.

When I am waiting to go onstage... the band kept playing the beginning of my new Mergance over and over- but without my introduction. Seems the new singer didn’t know, or couldn’t pronounce my name. I was pleased with my dancing, in the very first Mergance- I was using some new moves and trying out some different styling techniques after a day spent watching YouTube and getting some inspiration! Was trying out a more dramatic style after watching Randa and Aziza, and also rounding of softer moves like Soheir Zaki. It was fun.

Then the problems began. The singer suggested Lissa fakir- which is one of my favourites so I agreed and lived to regret it. His voice was shaabi shaabi and he was trying to turn the Om Kalsoum song into a shaabi number. That and he kept messing up the words and the timings.... it was horrific. I tried to pretend all was well and keep a smile on my face- but it was no good... everytime a wrong note was hit my face twinged with pain. I almost wish I was back I the time when live music was wonderful just because it was live. Now I am unfortunately very aware of what makes a good and a bad musician. I should have known when he didn’t know maly willa maly. One of the most famous Warda songs- and one popular with dancers. But yes- I asked him to sing Warda's 'aktib alaik'. He did. As well as he could. I was of course using actions to describe the lyrics and well, his lyrics did not meet my actions! I was singing along... and very soon the audience was singing with me... all of us knowing the words better than he did.

It made me feel strange. That here was I , Lorna from Scotland, understanding and knowing the music better than someone who has lived all his life here and is a ‘professional’ singer (I use the term loosely). The audience saw me singing along and were commenting on how I knew the words... It was both embarrassing (since I hire the band) and also lovely to be appreciated. I felt I had found my place in the world, and I was being accepted. It gave me confidence.

During the night I had one man who kept shouting out encouraging remarks... and who I eventually got up to dance. He was nuts, dancing his heart out, badly but enthusiastically. As if he was in a low class cabaret! However, he knew his place and didn’t try to touch or anything like that.

Another man wanted to get up during my baladi number... which at first disappointed me, since I live that time in my set especially. It is like the calm before the storm of the drum solo. But then I gave him the stick, and he started to dance, and well- let’s just say- this man knew how to dance! But he was dancing with me- not trying to upstage me or anything... just loving the music and the interaction and the dance. How it should be. I almost wished I was in the audience watching that particular 5 minutes!!! I wish I had a camera with me at all times- so when these gems of moments occur I can just shout ‘record’ and then have it on film. I hope my memory retains these times!

Oh- and the Tabal. At the moment I am working with a Tabal who just always wants to do his own thing. He is the band leader- and spends most of his time on stage listening to what the others are doing and directing them, so much so that he forgets to watch me... therefore missing 80% of my accents. It turns me into a lazy dancer, I mean- what’s the point if you are accenting something which isn’t there? I would get rid of him, except for the fact that he is the band leader- so it is impossible to get rid of him without getting rid of the entire band! He is a lovely man, and a good chief... but he could do with giving more attention to his own performance and less to theirs! Anyway- last night he did himself proud. The accents were there maybe 40% of the time, instead of the usual 20%. The drum solos however were MUCH better than they have been before... as if he was actually watching and following me, maybe 80% of the time. We still have a long way to go before I will feel happy with the show, but he was on his way. Maybe of course that was to make up for the fact that he had supplied such a bad singer for me!

At the end of the night, when I was leaving. One family, who had been smiling through the show, but not said anything in particular- asked to speak to me and congratulate me on my fabulous dancing and could their son (a lovely well mannered lad of about 14) please shake my hand. I did of course and his ear to ear appreciative smile melted my heart. Unfortunately, as a foreign woman in Cairo these days, Teenage boys just fill me with dread and fear and loathing. I have to be honest. They don’t exactly show respect, quite the opposite in fact. So to have here a young boy, with his family, being lovely and soft spoken and respectful... it renewed my faith in humanity!

Overall it was a good night. Challenging, but good. Every day I learn. A move here, a look there, a time to pause, a time to relax.

... And then I had to climb all these stairs with that big heavy bag. Damn those lifts!

So- that was my blog entry where I had nothing to say...........Somewhat longer than expected! Hope it made an interesting read anyway!

It is amazing how many of the ‘special’ things about my lifestyle and work I now often take for granted, forgetting that they are not ‘normal’ for most people. The list is so long it deserves another blog entry- but I will save that for another time!

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Egypt’s Lady


The woman of many names (and many spellings of her name!) The Lady. The star of the east. Umm Kalthum. Om Kalsoum.

The 1st Thursday of every month, Om Kalsoum, the fabulous 1st lady of Egyptian music used to put on a huge live concert in Cairo. These concerts would clear the streets as people would rush home to listen in on the radio and they often went on for up to 4 hours. Each song seldom lasted less than an hour!

In today’s Cairo this tradition is being continued by the Om kalsoum puppet show held at Sawy cultural centre, Zamalek.

Every month they choose different songs and put on a 2 hour show which involves a stage of puppets, the Lady herself and her musicians, ‘playing’ along to recording of the great singers work. On Thursday it was Al-Atlal and Hob e eh?
 

The concept is mind- blowing to begin with ... but what is more amazing is the way in which people were responding to it. Everyone settles into the music, sings along, filming it on their mobiles, bringing their friends and family along to join in the atmosphere. They even clap at the relevent moments within the music as if it really was the singer herself in front of them pausing for breath!!

I was amazed at young dad’s sitting alone with their young children, teaching them when to clap along. I saw young couples bringing in their new born for their 1st Om kalsoum concert. Older couples were sitting with their grown children and their spouses. It is the monthly family outing.

I asked one woman in front of me why she came to this every month, she said they came for the atmosphere. Sitting with other people to listen to this wonderful music. If you listen at home you are always distracted by jobs to be done around the house... here it was just the companionship, darkness and the music.  Her eyes gleamed when she talked about having the chance to ‘just sit and be with the music’. Her husband wanted to know if I understood the music. I said not all of it. The Arabic language Om Kalsoum used in her songs was very different from the ‘ammeya’ street Egyptian used today that I use. He said no no no, not that, the Music- do you understand the Music (i.e. not the words, the music itself). I replied of course I feel it- who couldn’t help but feel it? The music of Om Kalsoum was truely great. He was very satisfied with my answer. I was touched by his passion for it; a man in his 50’s talking in a way that you might expect a teenager to talk about their favourite band.

 The puppets are skilfully worked and provide just enough eye ‘bubblegum’ to provide a visual focus and distract the younger children in the audience. They give you permission to get lost in the music. No fancy light show or gimmick. No fast changing video images to occupy your mind. ‘Just’ the music.
 

The young girl sitting next to me had come along with her family too. I was keen to know how and why she had attended. Whether it entertained her as it did the older family in front. Her sister had been the month before to Sawy, loved it and persuaded all the family to join. She thought it was a fun way to bring such fabulous music alive again. Despite being born long after the singer died in 1975, this teenage girl beside me knew all the words and was singing along too. She said she would definitely come again.

The shared experience was really very moving.

 I wanted to interview every single person there and find out what it was that brought them to a puppet show...  I had all sorts of stories playing out in my head and was desperate to know if they were based in any sort of reality. What was it exactly that brought people here?  People who were dreaming about the ‘old days’ where one artist could bring people, and indeed a country, together despite difficult times? People who just needed to get some culture in their lives and Sawy centre provided an affordable, family friendly, space in which to do so? People who were friend and family of the puppeteers? People who wanted some ‘clean healthy acceptable fun’ on a Thursday night- somewhere their parents couldn’t complain about? I even imagined that there might be someone in the audience who had actually attended those original famous monthly concerts and were soaking in the nostalgia however the man in front of me assured me that this probably wasn’t the case, no one was ‘that’ old! (Although since these concerts continued into the 60’s, it would be quite possible age wise!) It would make a fantastic documentary I think... modern reactions to the music which once inspired a nation.

For me the atmosphere felt like an emotional wave we were all riding together... whatever our reasons for being there, Whatever our personal or cultural link with the music, Despite the fact that the musicians in front of us were being moved by strings. The music was still so powerful that you could feel when everyone in the room took a breath at the same time! The experience both made me feel much closer to Egyptian culture and people, and at the same time, much more removed. I felt an ache to hear and feel this phenomenal music as they do.

 As a dancer I do believe that non-Egyptians can be amazing dancers. I have to believe that or else it would be pointless me being here and working towards my dream in the way I have over the past 7 years. For instance I don’t believe in the phrase-‘it’s in their blood’. Being Egyptian in itself doesn’t make you a better dancer; I have seen a lot of Egyptians who cannot dance at all. However, the thing which we will always be at a disadvantage, as foreigners, is this combined cultural history with the music. I certainly did not hear my first Om Kalsoum until I was in my twenties. There were babies in the audience on Thursday who were not even 20 weeks old yet. I imagine it would be automatic to express emotions in the music if you have seen your parents and grandparents singing along to it all your life. Even if you didn’t understand all the words, you would know, almost instinctively the music.

 It’s one of the reasons I always say that just being in Cairo makes someone a better dancer... even if they never take a dance lesson while they are here... that soaking up of the way people are with each other, how they express emotion and move, how they listen to music. It has certainly changed dramatically how I dance.

I would now add, bizarrely enough, going along to a puppet show now onto the ‘must do’ list for any dancer coming to Cairo. The Lorna tip-  watch the audience rather than the puppets!
 

Here’s a clip of the puppet show that someone else has posted online for you- enjoy; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8J_ZmXcr-fY

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Achieving greatness

I had 2 shows last night.

I had been dreading them, since my head (possibly for the first time ever) was not exactly in a happy place from which to dance. It's been a hard couple of weeks since I returned to Cairo.

I never choreograph my shows. I love the freedom and excitment that comes with improvising. Sometimes however, having a piece choreographed for just such occasions might be a good idea. I say that, but since this is the first time I have thought it in the 16 years I have been a professional dancer, maybe this is an exception rather than rule kind of time!

My mentor, Sara Farouk, said that if you choreograph, then you can always give a good performance, no matter what. If you improvise you run the risk of giving a less than perfect performance if your mood just isn't there- however you also have the freedom to attain an exceptional performance. I always prefer taking that risk to achieve greatness. Last night I have to admit I was worried i wouldn't live up to my usual standard, never mind achieve greatness!

How to get into the zone when your mind is full of lifes troubles?

-Look at the audience. Remember that to you this might be 'just another show' but to them it is a completely new experince and the power is in your hands to make sure they leave with a smile on their faces. How they view dance even will be influenced by how you perform. Rather than giving me 'performance pressure' to do well, this makes it almost like my 'duty' to show what it is about this dance form which has made me choose it as my lifes work.

-Reminding myself that no matter what things are going wrong in my life, dance has always been a constant- the one thing that can always make me happy, no matter what. If I am lucky enough to be on stage, in Cairo, with my own band (even if the keyboard hasn't shown up and there is a stand in who doesn't exactly know the music) , then I should honour my situation and give the dance, and the people who have come to see me, all I had.

So, for the audience, for myself, and for the sake of the art, last night I danced my all, and I danced well.

I had so much fun. The audiences were lovely and very appreciative. I felt slightly out of shape since I haven't been performing over ramadan as much as I normally would have, but I think it actually helped add a stillness into my dance which improved it! I gave up trying to get the tabal who refuses to (or isn't able to)  follow me to follow and instead concentrated on making the most out of what he was giving me.

I felt alive. I felt appreciated. I felt strong again.

Whether I 'achieved greatness' or not is not for me to say, but I felt great!

Someone recently asked me... with all the hardships and heartaches I have faced over the last 7 years in Cairo, Has it been worth it? If I had the choice, would I do it all again?

Yes. Yes I would.

No it has not been financially worth it, quite the opposite.... my life savings are gone. But what is that compared to how rich I feel being able to change not just my mood, but that of everyone's in a room, by getting up there and doing something that feels so good to do?

Thank God for dance.



 

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

It’s not fair....



I love dance.

I love being a dancer.

I love being a dancer in Cairo.

I hate the prejudice that us dancers face here. The small-minded attitutes that even many eductated, westernised Egyptians unfortunately seem to share, never mind the uneducated majority.

The reason for this complaint? I've been thrown out my home of 6 years, purely because I bellydance.

In June, the doorbell rang, and one of ‘Hotel Bellylorna’s house guests, answered it. It was the downstairs neighbour complaining about the noise and asking what she was doing. She, innocently enough, replied, “but we weren’t making any noise. We were just bellydancing.”

The woman went crazy, “that is inappropriate behaviour- what do you mean you were ‘bellydancing’ ?”. The poor girl was confused why the outburst against the artform she was practising... so the male folkloric dancer went to the door and attempted to get the neighbour to calm down. That was it. Red rag to a bull. Not only was this foreign girl ‘bellydancing’ but she was alone in a room with an Egyptian man, they MUST be up to no good!

I stressed , and waited and waited... but it seems the neighbours didn’t pass on their complaints to my landlady.

That is... not until 2 weeks later, as soon as Morsi had been elected as president of Egypt. Then, and not before,  I had an hour of abuse over the telephone with my landlady calling me all sorts of names... accusing me of running the house as a business and having ‘men there all times of day and night’ . Now EVERYONE who knows me can verify just how far from the truth this statement is... but the neighbour had decided to get her revenge- so she had made up all sort of stories about me and seems like the landlady believed them all. Not surprising I guess, since they are related, but I did feel incredibly hurt that the fact that I had been a model tenant for nearly 6 years, always doing my own maintanence for the flat, always paying not only on time but often early, never causing any problems with neighbours etc, all that suddenly meant nothing at all.

The problem was, in some things the landlady was sort of correct. I did run the place not just as my home, but as a semi-business- but not the business that her sordid mind had imagined!

I have been renting out my spare rooms to visiting (female) dancers for years now, and teaching private classes too. The work of a bellydancer in Cairo, especially since the ‘revolution’, pays nowhere near enough to even cover the rent let alone food and travel expenses! So when she accused me of ‘not’ being an English teacher, as I had told her- well, she was right. But you can see why I said it! (Actually, I never said I was an English teacher- but when I told her I was a ‘teacher’ , she just assumed it was English!).

Bless the bowab , who MUST have known all these years what I actually do for a living (hard not to, with bags and sticks going in and out the building!) but who had obviously never said anything to her.

Anyway, to cut a long story short.... I was on TV.

The Ramadan TV drama by Adel Emam came out 2 weeks ago (see my previous blog entry for the whole story and to view the clip!). It's a show that EVERYONE watches, especially old women who stay at home all day. It features me as a dancer in a cabaret in Syria, and was it was shown on all channels in Egypt and my face is clearly shown...

The truth was out. I knew there was no way I was going to be able to continue with my story that no of course was not a dancer! ( I had already done a google search just for 'lorna' and was at the same time very chuffed that I came up so early in the search- and worried that the landlady's son or neighbour might think to do the same search and find out my ocupation) what a way to live huh? frightened to tell anyone what you proudly do for a living.

The landlady had made it painfully clear that she did not approve of entertainment work, waxing lyrical about this ‘singer’ that i had staying with me (who she hadn’t even met but had managed to make up all sort of interesting, hair raising stories about!), But then, to find out that her tenant of 6 years was a bellydancer. You can but imagine!

I returned to Cairo on august 20th. I had paid my rent until 26th, and I knew I had no option but to leave by then.. ...

What a hellish week.

In 6 years living somewhere, discounting the memories, you also collect a lot of things around you. ‘Stuff’. Not to mention about 50 bellydance costumes!

The past 6 days have been full of boxes and bags, tears and tantrums, stress and sleepless nights.

Thankfully Ellie had returned to Cairo the same day as I had, and she was an immense help with packing and organising, and the running for the tissues everytime the weight of it all broke me down again and again. It was hard on her too. Ellie has been living in Cairo for over a year now working successfully as a singer, and she loved the flat too!

‘Hotel BellyLorna’ had so many guests over the years... so many fabulous memories... so much care put into it, I kept – keep - feeling the enormity of how unfair it all is.

The upside of it was I was able to give so much of the ‘stuff’ away to people who really needed it and who also find scraping together a living in Egypt a trying task at times. The popular idea that us foreigners are ‘made of money’ is so false it is laughable! All the left overs completely disappeared, my cleaner and her brother came round and took away things that to people in the UK would have been seen as rubbish, used shower curtains, coathangers, shoes, clothes, half used toiletries. They took the lot. If they couldn't use it themselves, they knew people who could. Recycling here at its best!

I dance.

 I love dance.

 I love dancing in Egypt.

I am gutted that my job is viewed in such a negative way by so many people. That my personal character is slated because i am an artist.

People who would happily hire me to dance at their son’s weddings or watch me as they eat their meal on the Nile... but who would never allow me to be any part of their personal life, to the extent of even renting out their apartment. The worry about what other people think here is so very strong. Much stronger now that Morsi is ‘in charge’ !

When she came over to collect my house key, and make sure I really left, the landlady was still horrible to me. Still accusing me of a lot of things that I almost wish now I had done! I can only feel sorry for someone who acts like that when out of fear of what others may think. As long as she got her money, and people didn’t think badly of her, she was very happy to take my money.

One of the things that really upset me was the Bowab’s reaction to my news that i was leaving. He actually slumped and his eyes welled up. Only people who have ever met my bowab can know how unlikely it is that he would ever cry in front of a woman especially. He is the top dog of the street, the head bowab. The saaidi man on the street, to be feared and respected. But I swear, he had to hold back his tears. I couldn’t. I stood blubbing on my doorstep. He assured me that they would never find someone as good as me. Because above all, I was a good person. God bless him. I know it. But it was really what i needed to hear to stop myself from hating everyone around me!

I am staying with a lovely Scottish friend, in her spare room. She is very welcoming and I really appreciate her putting me (and Ellie) up at a moments notice. At times like these I am even more grateful to my wonderful friends.

Also a huge thank you for all the many many messages of support I have had from around the world, with lots of what I affectionally would call ‘things my granny would say’ ; “everything happens for a reason” and  “what’s for you will not go by you” etc. It really does help to know people care , and to think of my granny sending me her support somehow!

 However, I miss my place already, although it’s only been 3 days. Maybe it is wrong to become so very attached to a flat, but I can’t help it.

 I still cry when I think about all those lovely evenings with friends coming over to visit.

Being able to open my house to interesting, fun, talented girls coming to stay with me from all over the world.

All those hours spent teaching and dancing in my very own studio.

 All those nights sitting in my ‘internet cafe’, my house guests and me all sitting round the giant dining room table each interacting to the leggy internet spider that spans the globe.

Those nights when rather than go out, we would all go into the studio, dim the lights, pour a drink, and just dance the night away.

Following the ever changing news of Egypt from my living room, and watching it live from my balcony.

The love and tears that went into making that flat a real home, for me and my guests.  The memories.

It’s always sad to leave a place you have been happy in, but usually you have some time to get used to the idea, Time to sort your things and pack. Usually you want to move on.

 I didn’t and the only way I can really fully express how I feel about it all is to stamp my feet, fold my arms, knit my brow, stick out my lower lip and sulkily shout;

“IT’S NOT FAIR"   !!!!

...

.........

 

.... and quietly hope that the next tenants are wild party throwers and enjoy living there as much as I did... whilst making the nosy neighbours and narrow-minded landlady’s life miserable!!

Lorna bellydancing on Egyptian TV



When I was back in UK over Ramadan this summer, I was very happy to receive emails and messages on facebook from friends back in Cairo, telling me that they had seen me on TV!

It was Ahmed Refaat who had given me that particular opportunity. Ahmed is a folkloric dancer here in Cairo and has on occasion rented out my dance studio to teach in. He was asked to do some choreography work for a TV series, and they also asked if he could supply a good, foreign bellydancer, someone with the correct work papers to perform in Egypt. He thought of me straight away and within a few days I was heading out to Haram early one morning, taking Ellie along as my chaperone, dresser and moral support!

The scene was set in a fabulous old nightclub, next to the Movenpick hotel in Haram (the area in Cairo right beside the Pyramids of Giza). When we arrived I still had no idea what I was going to be asked to do... I didn’t know if it was just me dancing, or if there were a few of us. There were certainly other girls around, mostly Egyptian, a few Russian.

 I had been asked to bring a small selection of costumes with me, but no red ones (since the backdrop was all red). A woman came over and introduced herself as the costumes manager, and she chose the same costume out of my selection as I had. A turquoise blue and gold Eman Zaki creation which I really love and is very comfortable to wear. Eman had recreated it for me out of an old costume she had previously made for me which had a gold skirt rather than blue, but since metallic material always gets sweat ruined when I wear it night after night for performances it had eventually become unusable. Now it was transformed it a stunning ‘new’ costume;
from this costume:
 
to this one:

Photo credit: Maani Vadgama

So, after costume selection was hair and makeup. The makeup artist was a boy whose fingers reeked of cigarettes and who was surrounded by other boys smoking and an older woman, and not sure how to write this politely, but from the look of them I have to admit, I was slightly concerned how I would end up looking! My fears were unfounded. They were very talented indeed. The makeup was not so different from how I would have done it myself... but somehow, I’m still not sure how, made me look very Egyptian!

The hairdresser, also male, spent a long time ‘ironing’ my hair and hair piece (the one my normal hairdresser had made fun of saying it wasn’t real hair, so she couldn’t do anything with it... that proved her wrong!!) and he spent a long time attaching the ‘prestige’ as they call it here, so there was no risk of it falling out! I had long straight luscious locks!

Then to dress, in the nightclub toilet with a bunch of Egyptian girls who looked, well... to put it bluntly, rough. At this point I was still unsure what we’d be filming, and I was rather concerned that if these girls were dancing up alongside me, it wasn’t going to be a very classy show!

I worried for nothing.

The girls were the ‘waitresses’. That is to say, in low class nightclubs they hire girls to stand around the tables and encourage the men to drink more.

The beer bottles were filled with pineapple juice; seemingly just the right fizz and colour!

There were men dressed up as gulf Arabs, with some of the Russian girls sitting at tables too.

On stage, the band was all set up. Turns out there were the musicians from the Mena house hotel. They were good. Well, good at their job anyway. When the director called action they first time, the poor men didn’t really know what to do, so they started the introduction to a song..... ‘no no no, cried the director, we need to go straight into the middle of the music’, ok, they said... but they still missed their ‘action’ cue again. From then on, the director called equivalent of ‘lights, camera, musiqa’ so that the band started on time! It was obviously the first time for them to do something like this too!

I was told to stand in the centre on the stage, a fabulous catwalk style stage so I had tables all around me, and ‘just dance’. I didn’t get to request the song, or even know what it was going to be before I started... ‘Just dance’.

Thank God I am not a choreography type of dancer! I only ever improvise in any of my performance although then of course I know the music because I have chosen it! However, I am always up for this sort of a challenge!

We did maybe only four takes in total, with different camera angles. The actors, both famous, but for the life of me I couldn’t tell you their names, other than one is the son of the most famous actor in Egypt, Adel Emam, had to come up onto stage and throw  (pretend) money over my head. It was a strange experience for me, because although this is the custom in cabarets in Egypt, in the years I have worked here I have never worked in a place like that! Should I look at the actors, at the camera, at the ‘audience’, I had no idea and no one gave me any direction. When I asked.. I was told, don’t look at the camera, and just do what you are doing, it’s perfect!

Certainly when they were all looking at the playback on the monitors they were lots of lovely comments from them about me (they hadn’t realised that Ellie and I could understand what they were saying about me, but thankfully it was all positive, about how good I looked, very Egyptian,  and danced and how perfect it all was!). When I had a look on the screen I got excited too- it looked so professional, with all the lights and camera angles! I had caught the bug- I loved doing this- it was so much fun!!!

In fact, when Ahmed came to me and said, ok you can change now, they are finished, i was most upset! I wanted to stay more and dance more!

At the time I didn’t know any of the story line or even the name of the production or whether it was going to be in cinemas or TV! They wouldn’t tell me any of it!

I never knew what a huge thing it actually was... maybe that was just as well!

It was part of a TV drama, ‘Fer2et Nagy Atallah’, due to be run throughout Ramadan and starred Adel Emam and his son amongst others. It was shown on every channel in Egypt and I played the part of a dancer in Syria, seemingly!

One of the channels, channel 1, took out the dance scene, since seemingly that channel is owned by the Muslim brotherhood? Not sure whether that is correct, but that is what I was told!

They used my dance scene the night before as the taster for the next day’s episode, so I was on everywhere,over those two days, so I am told. It was very exciting, both filming it and then receiving all the messages from people in Cairo who were watching it. I spent the day going around Edinburgh telling people- I am on TV today in Cairo... I was so chuffed! I managed to get someone in Cairo to record it and send it to me so i could see what they had edited in and out... and it looked good. They kept in a lot more veil work that i had actually done, they obviously really liked that stuff! The ending was really sharp too. Granted it doesn’t show off a lot of my dancing, but enough so you feel i really do know what i am doing. I did post it up onto youtube, but it was unfortunately blocked due to copy right within a few hours! i am uploading it here... hope this doesn't get blocked too and you get to view it!
video
 
When I returned to Cairo last week after Eid, all the people whose first comments were ‘you were on TV with Adel Emam!!!!’ Not strictly true, since he wasn’t in the scene we were filming- but he was there on the day! All my friends were coming up to me telling me I had been on TV. I think it was almost as exciting for them as it had been for me! Almost enough to make a girls head swell!

One of my Cairo dreams was to have a dance role in Egyptian film. Tick!

Except now it has whetted my appetite for more......

Anyone out there need a bellydancer for their tv/film...?!!!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Sunshine in Leith!


The lovely Norma Bain in Edinburgh has shared these photos of my night at Mimi's which yes, is in Leith, and has agreed that i can share them with you too.............. You can see perfectly in these what i mean by the sunshine acting like a spotlight on me while i was dancing!!!




Not so sure about the facial expression i am pulling here- but the costume looks good.....



Ah yes- me in my civvies... and all those wonderful cakes... not that I got a chance to sit and eat really... but that was my choice... I just wanted to dance and dance!!!!!!!!!!!!