Call of Arabia

Oh how I envy dancers who work with a band all the time!

Tomorrow night (Saturday 29th October) I’m taking part in “The Call of Arabia”, a new show being produced by The Arab Quarter http://www.thebloomsbury.com/event/run/1576 go buy a ticket if you haven’t already :)

On Wednesday I had rehearsals with the band, along with Melanie Norman and Anne White. It was just great being able to work with Hassan (tabla, vocals) and George (keyboards), deciding which parts of each song to do, which bits should be longer or shorter, how the introduction should sound, what rhythms to use…in short, to totally customise the song. Rather tricky to get such a good result from a CD without access to an editing suite and a sound engineer. When Emile (violin) and Bashir (ney) arrived the sound just filled the studio, it was glorious. I will do my best to make my dancing live up to their music :) I’m really looking forward to tomorrow night.

Music

In Egypt the norm is for dancers to perform to live music. Their orchestras can range from the equivalent of a fancy surround sound speaker system to a battered old CD player that skips if you look at it the wrong way, but the music is still live. In the UK CDs are the norm. Some parts of the country are lucky enough to have thriving communities of Arabic musicians, such as the Nile Band in Manchester, so dancers there have the opportunity to enjoy social dancing and performance with live music.

Cambridge is not one of those areas! If anyone knows differently I’d love to hear from you… *dreams of own orchestra*…back to reality. I’ve been bringing artists to Cambridge for the past three years to share the joy and magic of dancing with a band, we’ve had Brothers of the Baladi here twice and I’ve just arranged for the Arab Quarter to make a return visit (put 26th March in your diary now and check back in the New Year for tickets!). Last week I went to Caroline’s hafla in Huntingdon where Sheikh Taha, Tim Garside and Dave Murray entertained us with their music. As part of the show a few dancers performed (improvised!) with them and I was delighted to be one of them. With that musical line up there was no way I was doing anything other than some lovely, lovely baladi, so I asked for “Aminti Billah”.  There’s just nothing like dancing to live music, the excitement of not knowing quite what will happen and where the music will take you, the fact that the musicians respond to your dancing so your performance becomes a true collaboration, the wonderful moments when you’re all perfectly in synch in mind and body. Of course it’s different again if you’re a dancer in Egypt and can sack your band if they play a wrong note!