Thursday, 29 August 2013

Cardigan Belly Dance Festival 2013

Several years ago, events such as haflas and workshops were fairly rare in south west Wales.  Now you can find something to go to at least once a month and there are often clashing events.  However, there has also been a lot of debate about the lack of support for these events, especially from local dancers.  I was one of the organisers of a hafla in Haverfordwest at the beginning of July, and very few of the dancers from my classes came to it, despite my encouragement. Although the (third) Cardigan Belly Dance Festival was better attended than I expected, I was terribly disappointed that only one person from my classes could make it.  The date had been known for a few months, but in the end, there was a clashing alternative lifestyle show in Tenby, and various other holiday and family commitments meant that many dancers missed it.

Missed the opportunity to watch, dance, shop, chat belly dance! So, shaking my head and muttering to myself about priorities (I know, I'm kidding, honestly!) I decided that I should blog about the haflas I go to. If you danced and don't get a mention, don't worry or take it personally. It's not meant to be a full review, just some highlights, so you know what you missed.

2013 is proving unlucky for some. This year's show was like a meeting of walking wounded dancers.  Someone jokingly remarked that we were not a good advert for our dance classes, but in fact, none of us had hurt ourselves actually dancing.  If there had been a prize for the most extraordinary accident, it would have gone to the lady who'd just spent some weeks in hospital after a microlight aircraft crash!

My friend and fellow teacher Rose is the main organiser for this yearly event and I do a few bits and pieces, like putting together the playlist, running order and any technical requirements notes, even though getting confirmation and information from some of the dancers is like trying to herd cats.  The day before my foot op, Rose fell heavily and broke her arm badly, so both of us were trying to organise things while battling with pain and fatigue. Luckily, she has some amazing ladies who always help out and manage the door/front of house, setting-up and refreshments side of things. Some time previously, Rose had already decided to have a technician to deal with music and lighting for the show. Thank goodness, because between us, we currently make one whole dancer; it would have been very difficult to cope without a tech.

When I covered a couple of Rose's classes for her a couple of months ago, I learnt parts of her choreographies for this show. At that time, of course, Rose's dancers were expecting to perform with their teacher in front to follow.  After an initial panic, they practised hard and performed well.  I especially love Rose's choreography to Yay! by Nancy Ajram, an irresistibly uplifting love song. With her arm in a traction sling hidden under her dance cover-up, Rose did her usual great job of compering the dances, with information about rhythms, singers and cultural history bringing context and additional interest to the performances.

The other local teacher, Guinevere, performed a drum solo which showcased her pizazz.  I particularly liked the hand gestures which supported, rather than distracted from the hip movements, reflecting the rhythms through the whole body. She also led some of the children from her afternoon children's workshop in a little dance, and they were so cute!

We had a great selection of guest dancers from further afield. Being so far west, it takes some dedication for dancers to come to us (and for us to go elsewhere, come to that). Dominique Flook (Long Black Veil) was as beautiful, dramatic and magnetic as ever and bravely tackled getting to Cardigan from Gwent by public transport.  Stephanie Gawne performed a sweet and delightful Persian piece and did a darkly fabulous sword dance.  Julie Campbell came all the way from Brighton and sparkled as much as her mega-sparkly galabeya. Zara danced with her usual energy and brilliance.  She also brought her souk and I only realised afterwards that I had been so sedentary and dozy, I had not gone to browse for a few bits and pieces.

I couldn't dance fully after my recent foot operation and with my knee OA still in flare (or whatever the hell is wrong with it!), but I was prepared for this eventuality and had sorted out a dance to be performed seated, essentially dancing from the waist up.  I'd had Song to the Siren by the Cocteau Twins on my choreography radar for a while, envisaging a sort of tribal/contemporary fusion style piece with mermaid inspired costuming. The seated version ended up as a mixture of dance theatre with belly dance chest and arm movements and added undulations. I had a mermaid scales foil jersey in my stash and bought a length of organza with glitter stars. Designing and making the costume was fun and left drifts of green glitter all over the cottage.  The piece seemed to go down well and I've been asked to perform it again at a charity show in Cardiff at the end of November, by which time I will have amended the costume a little, and may even be dancing properly again by then (I hope!).  It was also a great opportunity to wear a couple of my big sparkly bindis (made by the Funky Faery, who was also there with a lovely selection to sell). I need some proper spirit gum. I've been getting power surges again, so I could only get one bindi to stick to my slick forehead, and even that fell off while I was getting changed.  I looked all over and couldn't find it, and it was only when I was getting ready for bed later that I found it stuck to my tummy!

I think I need some pearls
The evening came to an end soon after the show's Khaleegy inspired finale. The limpy duck step was perfect for me with one good knee and foot, and Rose could have done with my walking stick as a hook to get me offstage as I was enjoying whirling my hair. No-one had the energy to dance or drum much after that and a few had to get away to relieve their baby sitters.

It was so strange not to be teaching one of the Sunday workshops and sad to miss them. Cardigan is a 40 mile round trip, and with not being able to drive because of my foot, no lift, no public transport (no Sunday service, but even if it hadn't been Sunday I would have had to walk hobble four miles to get the bus) and a taxi would have been too expensive. Ah well, next year.

A few weeks and several vacuumings later, I'm still finding bits of green glitter. Normally I love a bit of glitter, but it's too much when the cats start to wear it!

No comments: