A number of years ago when I started belly dancing in New Zealand, during my trips to the UK to see my family, I was unaware of a large belly dance scene in the UK. I had found a weekly class at Pineapple Dance Studios in London and would go to that during my visits but I didn’t realise just how much else was going on. I didn’t even think to check it out properly. It wasn’t until I was on a visit with my partner and we went to a local belly dance show that I’d heard about, that the world of belly dance in the UK opened up to me. At that show I met some ladies who told me of the different sites to look on for events and workshops etc and wow! Did it open up heaps. Since then I’ve made many contacts and friends here and have attended numerous workshops on my visits. Having moved back to London last July/August 2016, I immediately set about looking to see what was happening. Ozgen’s call for Chorus Dancers for his show last November jumped out at me on Facebook and I applied to join. It was a great experience and the show went really well, so much so, that he was asked to take it to Sheffield on March 26, so as I write this I am preparing again for the show, this time with 2 different choreographies to the ones we performed last time. There are also numerous Haflas happening every month in London and there seems to be new ones springing up here and there. They’re always looking for dancers so there’s plenty of opportunity to apply. In February I went to Cairo to attend Randa Kamels week long course - randaofcourse. It’s different to a festival in that it’s capped at 55 dancers and there’s only Randa and Tito and two folkloric teachers (Regahi and Ibrahim) who teach there. It was a very well set up course with accommodation, breakfast and most shows and events included in the cost if you chose that package. Included was the opening night buffet and show on the Nile Maxim where Randa performed as well as Tito, and also her sister Rehab, (who’s a singer) and her sisters little daughter ‘Princess Randa’. Watch this space for that one- I think we’ve seen the next great belly dancer in the making. The show on the moving Nile Maxim boat was pretty awesome. When we arrived we were greeted with a Zeffa, complete with Tanoura and guess who I bumped into? Our very own Mirian from Wellington! We hugged and danced with joy at seeing each other. Mirian was on holiday there and had heard about Randa’s course, so came along to enjoy the show and some of the workshops. It was lovely to see her and we managed to catch up during the week too when she came to the workshops. During the week we also had 2 more shows in the hotel ballroom where we were staying, where dancers could apply to dance with the live orchestra. After the dancing with the orchestra, there was the competition heat, as Randa also runs a competition for Randa’s Crown as well as a major first prize. So there were two heats for the competition over two nights. On Valentine’s night, as an optional extra, we went to a local nightclub (complete with bodyguards!) for a cabaret. There were three belly dancers and a singer to entertain us. The first two were really good and warmed us up, and when they’d heard that Randa and Tito were in the audience we were treated like VIPs. The third one came on and OMG. It was Aziza of Cairo! We weren’t expecting that as she’s extremely high end and sought after and doesn’t usually dance at this nightclub. There was a wedding there that night so I have been told she may have been hired to lead in the wedding party. What a huge treat for us to see her dance. She’s powerful and magnificent. And the money being ‘showered’ over her onto the stage was a sight to behold. After Aziza finished her performance, a male singer came on and was showered with even more money! Wow! All the belly dancers and the singer had their own live orchestra and it was amazing to see each lot jump up and leave the stage with their instruments for the next group to come on. A hive of activity. We left there at 3.30am and it was still in full swing. The next day (also included in package) was our ‘day off outing’ and we were taken to a garden restaurant where again we were entertained by dancers, male and female: classical Egyptian, folkloric, Tanoura. A girl danced the Tanoura and she was fabulous. I could watch her all day! And the food we had served up was delicious. The whole week was organised for us to dance and be absorbed in dance and also to enjoy the Egyptian Culture and hospitality. There were costume stalls set up in the dance hall, with an array of dazzling blingy costumes to tempt you. The final night we had the competition final, a sumptuous buffet and were entertained by a local Belly dancer, by Ibrahim, then Regahi with Rehab (Randa’s sister) doing a Melaya dance - fantastic, and then a folkloric group. I loved every minute of it. I stayed on for a couple of days after and went to the Pyramids and to the Cairo Museum to see King Tut’s mask. Really impressive. (I’ve seen before, back in 1992, but just had to visit again). Also had a visit to Khan al Khalili, the famous shopping souk, complete with costume shops. And no trip to Cairo would be complete without visiting Eman and Hoda Zaki, the famous costumiers too. They really know their stuff! On my return to the UK, it was back to weekly practise with Ozgen. And then on 10-13 March, I attended ‘Shimmy by the Sea’. I had booked this while still in NZ and was looking forward to it. Serena Ramzy was teaching there as well as a wonderful folkloric Moroccan teacher called Nawarra, and numerous other well known teachers to the UK girls. It was in a place called Battle, near Hastings (yes, The Battle of Hastings 1066 area- a most beautiful place). We shared self contained lodges (4-5 in each) and the workshops were in the main old stone building. There was also a leisure centre on site so a swim, a sauna and jacuzzi were much appreciated. This was a great weekend and the girls were very welcoming as most had been a few times before and were with friends. I performed at the show on the Saturday night and they were a wonderfully enthusiastic audience comprised of all the girls from the weekend. There were all levels who performed and it was awesome to see newbies alongside professionals in the line up. The teachers also performed two dances each and after a buffet, the ‘disco’ took us into the early hours of the morning. It was a really enjoyable night and a great weekend overall. Recently I went to see a friend of mine who splits her time between the UK and Egypt and had a private lesson with her. She is a great dancer and dances all over the world and I discovered she’s a very good teacher too. I’m hoping with her watchful eye (when she’s here) that my dance will improve. I have much to work on. I just have to get over the numerous injuries that I seem to have at the moment. I haven’t found a weekly class to attend as yet. There are many good teachers and dancers here but I guess I’m looking more for a Randa style as I like her way- powerful, sassy and a little bit shaabi/baladi and I think that suits me. I'll find someone, I'm sure.