Hello - time to start blogging.....


1st September

Gulp !


So today is a day of lists, lists and more lists.  I had stocked the freezer up with meals for my babes, but then my hubby broke the oven over the weekend while we were away, so I’ve had to scrap all those ideas and turn towards boil in the bag and spaghetti hoops.  Did any children ever die of eating Hoops, crisps and chocolate for a week ? - they will probably grow three inches !

I also went to the chiropractor as it was time to finally admit that I had hurt my back last week loading the car.  She did an amazing job but I have to face it that the glasses dance is not going to happen - its actually very physically demanding - and having missed a week of practice I’m not going to be good enough.  Instead I’ve decided to do the Fire Dance, which is a much more emotional dance (plus the costume is light enough to go in my suitcase)

I have a heap of things piled up that may or may not end up in my suitcase. A list of clothes I want to take that may or may not be in the pile, or the ironing - I'm pretty sure nothing is in the wash basket. I also bought a new Pashmina and a huge handbag for the flight, so no problem with taking 3 books, iPod, posh headphones and a change of clothes for the flight.

I've been watching Nisha from Tabu on YouTube - she is organising the Sunday night show and has been really nice to me over email. I love her dancing. Check her out if you have time.

ok - back to lists and updating the web site and sorting out shimmy news and putting name labels in school shirts....


3rd September


threw a complete wobbly yesterday and decided to have a day off cos its my youngest's first day at secondary school today. We had a long walk in the woods, chatting just the two of us, threw sticks for the dog then went into town to get my dollars and drink coffee in Neros. Today I'm still very teary, especially when I went to make his bed. Its been a wonderful long summer and I'm really sad its over. And now I have to go away and leave them all for a week. I know its contrary cos that's what I wanted, but it seemed like a good idea in February and now it seems like madness. Although there is nothing I can do about the summer being over, and if I was home I would see them for about 10 minutes each as their social lives kick in again and they don’t want to spend time with mum. Going away now is a great idea, but I just need to remind myself a bit....


Ok, packing lists calls - x


Thursday 4th September


Today has been a day of travelling. Very odd to be sat in the dark, by the pool in the heat making these notes. I left the house before the children, who waved me off for a change and got to the new terminal 5 building with plenty of time. The flight to America was long and boring, made worse by being sat with a pair who had to complain about everything and wanted to chat while I slept and then sleep once I’d woken up (I went straight into US time on the flight). While I was asleep all wrapped up in my pasmina someone tripped up the aisle and threw beer all over me. Nothing smells as grotty as old beer and now my beautiful pasmina that I was going to use to dress up every outfit (not to mention cuddle on the way home) is ruined til I can wash it. Added to this my room is dark, overlooks the car park and my neighbours just shouted out the window what they would like to do with any female they could find. Hmmm things can only get better.



Friday 5th September


I slept for three hours and then another three hours, so I figured that was pretty good. The workshops started at 8.30 and I had been worried about sleeping in but as it was I got to Starbucks for 6.30 and found myself with two hours to kill. Las Vegas hotels are really a very different world. At 6.30 am there are people of all ages (although mostly over 60), on the fruit machines – they smoke, they drink and instead of posting in coins they push in a credit card and off they go. I spent ten minutes watching all the flashing lights until the coffee kicked in and I could face getting up and going to sit by the pool with the paper. It’s a hard life :)

My first workshop was with Kami Liddle, who is stunningly beautiful, much more so without her costume and make up than should be allowed. She focused on answering questions and drilling through moves and combinations that we requested. She had some amazing drill ideas, but was very kind and just made us repeat things til it hurt, not til we wanted to die. She then built up combinations into a short but complex choreography – its not the kind of thing I could use because it only used about 30 seconds of music (with about 100 moves !) and you would have to use the same level of skill and intensity for the whole of the music, but it was interesting to see how detailed she breaks down the music and how much she manages to do in so little time.

My afternoon workshop was with Ava Fleming – her workshop was split into two sections. The first again was a short choreography that really gave a feel for her style and she was very good at breaking down the moves and explaining the weight shifts so that we all managed some amazing turns and combinations. The second half was looking at emotion in dance and used the same exercises that we do in class. Actually I was very surprised to be doing that as part of an advanced workshop and even more surprised that most of my class mates had never done anything like it before. To me this is a key element of bellydance and something that needs to be attempted right from the first beginners class, but maybe that does show the big difference between the British and American dancers ?

I had a little spare time at the end of this session and went to get my daily dose of chicken soup – I have real trouble eating while I’m away from home, but figured a giant latte and a bowl of chicken soup each day was probably all the food I really needed.

In the evening we had our first show – “A night in the city of Riches” set in the beautiful Clark County Theatre. This was a stage show highlighting some of the weekends instructors and friends of the event. The standard and tone was a bit up and down, but I particularly loved Leyla Amir, Kami, Ava and Delois Ladelle, who not only danced but also sang for us ! At the opening of the second half we had a special guest in the form of Miss USA, who is herself learning to dance and is working on a charity for empowering young women, using things like bellydance class. She was a really inspiring speaker and found a lot of support within the room.


Saturday 6th September


Holding my mega latte I made it to the workshops for the 8am start – the next two days would be shorter hour and a half workshops, all picked very randomly depending on teachers I wanted to meet, subjects that sounded fun and topics I need to work on. First I did some dancing to 9/8 then it was on to Sasha for a combination workshop that included some really nice travelling and layering over a hip rotation. After lunch (the other half of my muffin) I did a Zills workshop with Sharid Sana. She can do some amazing things with the zills and gave me lots of ideas of things I can work on to try to improve mine. Next came the most charming Teresa and Bonnie from Tsingani. This workshop was all about working on synchronicity in tribal numbers and is something they have down to a fine art. We worked in pairs, not only matching the key moves but also looking for the little differences that make our dance look like our partners. Its really the kind of thing that would take years to perfect, but it was fun to work on it for an hour or so. Last but not least was Saida’s workshop on creating multiple layers, which included lots of cool moves and some neat footwork.

After the workshops I had half an hour in the sun and Jacuzzi, which was already pretty full of bellydancers and body builders – no really !! – One of the other conference rooms in the hotel was being used for a female body building contest. So all day long we had watched these beautiful, muscular women walking round in their bikinis, while we all strutted our stuff in our leggings and crop tops. For entertainment value a lot of the men who were there to hold body builders handbags and apply last minute baby oil were dribbling at the sight of so many bellydancers in one place. However it also has to be said that the men who were holding bellydancers handbags and putting chopsticks and feathers into hair were also somewhat distracted by the body builders. Very much a case of admiring what you cant have ! I did think it unfair that the body builders, who presumably just bring a bag with their bikini, the baby oil and some hair straighteners tended to have very strong bag carriers, while we tend to wear costumes as heavy as ourselves and have to ask for a hand down from the table.

After a shower and change it was off to the cocktail party where there was a chance to meet Elvis and have a photo with the two stunning show girls who then opened the “Viva Raks Vegas” gala show, with a great version of “Little Egypt”. Yes I went to Vegas and saw an Elvis show ! – and he was really good, got the evening off to an amazing start and really rocked the room. The gala show was much more posh Hafla staging, but to my mind the standard of the performances was just as high as the stage show if not more so. In the first half the groups really stood out – firstly I got to see Tabu who I love to watch on YouTube. Go and look at them now !, they really have a sense of humour and seamlessly mix perfect tribal moves with theatre. Then Aradia and the Ra Dancers contrasted that with a classic “bellydance” number full to brimming with big smiles, sparklies and grace. The second half was completely stolen for me by Tsingani who used their amazing synchronicity and interaction to totally captivate the audience. Not only was their timing beautiful, but they exchanged looks and smiles that made the whole thing look like the best fun ever. It’s the first time in a while that I have really wanted to jump up on stage and join in. If only ! The evening ended with Karim Nagi who performs percussion in a whole new way. He covers the stage with energy and humour and yet still manages to catch that beat. I could have watched him all night but all too soon the show was over and it was time for bed.


Sunday 7th September


Sunday morning and while I slept better I was starting to hurt all over and was glad that this would be the last day of dancing – then it hit me – today is the day I have to perform !

My first workshop was on the Fundamental turning techniques and was lead by Jasmine who was one of the best teachers I have met in a long time. She broke each of the many turns down into each step, weight shift and balance point. Finally I feel like I understand the theory of turning !!! (wait and see if I can actually do some decent turns). This was followed by Lebanese combinations which is where I lost my first veil of the day ! After lunch there was a workshop with Oberon, who I have long admired and she really lived up to expectations. She broke down a very complex veil unwrap and gave us lots of idea on how to use each stage of it – and best of all she had handouts with pictures !!! Half way through the workshop I had to sit back, partly because I was so tired, but mostly because I wanted to watch her dance – all the delicate little nuances that made her style so appealing.. Then it was straight into Naimah and Nisha of Tabu’s workshop, which was one of the most delightful choreographies I’ve done in a long time. Moving away from the question of how much Tribal can be used in choreographies, this had lots of changes of tempo, level and atmosphere. I left my email for a hand out and hope it arrives soon, otherwise I will have to find a youtube clip in order to be able to practice along some more. Last was Layla Amir, and how I wish I had done her workshop the day before too ! – Leyla is one of the most expressive dancers I have ever seen. She truly makes the music visual. You can come up with whatever “rules” you like, but nothing comes close to the way people like her can simply tell you what the music says and that’s it, learnt ! – no need to drill or practice. The music says this, we do this, see how it works !? Unfortunately this is where I lost my second veil of the day – moral “never take anything to a workshop you can’t afford to lose!”

And then the panic really set in – I had one of the quickest showers of my life and was outside the hotel waiting for a cab, fully made up within the hour. Just my luck the taxi rank that had been filled all weekend was now empty and I had a major stress for half an hour before a very nice man came and picked me up to take me across town to the Royal Persis where I was to perform as part of the after party. The venue was great, nice food, good dance space and the chance to sit and chat to other dancers at last. To be honest the whole night went in a blur – I have no idea how I danced, but I enjoyed myself and that’s the important thing. Then it was back to the hotel for a good nights sleep.


Monday 8th September


I woke up in time to do more workshops and then had a wonderful half hour back in bed when I remembered that work was over and it was time for a bit of a holiday. Then I changed into my bikini, collected my coffee and headed down to the pool for a couple of hours sunbathing and reading my book. After a shower and change I hopped on the free bus onto the strip. My first plan was to collect all my theatre tickets, which would take me from one end to the other and actually took me the rest of the day. While out and about I explored various hotels, some of which were very grand and beautiful, some were cheap, dirty and tacky but all had the constant beeps and flashing lights of the fruit machines. I sat and people watched a lot, or stood in the sun and watched the sites. By mid afternoon I’d made it to the Ballagio just in time to see the famous fountain show and then it was a short trip on the bus to the other end and the Wynn where my other tickets were waiting. I headed back to the hotel for an hour by the pool and then it was back on the bus and to the strip with lots of time to spare before the first show. I killed the time with a massage, which really undid the knots in my shoulders and then went over to Treasure Island to watch the Pirates storm the Sirens ship –there was lots of fireworks, but not much real action! For that it was a quick trip across the road to the Wynn theatre to see Le Reve. Obviously I had limited time (and a limited budget) so when picking shows to see it had come down to this or Love by Cirque du Soleil for the Monday night– but Brad of Tribe fame had told me this was the show to see and so I did as I was told. And he was so right! – How to explain this show? its done in the round, with a stage that is in lots of sections and each section can raise up into the roof or drop down so that the stage fills with water. The show is performed by a mix of dancers, actors, synchronised swimmers, strong men, acrobats and trapeze artists, all of who take each other’s skills and show them off to their best. The tone was so upbeat and the energy knocked me back. There were many moments when I found myself mouth open like a goldfish – but the one that springs to mind was when a man was lowered from the ceiling on a rope and took the wrist of his partner who was stood on the stage, lifting her up about 8 floors before letting her go so she could fall to where water had now appeared – and she never came up (presumably swimming off stage without us noticing!).

It was beautiful walking back to the bus stop looking at the night skyline, but I needed an early night cos the next morning was my trip to Red Rock.


Tuesday 9th September


I found myself outside the hotel at 7.15 looking through the traffic to try and spot my Jeep - when it arrived I realised how silly I had been ! It was sooo pink it was doubtful anyone could miss it. All aboard were Europeans, a couple, a mother a daughter over for the shopping and a guy with a spare day from a business trip. I got to sit up front with the driver and control the air conditioning :)

We headed out of town and into the Red Rock area, stopping first for a quick history lesson and the essential gift shop purchases. Words can't explain how stunning it is out there and the contrast to the town is immense. Quickly you realise that 360* of view is breathtaking and all you can do is stand and take it in one direction at a time. The rock formations change within metres of each other and the contrasts in color, texture and scale are extreme. I loved it.

We spent about half the time off road and the driver obviously loved making us squeal as he seemed to avoid the obvious route time and time again to take us over bumps, dips and off at strange angles. During this time I spotted a huge bird which he first suggested could be a crow - I thought they had funny crows in the US and asked why it was so brown with the odd markings. He took a look, stopped the jeep, took another look and then confirmed that it was a golden eagle - he got very excited and started radioing other jeeps. I guess it was a pretty rare sight ! I tried to take photos, but it was pretty impossible with my pocket camera, instead I just stood and watched as it caught the breeze and drifted across the valley. I did get a bit tearful, but then I've always enjoyed watching birds of prey flying free since my first boyfriend let me join him bird watching (we were 9 at the time).

Once back at the hotel I had the afternoon to swim and sunbathe before it was back to the strip to see the Follies. I had felt a bit odd about going to see a topless show on my own, but then my hubby pointed out that the pervs have much better entertainment supplied to them in Las Vegas, so maybe everyone else would just be normal like me....

The theatre is set up with tables for 6, and I shared the table with a couple who were originally from Mexico, but now live in Las Vegas and see the show regularly, and a couple on holiday from Texas who thought that having the name Sarah would mean that I would be interested in American politics. But actually it was really nice to sit and chat to non bellydancers.

The show itself was very disappointing. I guess I was expecting something of a really high standard, filled with glamour, great song and dance, class and high production - instead what I got as a big Butlins show.... and I've nothing against Butlins shows, its just that the cast tend to be tired, energy low and lack attention to detail. The ensemble was a mix of acrobats and dancers, (no one sung - or even mimed !) and each had to do a bit of both, which meant that half the dancers were a bit off beat and half the tumbling involved people faking it. One poor guy, who could actually do some amazing flips, was in the middle at the front for a Samba number and he made an art of stepping on the 2 beat - I just spend the whole number watching his partners toes and wondering how often he stepped on her.

Mixed in was a singer - who could sing !, a juggler - who could juggle, contortionists who could both get in a tube and walk around using a leg each....and a comedian - erm.

As to the naked ladies - I know that's what you really care about !! - when they were doing their walking around in the amazing costumes it was kind of nice, but when they started to dance I was wincing cos that must hurt !!! I was also very worried about their size. Honestly they made the Bellydance Superstars look like size 20s - I know the big shoes help them look tall and thin, but I also think they might add shader to their ribs and collar bones to make them stand out. Part of me hopes so.

BUT - the tickets were cheap. This was my cheap night out and it did feel like I'd had a cheap night out. I wouldn't recommend it to anyone who loves dancing, but I guess if you went in a group it would be an enjoyable night out.


Wednesday 10th September


Hmmm... are you bored of hearing about me, the pool, the sunshine.....

I did go to the gym !!! I know how sad that makes me sound, but I was going to spend the next day on a plane and had spent the last three days on a lounger, so it felt like I needed to get my blood moving.

So actually I did nothing on Wednesday til it was time to go out and see "O" by Circ du Solaire.

This again is a water show, mixing trapeze, syncro, acrobatics, strong man, dance and theatre - but the whole tone was very different from Le Reve. This was classical to Mondays rock, art to scribbles - but thats not to say I preferred it. Actually the energy of Le Reve had rather spoilt me and I spend alot of the show knowing what I was looking at was very pretty and clever but not loving it all the same. It was like looking at the Hay Wain - you know its brilliant, beautifully constructed, balancing tone, light and darkness - but you don’t have to like it. Sometimes it was too clever - for example when I got home Hubby said did I see the show with the world record breaking man on fire act. And I'd forgotten that bit.... man on fire for the longest time ever in a stage show and I'd not really noticed. Other times it was breathtakingly stunning. I should have seen it first.


Thursday 11th September


and it was time to go home. Actually not til 2pm, so I did get a bit of sunbathing in :)

short shuttle bus to the airport where I set off all the alarms and had to be searched in the cage. Little hop to Los Angles where I also set off all the alarms, had to spend 20 minutes in a bomb proof cage before getting an "under the skin" search - which is not what you think (and I thought when told I had to have one !), but involves someone jabbing their fingers into your flesh and paying a lot of attention to your arm pits.

I'm sure the other passengers were delighted to see my on their flight.

I sat with two other ladies who were on their own and we got talking. I suggested that we should snuggle and I think they were both relieved that I had suggested it (neither ran off screaming to move seat), so we lifted our arm rests, shared out the blankets, pillows and pashminas and all snuggled in a heap for 6 hours. This has to be my top tip for travelling. Honestly you are going to have to share personal space, why not admit it and get on with it ! - My best flight back was from New York where I shared three seats with a nice man in his 40s and again I suggested snuggling. He put his feet in my foot space, I tucked my feet underneath his bum, he leant onto my knees and we both fell fast asleep. You know he never called !!






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