Sunday 29th June
We learned some of Soraya’s techniques at a three-hour master class today. She had a male translator with her who was almost as tiny as she was (especially as she taught without the mega heels she wore to perform) and focused on a variety of different shimmies, from Egyptian to Vibration and also the ‘Knife’ shimmy, where you imagine you have your knees tied together, your back against the wall and are pinned to it by a knife in the middle of your forehead, just under the belly button and between the knees. You move your knees backwards and forwards rubbing them together. I’m not really sure what the purpose of the analogy was – but apparently that was how she was taught the move.
Soraya did her best to manage such a vast group of women, sometimes leaping off stage and hurtling around the room to demonstrate a movement, but it was still a challenge to see her – not least because some women were hell-bent on standing so close to the stage that they formed an inpenetrable wall. Soraya’s class was fun though, and she did use some interesting imagery, which sometimes her translator was reluctant to translate. They seemed to involve buttocks and pencils.
It was a novel experience being in a room of about 150 women, many of whom would have killed their granny (if not their entire family) to get a place at the front, refused to move when the lines were rotated – and crowded round Soraya in a scrum to get a picture with her at the end of the workshop. I really don’t understand this desire to get your picture taken with the ‘star’, but I appear to be in a minority.
It was then off to the disco, for a Bollywood workshop...
I thoroughly enjoyed the Bollywood workshop Jo and I took with Sherazad of Cologne (pictured here with Jo). It was fun, lively and extremely well taught. There were also only about 18 of us so we actually learned something! I’ve heard a lot about Sherazad, who specialises in Indian, Persian and Fusion dances, so it was great to finally take a class with her.
We went off to the Khan Khalili market for a visit to Mahmoud’s emporium, which has now expanded into another building as well as occupying four floors. Belly dance is now very big business here. In a country where there is an ambivalent attitude towards this dance, a lot of people are certainly reaping healthy financial rewards from it. But then again, they’re probably having to support their entire family with the income generated.
I find it interesting that most, if not all, of the young Egyptian women helping out at the festival are veiled. And that's the case out on the Cairo streets too. It raises an interesting question: have their families put pressure on them to do so, or is it a rejection of Western values and endorsement of Islamic ones?
We went to the Nubian Village at the Meridian hotel tonight. Walking there seemed a good idea at the time but probably wearing my best Emma Hope platform shoes to pound the Cairo streets was not. And it didn't help that I had dropped my laptop on my foot the previous day and had a swollen black toe.
This reminded me of my last visit to Cairo, when I went with Jo, Margaret Krause and Kay Taylor, to film a documentary. When we arrived at the hotel, we were greeted by a big sign 'The Sheraton welcomes the British Bellydancing Team'! By the time we left, we had all had a dose of the Cairo belly, I was hobbling with a bout of eczema plus some bad mosquito bites - and Kay's were so bad she was in a wheelchair! For dancers, 'accident-prone' seems to take on a whole new meaning.
This reminded me of my last visit to Cairo, when I went with Jo, Margaret Krause and Kay Taylor, to film a documentary. When we arrived at the hotel, we were greeted by a big sign 'The Sheraton welcomes the British Bellydancing Team'! By the time we left, we had all had a dose of the Cairo belly, I was hobbling with a bout of eczema plus some bad mosquito bites - and Kay's were so bad she was in a wheelchair! For dancers, 'accident-prone' seems to take on a whole new meaning.– and to drop off the cat food she had requested when I met her at Aida Noor's workshop in Paris ! (Liza has six cats of her own and apparently looks after about 20 others who inhabit her building.)
We thoroughly enjoyed the show, with the variety of dance styles including khalegy, oriental and saidi, as well as listening to the musicians outside in such a lovely setting. We met two American dancers at the show – Oberon and Zeina Hart, who were great fun - plus a group of Italians from Torino, where Jo had recently taught (pictured below with Liza).
We also met Halla Mostapha, an American costumier based in Cairo, who designs all of Liza Aziza's beautiful costumes - plus outfits for the likes of the Bellydance Superstars, Jillina, and Fatihem. We promised to drop in on her the following day to discuss costuming ideas.