I started dancing about 20 years ago in Leeds. I went to a fancy dress party dressed as a belly dancer and all my friends wanted me to dance. I couldn't. It's not that I am shy or retiring .... I just didn't know how! I heard about classes and started going occasionally. I gradually got more interested and was soon a regular then started travelling to workshops. Josephine Wise was a huge influence and great inspiration – I would go to as many of her workshops as I could and if I was ever in London, ensure it co-incided with a night she ran a dance class. Going to her annual week long summer schools really pushed my dancing. Then I did the JWAAD Teacher Training course with Jo and Maggie Caffrey. It was worth every penny. I learnt so much even though I was already teaching regularly by this time. I am now head of JWAAD Teacher Training. I enjoy teaching and regularly teach workshops at big events such as Fantasia, Bellydance Congress, Raqs Britannia and JOY. I love introducing people to this style of dance. It never ceases to amaze me the different types of people it attracts. I want people to learn to love the music, understand the culture that it comes from and the impact this has on it, I want them to appreciate the skill involved and the unique interaction there is between the dancer, the musicians and the audience. Every woman can do this dance .... Each to their own personal level. Not everyone wants to be a performer. In Egypt everyone dances .... Not to 'perform' but for the joy of dance and the fun of it. I want my classes to be fun and for people to get out of it something that enriches their life.

Importing costumes is interesting. Buying and choosing designs is the fun part! I have become good friends with many of the designers in Cairo & Istanbul. Stock taking, cataloguing and updating things is a complete headache! But I must have one of the best wardrobes of dance costumes in the UK! It's why I love performing – I get to wear all my fab cossies! Travelling around the UK and selling them is a lot of miles but I love meeting up with old friends and making new ones.

Taking groups to Cairo is 50% pleasure and 50% achieves nightmarish qualities. I love showing people round, taking them to dance shows – from 5 star luxury to 50p dives! But Cairo is like quicksand – everything changes from one hour to the next. Nothing is definite until it is actually happening. This is a nightmare when you are leading a group.

In 2001, I asked for a 6 month sabatical from my day job as customer service manager in BT. It was refused so I decided to leave. By this time I was teaching 5 classes a week, selling costumes & running holidays - I knew I could support myself with dance - even if not quite to the levels I had been used to. I left in March 2002 and then in the summer of 2002 I stayed in Cairo for three months. I studied Arabic and can now read and write!! Though my vocabulary is limited so I may not understand the words! I helped Raqia Hassan with the 2002 Dance Festival in Cairo (& 2003 & 2005 & 2006). What an experience! Everyone should go at least once! I also studied dance with her. She is the top teacher / choreographer in Cairo. I learnt so much and came away inspired by it all. I made so many contacts & so many friends. My dancing changed beyond recognition & I felt like my body had developed it's own style as opposed to me just doing steps I had learnt.

For me, what started as a hobby has now become my business. I hope I never loose my love for it. At the moment though, I am continuing to learn and the more I learn, the more I find it continues to inspire me.

Just as I think everything is settling down and balancing out, some new idea or project inspires me & we enter another whirlwind of chaos. The last was the Farha tour where we brought a full Egyptian band and dancers to the UK from Cairo. You can order the DVD on line - just go to the Farida Souk. We have launched a new web site just for the tour www.farhatour.com Check it out.

Likes : Dancing, cooking and eating good food & KLM in flight entertainment & the Lady Boys of Bangkok.

If you haven't seen them, you should!

Dislikes : Primadonnas and MacDonalds

Star sign : Cancer


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