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Our London Scene: A Guide

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Clubs, Events, and Resources

by Anne White
posted September 10, 2010

Hi to all our state-side friends over “The Pond” and elsewhere! For those intending to visit London, I thought you would like a “What’s on in London?” guide to spice up any intended visit–whether now or future.

This guide is a selection of people and places you would like to know about, and is an updated version of Alexandria’s Guide submitted to the Gilded Serpent some time ago. I thought it would be useful to put my potted experience to accompany the context of Alexandria’s article.

London is huge! It takes ages to get around! If you are coming to London, here is a link with advice on how to get around the transport in London and plan your journey.

For Arab Clubs and Restaurants

Ewa Horsfield is a celebrated teacher and performer who studied Egyptian Oriental dance– first in London and then, in Egypt. She was one of the first to gain a certificate from Raqia Hassan’s Intensive Winter Course for Teachers in Cairo. Ewa continues to participate regularly in the Ahlan Wa Sahlan Festival in Cairo.

As a performer, Ewa has a following among dance enthusiasts for her passionate and deeply informed expression and her commitment to improvisation. She has had a life-long engagement with arts, culture, and world music that has influenced her unique style. She teaches regular classes and workshops in London, as well as at festivals, and privately at her own studio.

Regular Events

Planet Egypt
This event, created and hosted by me, is held monthly on the last Thursday of every month. With the best of UK national and International dancers and musicians, and two-year performance waiting lists, we are number 1 at what we do. This is an intimate environment which allows the audience to be very close to the performers providing a very “real” experience. Attended by big names in the community, along with press, publicity agents, and celebrities, this is a great opportunity to network, have fun, and be inspired in an Arabic-themed, Oriental-style Arabic night club.

Saqarah
In 2008, Saqarah was conceived by two Belly dance enthusiasts, Nafiseh and Eshta who wanted to create a new style of Belly dance party. One Saturday each month, Saqarah gives students, amateur, and professional Belly dancers a chance to perform and have a fantastic night out. Fun and informal, with a strong focus on quality, Saqarah has seen the very best of home-grown and international Belly dance talents in many styles grace this stage, whilst always offering a varied and exciting show!

The event’s current home is in the St. Aloysius Social Club right next to the Euston Station. Saqarah is not only a monthly Belly dance show, but includes shopping opportunities with souks, an Arabic disco, and the ever popular dance-off competition!

SaqarahBellyworld presents
The Silk Route Arabian Cabaret

Bellyworld is the monthly creation of dancers Eva Green, Nancy Englefield and Michelle Kelsall-Singleton.

“For us, Belly dance is not just entertaining and alluring; at its best, it is an art form of great beauty. As such, we respect its origins and also wish to explore the links that the dances of the Middle East have with other disciplines, hence the common threads in our Silk Route shows. Our aim is to bring the Belly dance community together as well as to introduce this dance to others who may be unaware of the depth and variety held within Belly dancing. Each month, we spotlight another genre. It could be dances from other disciplines, such as classical Indian or from a specific region such as Hungary. Not only does this bring a distinctive element to our show, it also reveals the sometimes unexpected connections between different dances.”

Arabic & Turkish Club Night, with Live Belly Dance Performance
This event is held quarterly and was founded by Egyptian Supremo Shafeek Ibrahim and his wife Tara. Both of these highly acclaimed artists perform along with students from their stage school Arabian Dance Theatre, and with select invited performers.

Other Events

  • Egyptian Music and Dance Day produced by the Raqs Sharqi Society – This event is held yearly with the next event scheduled for November
    13, 2010
    . They feature live music event with some performances.
  • Fantasia, London Fantasia Festival – Fantasia is a yearly festival of Belly dance, and usually takes place on the second weekend in December in West London. It has two days of dance workshops, a souk selling dance costumes, class gear, CDs, DVDs and props such as veils, canes, and much more.Fantasia has been running since 2000, and has always had a friendly and supportive atmosphere. It is London’s ongoing annual festival attracting dancers from all over the UK and abroad. A Saturday night show includes famous international star names as well as student performances.

    Stars who have taught and performed at Fantasia include Yousry Sharif, Raqia Hassan, Aida Nour, Samasem, Lubna, Hassan Khalil, Gamal & Khaled Seif, Randa Kamel, Yasmina of Cairo, Ozgen and Princess Farhana

    The Fantasia Festival is produced by Josephine Wise, who is one of the founding members of the Middle Eastern Dance community in the UK. The Josephine Wise Academy of Arabic DanceJWAAD – is the largest school in Britain, and runs teacher training courses as well as classes and workshops for all levels.

  • The International Bellydance Congress – also produced by Josephine Wise
    The International Bellydance Congress is held approximately once every two years and is a huge international event for Belly dance.We have had an international lineup of stars each time, including Fifi Abdou, Raqia Hassan, Randa Kamel, Khaled and Shafeek from Egypt, Sahira, Razia, Sadie, Jim Boz, and Fahtiem, from the USA, Beata & Horacio Cifuentes, Leila Haddad, Leyla Jouvana, Anasma and Les Soeurs Tribales from Europe, and many more.

    In 2009 approximately 1,0000 dancers attended and over 3 days enjoyed 75 workshops, 3 shows stuffed full with international stars, the biggest sales bazaar in the UK, a performance platform and the Isis & Cleopatra Award competitions for professional and amateur dancers. The first congress was held in September 2007 and was run by Josephine Wise, Edwin Wood and Irene Wood. The second Congress was held in September 2009 and was run by Josephine Wise, Kay Taylor, Charlotte Desorgher, and Sophie Wise.

    Charlotte Desorgher is a big name in the UK and hosts many famous international artists for workshops and haflas (parties). She is also within travelling distance from London.

You will find that there are loads of dancers in London. We give all our Belly dance friends a big, warm welcome. There are more events here than I have featured, but I am giving you the ones I most recommend. I did write to all the organizers and contacts that I have but not all were able to furnish me with the details that I needed. Mostly, I have used their own words to tell you about themselves and their events. I have been to all the ones that I have listed and I recommend them. If you are coming to London, see here on my website for updated information on London events: http://www.planetegypt.co.uk/events_london.shtml

International Bellydance CongressThe following resources are available also:

Magazines

  • I am a columnist for the free e-magazine Nafoura, that covers the London Scene and much more.
  • Other magazines such as Mosaic, and NADA, also serve the UK community.

Chat Forums

Museums to Visit

Theatres and Concert Venues

  • The Barbican-Hosts regular concerts of world music (Gypsy, Arabic and Islamic).
  • Royal Festival Hall-Situated on London’s South Bank, hosts world music events including Arab and North African singers and musicians.

Groups/Events/Cultural Places of Interest in London

  • Caravansary– Sufi meditation, drumming, poetry readings, and music events.
  • Silk Roads– An organization of the best artist amateurs specializing in traditions from the Middle-East and beyond. We offer workshops, performances and entertainment to schools, museums, festivals and private events.
  • School of African and Oriental Studies– Free monthly lectures on Middle Eastern culture, –occasionally with music.
  • London Middle East Institute– Research into all aspects of the Middle East.
  • Islam Expo– Conferences, exhibitions, demonstrations, souk, concerts, films, history, art. The largest Islamic event in Europe. Dance is extremely unlikely to be featured at this event, and please be mindful of Islamic protocols in dress and behaviour.
  • DialogueSociety– A London based organization with strong Turkish connections, promoting Muslim culture, love and respect for others. Offers educational talks and programmes, including hosting Whirling Dervishes and Sufi music events.
  • Cultural Co-Operation– A London based organization which hosts International festival every year–talks and music–some of which are free.
  • The Egyptian Cultural Bureau– Lectures, concerts, exhibitions and other events,as well as Arabic language classes.
    London Tel: 0207 491 7720.
    Email: egypt.culture@btconnect.com

Do be sure to verify the accuracy of this information (which is current as of July 2010). Enjoy London, and come and say “Hi” to me–if you can!

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