Tag Archive: Belly dance


Shisha in the Islamic section.

The Abbey Tournament is the biggest  medieval festival in the Southern hemisphere. Last year we went for one day, there was so much to see that this year we went for the weekend.

Queensland lived up to its old pre-flood and pre-cyclone Yasi tag of ‘beautiful one day, perfect the next.’ The winter mornings were cold, but they soon warmed up and we had two days of perfect, sunny weather.

March practice at the Janissary Barracks.

Fortune Teller caravan at the Shuvani Romani Kumpania campsite.

As I’ve been learning to belly dance for the past 18 months, and Chris had no special interest in any particular era, I ended up dragging him to lots of Turkish/Middle Eastern things at the Janissary Barracks, and we visited the beautiful and colourful campsite of the Shuvani Romani Kumpania several times. I love all the colours, drumming, music and dance of the Romanis, and the Kazuri Tribe, and danced in both of their workshops. It was basic beginners folk-step, and shimmies and things like that: a lot of fun. Unfortunately they didn’t trust us to dance with their veils or swords.

 

 

 

Poor Chris had to endure watching a lot of belly dancing over the weekend, but he didn’t complain. To balance things out, I made sure we watched some oiled-up men demonstrating Turkish oil wrestling: OK, so that was really for my benefit. The oil wrestling was one of the things I wanted to see last year but we didn’t have time. It was very physical and fun to watch, but I do hope they put sunscreen on before the oil, I’d hate to think they were dehydrating and frying in the heat. The lovely Kazuri Tribe ladies belly danced for us in between bouts, so there was no escape for Chris… again.

Kazuri Tribe ladies dancing.

I did sometimes manage to drag myself away from the belly dancers, (although distant drumming usually called me back). I mixed it up a bit with other eras and cultures so Chris wouldn’t get bored. One of the things we had to see was the jousting, which although very entertaining, was almost out-shone by the witty commentary. It’s worth the extra $2.00 on top of the entry fee to watch one bout of jousting, and they joust three times a day so it’s easy to work it around other reenactments of other eras in other areas.

Jousters

We also managed to fit in knights and other gentlemen (and women,) fighting and fencing.

Fighting knights

Practicing swordplay

Other weapon demonstrations included; cannons, trebuchets, and archery. There were people performing Celtic songs, a harpist, and music on interesting instruments like the hurdy gurdy. We watched funny juggling jesters and graceful stilt-walkers, morris-dancers, and medieval dancers. There were henna artists, palm readers, coffee readers, furriers, weavers, blacksmiths, and people making chain-maille and jewellery.  We ate venison pie at the Stag Inn, (sorry Bambi) and I found out what chevron pie is, (it’s goat.) I also had my first taste of Strongbow Pear Cider. Yes I know that’s not strictly in keeping with medieval times, but still, it was nice.

One of the two tree-lady stilt-walkers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We didn’t see much of the birds of prey, they are on our list for next year, and so is having a camel ride and trying honey mead and mulled wine. There is a lot going on, and with 37 groups all doing their thing, plus food, and stalls, even two days wasn’t enough time to see everything.

We did have a go at shooting targets with a bow and five arrows, I did quite well, but I also took longer than everyone else in my line: sorry to the people waiting behind us.

I did the henna workshop at the Kazuri Tribe tents. The history and the way they make henna was really interesting, but I soon found out my decorating skills are not that great. Again, I was the last to leave, and now I have really dodgy doodles on my left hand and arm for the next couple of weeks. But I’m not complaining, it’s a nice reminder of a wonderful weekend.

Shuvani Romani dancers

That’s me, dressed up.

Shuvani Romani Kumpania ladies, and me back in my jeans and Tshirt.

For more information on the Shuvani Romani Kumpania visit  http://www.souldance.com.au/

For more information on the Kazuri  Tribe,  http://www.kazuritribe.com.au/

Last year I started going to Belly Dance classes with my daughter Sarah. Sarah has ten solid years of dance lessons behind her; tap, ballet, jazz, contemporary, hip hop, you name it, she did it. I had had a few weeks of dance classes here and there (various genres) scattered across my adult life, never sticking to any of them. We started early in 2010 alongside maybe 20 or 30 other women, mostly beginners, unaware of the fact that we would both be hopelessly hooked by the end of the first term and that having previous dance experience did not matter at all.

Belly dance attracts all sorts; young, old, and all ages in between, all levels of fitness, and all body shapes. The only demographic we didn’t seem to have was men, and men do belly dance, I’ve seen them on YouTube. Anyway, the others were mostly novices like me, middle-aged women (though I hate to admit it) out to have some fun while getting fit. There were some women who’d already been hooked the previous year and came back for more.

About half the class lasted all four terms, and the rest fell by the wayside for whatever reason. Perhaps they thought it was getting too hard, I must admit, at first the moves seemed easy, even I, with no formal training, could make them look good, but as the year wore on I realised how diverse the dance is, how hopelessly inadequate I was, and how much I still had to learn. Not that that was a bad thing, sponge-like I just absorbed more and more, and I’ve a feeling it will be a never-ending lesson.

There are so many variations of costumes, dance styles, and dance moves.  A costume can be a neck-to-ankle kaftan style outfit, showing next to no shape at all, or a sparkly, ‘look-at-me-I’m-gorgeous’ bra, belt and skirt set, with a thigh-high split. Or there’s the gypsy style full skirts accessorised with a decorative belt and pompoms. A costume can be simple or elaborate, and so can the accessories, a plethora of glittering jewellery, or a simple, fresh flower in the hair. The dance styles are just as diverse, and these are only a small handful; authentic Egyptian or Turkish belly dance, cabaret style, gypsy, or the newer fusions with Gothic, Industrial and Tribal dance. That’s just a small drop in the ocean of what is out there to discover! I have found some dances are elegant and aloof, some are cheeky and fun, and some are downright dark and scary: something for everyone.

There are props too, canes, zills (finger cymbals), veils, swords. Yes swords: dancing while balancing a sword on your head, how awesome is that? We didn’t get that far last year, we did do some veil work and I spent a lesson getting tangled up in a 3 meter veil: It’s harder than it looks, I’d be deadly with a sword.

I think it can also be a very personal expression sort of dance, if you want to get away from the traditional ‘dance oriental’ you can fuse your own style of belly dance to whatever music you like, and there are plenty of examples of that on YouTube. Who knew that you could belly dance to Nine Inch Nails or Depeche Mode? Well, I know now, and so do you.

And so this year it begins again. This weekend I’m starting off my new year of belly dance by having dinner with some of my classmates from last year at Raks The Kasbah. Our talented teacher Ainslie is one of the dancers performing on the night. And on February 28, Sarah and I will start going to classes again. I can’t wait for another year of learning, performing, and drooling over pretty hip scarves, jewellery and other belly dance related paraphernalia. Seriously, I could spend so much money it’s not funny, but I need money for my other pursuits of music, comedy and holidays.

Apart from the fun and the exercise, the other thing that belly dance has given me is confidence. In 2009, I would never have imagined that in 2010 I would be dancing on stage, in a sparkly and revealing costume showing my midriff. It’s an outcome that I did not expect, and one that has spilled over into other aspects of my life. I’ve never been an extrovert, and I’ve always thought of myself as introverted and shy. It might be that as a late bloomer in my 40s I would have found some other way to express myself in an ‘extroverted’ way, I don’t know. But I’m glad I found this way and I’d recommend it to anyone.