We REALLY need to talk

Take a break from posting no makeup selfies and go and read  Randa Jarrar’s follow up article. Yes, I am linking to it this time, even though I suspect it is an attempt to repeat the clickbait viral phenomenon of two weeks ago, because I have only seen it shared in one place and that was a group specifically formed to discuss matters of cultural appropriation. Is this because the social media cycle moves fast and everyone is over it, or is it because this article contains a whole lot of uncomfortable, un-sugarcoated truth? I read a lot of the same responses in the discussions that followed the original article (and that was what my last post was about) and I find very little to argue with here.

Yes, it might have been interesting if she had responded to some of the thoughtful articles that reflected on the complicated history of bellydance but she’s not obliged to, and frankly there is clearly a lot more basic education to be done. It’s well know that women who speak out online get some really nasty sexist abuse in return, and WOC get all that plus a hefty dose of racism. Seeing what Randa Jarrar got called in public I shudder to think what some of her private messages must have been like. Really, who can blame her for not wanting to engage?

So I’m not going to write about this article other than to say please read and try to understand. Instead I am going to share some other things I saw online yesterday:

A discussion in a bellydance group about cultural appropriation in which the original poster was called a “fat bitch” who “needs to get laid” and that she should be grateful that Westerners want to preserve bellydance.

A bellydance workshop which promises that participants will be “transforming the ordinary sex drive” and suggests dancing with vaginal balls (for four hours? Surely that’s going to chafe).

Sometimes I can’t stand white bellydancers either! Those are just examples I happened to come across yesterday, I didn’t even have to go looking. If you want more, then this tumblr is a collection is mislabellings, misappropriation and misrepresentation. Come on, we have GOT to do better than this.

Egypt part 4

Everyone managed to drag themselves out of bed in time to go to the Hassan Hassan show at Felfela village. I had to stop off for a fitting at Eman’s so I missed the excitement of the tuk tuk rides and the earlier acts on the bill (including a comedian who went down like a lead balloon at the English speaking table, unsurprisingly). I and the other two arrived just in time to see the show. It’s a selection of folklore dances with a very loose storyline and lots of knockabout humour which everyone can appreciate. The troupe consists of three men and three women, plus Hassan, who sings and dances his way through every single number – he has incredible energy! We saw haggala, tannoura (“Oh good, more tannoura. We haven’t seen enough of those this week.”), saidi (including a cameo from my husband!) and a sketch with soldiers (and their newest recruit, Moyra!). In fact only one of the styles we studied in our lesson in the end :) so I will just have to find some videos for my students to watch!

It’s the end of the week and with everything we’ve crammed in people are starting to get tired so it was a quiet evening after that, although a small group squeezed in a singing lesson with Emad. I hope we’ll be hearing the results at the party night :) Dinner was at Abu Sid, a gorgeous restaurant nearby with lovely food and a particularly special cocktail – asab (sugar cane juice) and tequila. This proved very popular with the group, so much so that we drank them out of asab! Three of us went on to Outside, a bar at the Nile Maxim, to hear Ellie of London sing at their Friday night party. This was something different again, a chance to see how young Egyptians and expats let their hair down and party. It was lots of fun, great atmosphere and a nice international mix of music which got everyone up and dancing, but we called it a night at 1:00am so as not to be too tired for our final day.

That day began with something new to me – camel riding! Yes, despite my many trips to Egypt I have never ridden a camel before and I’m sorry I put it off so long because it is great fun. I never knew what an extraordinary range of noises they make. Yasmina took us to the stable she uses, so we knew the animals there were well looked after, and we spent an hour riding around with a few stops for photos with the pyramids in the background. Camel riding will be compulsory for everyone on the next trip!

Most people have gone off to the Moroccan spa to have the camel dirt and smell scrubbed off them before going back to Yasmina’s for our final night party. I’m heading off for a little more shopping (can’t quite believe I haven’t bought any shoes yet!) but don’t worry, I’ll shower before the party…

Now the hard work starts…

The second full day of lessons is over and Randa is taking no prisoners! We are learning a choreography to her magency (that’s the first dance a dancer does in her show to introduce herself to the audience and show off her strengths) which is amazing to watch but so hard to dance. To help us get through it all we started this morning and continued through the afternoon and I think we’ve covered 5 and a half minutes which is pretty good work. I sat out the last run through so I could take a video and was really impressed by how well everyone was remembering it (my brain is full!) especially people who I know only had five hours sleep!

Yes, so 8 of us went out to see Soraya last night at the Marriott, which ended up being a late night (back at 3am). I’ve been to the Marriott before to see Randa in the nightclub (we’ll just skip over why Soraya is there instead!) but last night we were up on the roof in the open air. It was like a little ampitheatre with booths for the audience, there was a stage set up for the dancer and her musicians could sit around it. We got a good long show with three sets and lots of lovely songs, finishing with Soraya’s showpiece – her drum solo. Her shimmies are incredible! And she does it all in massive high heels which I’m sure I couldn’t even walk in never mind dancing. She’s a very sweet dancer, really engaging to watch. After all the excitement of the opening night it was nice to sit back and relax. We all got up and did a little dancing until it was time for our taxis to take us back to the hotel – we’ve been advised to let the course organisers arrange our transport rather then do it ourselves. It’s a bit of a shame because jumping into random taxis is always an eventful experience but it’s best to be safe.

Photos! Because everyone likes to see the costumes:

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The green dress is my favourite, but I’m not in the market for costumes on this trip so I’m staying well away from the temptation of the costume stalls.

Changed!

Well, I’ve finished tinkering and this is the end result. I hope it just looks like a few cosmetic changes. What I’ve actually been doing is making a whole new site in WordPress, which has meant getting to grips with a whole new way of working (my previous website was all done in Notepad!) but the end result should be a website which works more smoothly on mobile devices. I’m going to keep playing with the look of it but you hsould find all the photos, videos, Paypal links etc. are working. If you find something that looks broken please tell me!