Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Cardigan Belly Dance Festival 2014

The fourth Cardigan Belly Dance Festival was the best yet, with two days of great workshops and an evening showcase for works by classes and dance groups in Pembrokeshire and Ceredigion, as well as solos and duets from teachers and professional dancers.

A terrific amount of work goes into haflas and shows.  The driving force behind this festival is my friend and partner in dance crime Rose, who teaches belly dance and belly dance based fitness in south Ceredigion, and her ladies. My rehearsal schedule alone left me feeling quite tired. Learning point for next time: I must remember that, however much an impending show focuses the mind on costume, leaving it to a fortnight before the show to get it all together and make costumes for others is just not good! Getting pieces rehearsed, and dealing with the technical requirements and running order is more than enough.

It was also the most difficult running order I had ever had to deal with. Apart from the usual framing with strong openers and closers for both halves, and avoidance of the same styles back-to-back, the main difficulty was the need to allow time for a number of people dancing more than once in different pieces to catch their breath, change costumes and touch-up make-up. Topaz Tribal from Abergavenny took the last slot as a very welcome late addition, and they were great at sending their details and music in right away. I still had to chase for other dancers' music and details in the last week.  I say it every year - it's like trying to herd cats.  Unfortunately, last minute difficulties with one dancer took up a lot of time, and a last minute pull out from another couple (I mean, 11.00 pm the night before? Come on!) left the running order unfixable. By the time I arrived at the theatre a couple of hours late on Saturday lunchtime, having driven most of the 20 miles behind a laden lorry doing 20 miles an hour on winding roads with no safe overtaking spots, I was in a thoroughly bad mood and feeling extremely stressed.

The first thing one of my dancers did when she saw me was give me a huge hug, which went a way towards dispelling it. I met the technician for the first time on the day, having only had a brief phone and email exchange with him a few days before.  We chatted about the music and lighting requirements and I knew I could safely leave him to it. Sitting in the dressing room, trying to get a temporary finish on a couple of costume galabeyas also helped to calm me down.

I had three dancers who were making their belly dance performance debut, all having only been dancing a few months. This was their choice, as I take the view that performance isn't compulsory, and a dancer is ready to perform when she feels she wants to (hopefully to fulfil a personal goal or challenge and to provide entertainment, rather than just 'show off') - regardless of how long she's been dancing (which doesn't mean much anyway) or how well she dances. Everyone has to start somewhere, and these local shows and haflas are a safe place to do it. Two out of the three also decided to do the 'pop-up troupe' workshop on the Saturday, where the participants learn a choreography to perform that night.

Imago Dancers perfoming Habibi Ya Eini, everyone singing 'Yalla, yalla!'My group opened the show with the choreography we'd been rehearsing so hard, to Nourhanne's version of Habibi Ya Eini.  It was quite a busy choreography, not really designed for beginners as I didn't think that my new starters would want to perform.  But they did, and danced well, then some went on to give the 'pop-up troupe' piece all they had too. To say I'm proud of them all is an understatement! They rock my world!

Fan veils fluttering as the dance finishesIn the end, only four of us danced the fan veils piece which resulted from the workshop at the beginning of June. Although we had sent everyone away with choreography notes, music and the opportunity to have filmed the dance on their cameras or phones, most had not rehearsed it by themselves, possibly in part because it's so difficult to find the space at home. Just four of us filled the performance space; like Isis wings, fan veils are space-hungry props!

My double veil piece wasn't as awesome as I'd hoped. It needed more rehearsal, and better matched, synthetic veils, rather than silk. The SmallWorld Theatre gets very warm and I was dripping, so the silk just stuck to me, refusing to run through my fingertips, clung to itself and refused to float well - argh.

There was a man there making a film of the Saturday workshops and show, with Rose talking about belly dance, and it has just been loaded to YouTube.  Unfortunately, there's no clip in it of my group dancing, (or many of the other pieces), but I'm on there, chatting to the tech and dancing, for a couple of seconds. It is a great short film and brings back happy memories.

Thanks to all who taught and attended workshops, performed and came to watch us, Jake the Tech and those who seamlessly did all the front of house duties,all making it such a success. If you missed it, it's generally the second weekend in August, so why not make a note in your diary for next year!

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