Thursday, 25 August 2011

R*A*K*S Stars: "R" is for Razia

And, for the sake of reinforcing just how different the same piece of choreography can look, let's see that as performed by a troupe:

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

And we're off ...

While I'm at RAKS this blog will be updating itself. I recently discovered the 'schedule posts' function and I think it's about to change my life.

Over the next few days, all going well, every other day (starting tomorrow) you should be treated to clips of the three RAKS  teachers (Razia, Artemisa and Khalida). See you on the other side!

Sunday, 21 August 2011

No sleep 'til Leuven

And then Jilly said, "We're going to need a bigger suitcase."

A suburban flat, somewhere in London. Interior, day. Jilly and The Raqasa are packing for RAKS.

The Raqasa (TR): Jilly, have you seen my yoga mat?

Jilly: You have a yoga mat?

TR: Yeah, it's a purple one. I thought I'd stored it in the cupboard under the shelf you live on.

Jilly: Darling, I have never seen you do yoga, much less use a yoga mat. Have you checked where you hide the cigarettes you don't smoke? Maybe the yoga mat you don't use is in the same place.

TR: Shut up, Jilly. The email said to bring a yoga mat or a large towel. Since I have a yoga mat, I am going to justify the money I spent on it and pack it.

20 minutes later.

TR: Ooh, here it is!

Jilly: It's grey.

TR: Yeah. So?

Jilly: You said it was purple. Purple would have been nicer. The grey one looks like a roll of dessicated elephant hide or something. How can you bring yourself to lie on that?

TR: I can't. I guess that's why I'd forgotten what it looked like. Do you know where my stick is?

Jilly: This is going to be a long afternoon, isn't it? Have you looked in the top of your wardrobe?

TR: (Perching on one leg on the edge of the bed's footboard so as to reach the top of the wardrobe) Look at me! I've invented 'bedroom Parkour'! Whee!

Jilly: If you break your ankle looking for it you won't be going anywhere. Focus!

The Raqasa spends a good long while searching the whole flat.

TR: This is ridiculous! How can such a tiny flat have so many nooks and crannies?

Jilly: Try the top of the wardrobe again.

TR: Well ... will you look at that. Huh.

Jilly: I'm going outside for a smoke.

TR: Hang on a tick. I need you to come and sit in the bag.

Jilly: Why?

TR: To make sure there's room for you.

Jilly: You're not serious! I'm not travelling in there. Your dance shoes stink. Besides, it sends the wrong message. It's like you're embarrassed to be seen in public with me.

TR: Of course I'm embarrassed to be seen with you. I'm a grown woman lugging around a soft toy, fer chrissakes.

Jilly: ....

TR: Sorry, Jilly. You know how it is.

Jilly: I'm going outside to smoke. I may be some time.

TR: Aw, don't be sore. I'll tuck some ouzo in next to you, how's that?

Jilly: Look, I'll be back in five minutes. And you'd better damn well make some progress.

Ten minutes later.

Jilly: How's the packing going? AND WHAT THE SCALLOPS IS THAT?

TR: It's my 'tribute to Patricia Arquette in True Romance' bathroom bag in fetching pink leopard print vinyl.

Jilly: If I could narrow my eyes suspiciously at you, I would. Is it from Forever 21?

TR: It is, yeah. How did you ...

Jilly: Did you look at the bottom of the carry bag?
TR: Woah. OK. Heavy.

Jilly: Did you look at the horrors revealed about that chain on Wikipedia?

TR: I won't go there again. Well, not before next pay day anyway.

Jilly: Tsk. Really, I despair of you. All the facts are staring you in the face and still you can't walk past a £6 T-shirt. It's because of people like you that the world's in the state it's in. And I bet you haven't even packed underwear yet, have you?

TR: Actually, I have packed some, yeah. But I bet some of it was made in sweatshops so will you still let me wear it?

Jilly: Sarcasm is a very unbecoming shade on you, m'dear.

TR: I'm only getting defensive because I know you're right. Besides, there are worse things I can pack, like coin belts. Why do people still wear them anyway? Ghastly, heavy noisy things. Perhaps I should sell mine... Hey, can we take a break? It's still sunny outside and we could go have a gin and tonic on the deck. 

Jilly: An idea so good it would give a jellyfish a hard-on. I'll cut the lemons. By the way, I'm not going to need a passport but you will. You know where yours is, right?


Friday, 19 August 2011

Feline Friday

I hereby do solemnly swear that The Occidental Dancer is not about to become Another One of Those Blogs. There are plenty of places where you can go and get your squee on. Like, geeze. I dunno. The Daily Squee?


It is Friday. The sunshine is streaming through the windows. I finished a major project today, one that was overdue and had been hanging over my head for months. And dammit, I want to celebrate.

I am particularly charmed by the hand just hoving into view (upper left), lured in by the siren song of that cute widdle-fluffy-wuffy-tummy. 'Ose a puddy tat? You are! Yes, you are!

We rent and the landlady won't let us have pets, so this is as good as it gets for me. Cut me some slack if you feel this is a gross deviation from the kind of stuff you come here for: the blog's tagline is "Navel gazing at its best" and I think we can all agree that this is as close as we will get to gazing at the navel of this species.

More danc-y stuff posting over the weekend (promise!), but if your appetite is whetted you can get more pics of cats sleeping on their backs here.

Monday, 15 August 2011

Good to meet you: Tracey Jones

This is Tracey Jones, in a clip filmed last year. In 2006, she was the winner of the UK National Belly Dance Competition. If, like me, you'd never heard of Tracey or you didn't know her story, you might watch this and think that at times there is something a little 'off', but you probably wouldn't be able to pinpoint what it is.

Well, as good as she is in this clip, Tracey is even more amazing than she seems. You are as stony-hearted as a stony-hearted thing with a stony heart if her story doesn't get you to at least the 'peeling an onion' stage of teary-eyes. I will never use cramp or bad weather as excuses to cut class again.

Friday, 12 August 2011

The Cuckoos: Dancing the Devil Away (1930)

~Staring eyes. Gaping mouth.~

Yes indeed. That was a song and dance scene from the 1930s comedy The Cuckoo starring Bert Wheeler and Robert Woolsley, who were kind of the Farrelly brothers of their day (not really, but you get the idea). Wheeler & Woolsley, as they were known, often worked with actress/comedienne Dorothy Lee, who you see getting down with her bad self here.

The singer, in the role of 'Gypsy Queen', is Maguerita Padula but I'm afraid I can't tell you any more than that.

There is a poorly written synopsis of the film on Wikipedia, but it's so crap as to make the film sound even more confusing than this clip would suggest. Therefore I've taken the liberty of chopping it up so only the key words and phrases remain:
"A phony fortune teller ... Mexican resort ... gambling casino ... falls in love ... American girl named Anita ( ... lived with Gypsies her entire life) ... [gypsy] leader ...also in love with her ... wants her to marry the Baron ... money. Miss Furst falls in love with Bird after getting her wallet back ... kidnap her ... go back to Mexico to save their loved ones from the Baron and the Gypsies, and succeed in doing so."
I'm glad we're clear about how this scene fits into the plot now. But seriously - can't you see the theme of this vignette working brilliantly for a troupe performance?

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Belly laughs

Guess what? I went to my zagat class on Tuesday with Galit Mersand and there was NARY A PEEP to be heard on the streets of London. I have never seen the Euston Road filled with so many empty buses trundling along. If you were in Manchester on Tuesday, however, my condolences.

Although I've blogged a couple of clips of Galit before, I wanted to show you why she's totally worth being clobbered with a billy club for. Plus, she turned up to class too so it would have been cowardly custard of me to bunk off. She's Israeli so maybe a few teenagers on the prowl for X-Boxes aren't that intimidating to her ("Have you heard that people have been queuing to loot?!" she demanded of us at one point. "That's the English for you! 'Form an orderly line if you're here to break the law'!")

Anyway, here's what the big deal is: she's a great dancer and a comedienne. At the same time:

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Quiet riot

Tonight my company is sending us home early. We're in an office just off Oxford Street in central London and there are riot vans parked outside our building in anticipation of 'trouble' (i.e. violent mouth-breathers doin' some lootin' an'-a muggin').

This puts a spanner in the works of my plans for the evening: I have a pre-paid zagat class with the marvellous Galit Mersand that I am loath to miss. It's not until 7.30pm and I was going to hang out here until about 7 and then head up towards the Euston/Kings Cross area. Even if I could still do that without being booted out by security, one of my friends has just pointed out that since that part of town is known for being a bit, well, 'volatile', maybe I should skip class altogether. But what to do in the meantime? Find somewhere where I won't be swept up in mob violence and then go to class? Or just head home and stuff my face with food while the city burns for the fourth night in a row? Ha-hummm ... it is a beautiful evening ... but I do want to learn this choreography and summer classes were so hard to find ...

Dammit. Why have these bastards got no respect for the needs of middle class hobbyists?!

UPDATE (7pm): I'm home and I'm off to class. Best of both worlds, because if we don't try to live our lives as usual then I paid £10 for nothing this thing will never be over.

Monday, 8 August 2011

Good to meet you: Aziza of Cairo

This is obviously not Aziza, Canadian flavour. But this Aziza is a rising star on the Cairo scene. A surprisingly informed and, by YouTube standards, respectful debate is raging about whether or not she's just copying Dina.

Meanwhile, lest you think that that costume marks a new era of austerity for dancers, check out the 'groping hands' cups on this bra!:

"I'm a woman, honey, not a radio. Twisting those things won't get you WKRP FM."

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Time travelling

Quite often I do some digging around in various online archives, and here's some stuff I've dusted off from the Guardian's. I unearthed this 1999 gem about the state of belly dance in Cairo. It features a few soundbites from Yasmina of Cairo and touches on the West's dubious contribution to the artform: the use of pop music. (Foxy has already provoked, erm, 'lively' debate over at Shimmies, Sequins & Slippers on this very issue. (For what it's worth - i.e. nothing - in my humble opinion it's a bit like the old maxim about playing jazz. Once you know the rules about dancing to Arabic music, then you can go off and dance to pop music occasionally. Otherwise you may as well take up street dancing.)) Since this was written over ten years ago, it would be great if there was a follow-up piece about how the Arab Spring has or hasn't affected the Egyptian dance scene. But I won't hold my breath.

There's also this Q & A with one of my teachers, Jo Wise, in which she dispenses such pearls of wisdom as "No six pack, no problem." Ladies and gentlemen, I do believe I've found the legend I will have tattooed in Gothic script across my bread basket, Tommy Lee-styles.

And finally, this very, very, short-to-the-point-of-why-bother? bit about male dancers in Istanbul, which opens with the most deliciously terrible opening sentence since "It was a dark and stormy night":
"When darkness falls over the Bosphorus, veils are adjusted and sequins shimmer."
Don't think too hard about that one, 'kay? If you start wondering how sequins can shimmer in the darkness and why the night seemingly gets really clumsy over the Bosphorus and so on, your head is going to explode.