Hafla 2004

Ann & Catherine after the Melaya dance

On 27th November 2004 in a dank and dingy room out in the middle of nowhere a group of Middle Eastern Dancers gathered for a magical night of Bellydance.

It was the first Hafla (hopefully of many!) organised by us at Sevenveils and Medway Middle Eastern Dance to celebrate the quality and diversity of bellydance in Kent. Over the last few years Middle Eastern Dance has grown in popularity in Medway and the surrounding areas. Many classes are now running, packed out with budding bellydance enthusiasts who were just waiting for a place to show off their new found skills and glamorous costumes.

So Stephen and myself, Catherine, took it upon ourselves to provide the first Hafla in Medway.

Catherine dances her solo

The day started off with three workshops, taught by teachers from the area. The first of these was a fascinating introduction to the American Tribal System provided by Rosie Harris (Gulirana) who teaches in Hoo.

After lunch, Julie Webster (Atiya) from Dartford wore us out with a fantastic Drum Solo workshop based around a choreography by Jillina of the Bellydance Superstars. It was a very energetic and uplifting workshop, and we all felt like we’d learnt a great deal from it.

Finally, Ann Hall (Atesh) of Medway Middle Eastern Dance brought the pace down again with a breakdown of the endless possibilities for dancing with a veil.

All the teachers were excellent, and their workshops demonstrated the diversity of the classes in the area.

Medway Middle Eastern Dance

Once the workshops were over everyone did their shopping at the fantastic souk provided by Mayaan of Brighton Orient and Rita of Revival, Rochester. The quality and quantity of the costumes, hip scarves, skirts and accessories dazzled everyone.

Gulirana (Rosie)

In the evening the part we had all been waiting for finally arrived. The Halfa!

A wide variety of performances were given, from folk dances to glamorous Cairo caberet, from brave dancers who had only been learning the art for a year to well practiced professionals, everyone was represented in this show.

We were very privileged to have Azhar, a group lead by Angela Wooi of Maidstone. They performed three dances; a Saidi inspired dance to Tamra Henna, a Fellahin dance choreographed by Mahmoud Reda and a glitzy Egyptian number to music by Amr Diab.

The second half was opened by Gulirana, Catherine and Diane Smith who had all stepped in at the last minute to cover for Tribal Sun, who were unable to make it. This went very well, especially as the dancers hadn’t even heard the music before hand!

Angela Wooi

We also had an amazing solo from Angela Wooi, who brought the house down with rapturous applause.

Atesh and Catherine performed a comic Melaya dance choreographed by Jo Wise to much laughter from the audience.

Finally we had two very special guests. Marwa, originally from Egypt danced beautifully, accompanied by her husband, Nagi who played tabla.

Many people commented on how good it was to see "the real thing" and how it gave them something to aspire to.

Here in the west we can learn technique in more detail, concentrating on every small aspect of the movements, without really understanding the dance as a whole.

We are not so good at improvising to our favourite tunes, nor can we sing along like Marwa.

Marwa

An understanding of what the dance means to an Egyptian girl cannot be grasped by westerners, no matter how technically "correct " we become. And for that reason, performances like Marwas will always be special.

Many thanks to everyone who did their bit for Medways first ever Hafla.