Performances

A really real review: The Theatrical Oriental Dance Festival Cape Town 2016

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I am very delayed with this review, but as the new dates for the TODF have recently been announced, I feel like it’s spurred me into action to finally write this post.

Around 2008, I attended my first dance festival – it was the International Oriental Dance Festival (IODF) which was held at the V&A Waterfront every year in October – usually the last weekend. Initially, the festival was 4 or 5 days long, with workshops and performances all day with a gala evening on the Thursday. I never managed to attend workshops or the gala evening in those early years as I was around 16 years old and it was impossible to get around on my own. Gradually, the workshops fell away around 2011 and it became a performance festival.

The IODF went on for many years and I believe the last festival was in 2015. (We went to watch, but performed last in 2014)

Last year, Beverli from Al-Masrah Academy announced that she would be reviving her festival, the Theatrical Oriental Dance Festival (TODF), which would also take place in October. This served as HUGE excitement for us, because honestly, performance opportunities are few and far between so any chance to get ourselves and our students up on stage is totally relished. This also served (in a way) to replace the IODF which had ceased the previous year.

Beverli had organised workshops to continue the entire weekend as well as a gala evening, a hafla and a photo shoot to be done in the CBD (with buses to transport us from Seapoint to the CBD) on the Saturday afternoon.

I signed up for 2 workshops –an ATS™ workshop with Nix from SOMA Dance Company on the Saturday and a floor work workshop from Elisabeth Wilhelm, who was then teaching in Zambia (now in Atlanta, I believe), on the Sunday.

We performed on the Saturday and I got a chance to watch performances on the Sunday afternoon.

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THE WORKSHOPS

There were an incredible amount of workshops going on over the TODF weekend, in fact Beverli had organised 5 different locations to make it possible for so many workshops to be held. In total, there were 31 workshops over the two festival days! Totally spoiled for choice, I chose one workshop on each day so that I would also have some time for getting dressed and performing on the Saturday. The workshops were very reasonably priced, which meant that taking more than one workshop became possible.

The ATS™ workshop with Nix was titled “Turns, Spins & Formations” and started early in the morning from 9:00 – 12:00. It was a really fantastic workshop and there were some wonderful dancers in the class which made it quite easy to follow along and learn in a comfortable environment. We had a slight hiccup with our workshop venue, as we arrived and found it locked. It was not opened for us by the start of the workshop and we travelled around to find appropriate spots. We eventually managed to find an empty room to finish the workshop.

Nix was fantastic the entire time, and really took the hiccups in her stride. I think it is quite commendable – I am not sure I would’ve been so calm if it were my workshop.

The content of the workshop included formations, spins and turns – as advertised! 😉 I would definitely have classified this more as a fusion workshop than purely ATS™. Although we did discuss and use ATS™ principles in the workshop, it included combos and other fusion techniques and formations more than ATS™. I found this workshop especially interesting as a teacher, because it opened up another level of thinking when creating choreographies and using formations in a way that keeps the combinations fresh and interesting. Even though the physical steps may not be super complicated, the change in formation makes it look that way. Hah! Interesting little tricks…

This workshop was listed as ALL LEVELS and I can definitely say it was accommodating for all level dancers. The more novice students in the class could keep up, while the more experienced could also benefit. I felt like it was a great balance.

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The floor work workshop was held on the Sunday, and was a 2 hour workshop. I chose this workshop because I have always loved the idea of floor work, but only recently feel like I have the physical strength to keep any of it up! This workshop covered the basics of floor work, how to get up and down safely and in a classy manner, as well as 2 short floor work combos, done to very different music to be adapted for any choreography or improv piece. I especially appreciated all the tips and tricks Elisabeth gave to us throughout the workshop, as I feel these are the polished pieces you can’t always get from a DVD or instructional video.

This workshop was listed as BEGINNER/INTERMEDIATE and I definitely agree that that was the level in the class. There were only 3 of us taking the workshop (the space was very small and I’m not sure it could’ve accommodated more students) and we ranged in 1 – 10 years of dance experience.

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THE PERFORMANCES

The open stage performances ran very smoothly and on time. We had enough time to change costumes between pieces and do a thorough warm up before heading back on stage. The change rooms were clean and not far from the stage and it was an easy transition from one to the other. We really enjoyed performing both our choreographies.
I feel that the level of performances varied greatly on the stage on both the Saturday and the Sunday. It was a good mix of novice and experienced dancers, but I think it would’ve been a good idea to have more of a distinction between the levels of dancers. (I believe this is changing for the TODF this year)

The attendance of the crowd at the TODF was not amazing. The hall stayed about half full, and I’d say about half of those watching the performances were other dancers. I think the location – at a high school – was a bit out of the way and seemed closed off to the public, and the chance of random people walking by and enjoying the show was very low.

I know that the venue is changing for 2017, and I’m interested to see how this works.

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FINAL THOUGHTS

I think the photo shoot session in the CBD was a bit unorganised and it seemed as though nobody was really sure if there was something specific we had to do or not.

The only other negative from the festival is that we weren’t allowed to take videos or photos, as we could pay somebody to record us and we would be sent the footage. We received the photos, but never the video. Initially, the problem was that the booked videographer had dropped the organiser the day before the festival. She scrambled to get somebody else, and we haven’t really heard much since then. In February, I heard that the footage was being collected, and beginning July we were told the footage is on the way.

I understand that it’s been a bit busy for Beverli since the festival last year (she opened a restaurant in Claremont) but it does leave a bit of a bitter taste in our mouths since it was paid for and never received. I am trying to be patient with it, because creating a festival as well as managing so many people as well as your own life can be very hectic, and having somebody drop you last minute is very scary and difficult to manage.

I think there is great promise with the TODF, but there are definitely kinks that need to be worked out. Overall, a fantastic idea and I really look forward to more of these. I find that these days, I am more prone to wanting workshops than performance opportunities, so this is a good blend for dancers like myself and those wanting to perform.

With the overall drop of dance festivals all over the world, I am interested to see how this plays out in the longer term. I would love for this to be a continuing festival that attracts bigger names from all over the country.

I thoroughly enjoyed the workshop template and the chance to perform! I am looking forward to what Beverli has to offer us in 2017!

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New video

So here is a video, of me in studio last night. I love this song by Beats Antique and I finally decided to just try a bit of improv!

I obviously see a lot of mistakes and things I can do better in. I like improv though and I’d like to try and get better at it. I am actively working on dancing more and doing yoga more often, so I want to document any progress I might make.

Seeing yourself on video is a double-edged sword. It’s cool that I can see what I’ve improved on, but at the same time it shows me what I still need to do.

I’m trying to see that in a positive light – that I have never learned it all and that there is always so much for me to do! It’s a never-ending journey! 🙂

My Makeup Transitions & Some Tips

I have said before that I know next to nothing about make up. I was always hopelessly lost when I needed to buy new things for dance and I ended up just going with items that clearly showcased my lack of knowledge. I’m almost embarrassed to post this, but I do want to show you how far I’ve come in my make up choices!

I’ve also said before that I grew up with a mom who didn’t wear a lot of makeup – which I’m totally grateful for now. Because as nice as it is to know how to apply makeup properly, it’s even nicer to have a mom who taught me that appearances aren’t everything. After all, make up is a skill you can learn if you practice enough.

Since I started working, I realized how important it is for me to wear a bit of makeup. I find that I look too young (and in people’s minds, therefore inexperienced) and makeup helped me age a bit. Every month or two I’ve bought at least one new makeup product. Nothing over R100 (+-$10) but just enough to play around with.

So if you’re not experienced with makeup, or can’t afford the high-end products, don’t worry. You can learn how to apply makeup and you can do perfectly fine with cheaper/drugstore products.

I started out with using incredibly cheap products. Pretty much whatever I could get at any R5 Shop or Mr Chen Superstore was the kind of thing I would go for. After all, I started dancing and performing when I was 16, so R8 for a bunch of eyeshadows really was the only thing that was affordable for me.

My first performance ever (in 2007), in which the eye makeup was inspired by makeup that could be found in the Sims 2.

Below you can see one of the looks I would go for at the start of my Tribal Fusion career, typically:

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Mainly a liquid eyeliner. Actually… only a liquid eyeliner. I was messy with it and didn’t really know what I was doing.

I did get better years later at the eyeliner, but also started experimenting with eye shadows. I also started watching YouTube tutorials to learn a bit more about makeup. Since I didn’t know what I was looking for, I watched random videos and picked up a few hints from them. One of them being the use of sticky-tape to create a solid winged line by your eye. I did this for a really long time, and I actually want to try it again sometime, using my newer knowledge of makeup application.

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Not being used to make up, you can see in a lot of these images that I was too light handed with my shadow and I should’ve been piling it on a lot heavier. If you’re not used to makeup, any makeup is a lot to wear!

I am lucky in that my studio occasionally has a “dress up” class where we get to wear new costumes to test out, or try new hair/makeup tricks. I used a lot of these classes for experimenting with makeup and I’m very grateful for that – otherwise I might still be doing the liquid liner…

I also started to use concealer (very recently actually – only about a year ago) for performances because I have quite bad under eye circles and it became more noticeable when I had darker shadows on my eyes.

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Here are a few things I’ve learned that you might find helpful too:

  • NO LIQUID EYELINER!! That deserved both of those exclamation marks. Use the liquid eyeliner to… *gasp* line your eyes, don’t do the entire thing in plain ol’ black eyeliner. Yucky.
  • Blend Blend Blend! Swiping your eye shadow over your eyes and walking out the house never looks nice. Take time to blend your eye shadows out so that it gently fades rather than abruptly stops.
  • Using JUST a kohl/pencil liner on your bottom lid doesn’t make for very pretty eyes. It tends to make the bottom lid look heavy and very harsh. Either tight line (upper water line) your eye or blend it out so it’s not a hard line.
  • Using cheap products will NOT take you a long way. You don’t need to buy ridiculously expensive products either – just be an informed consumer by reading reviews before buying.
  • False eyelashes. Wear them. You don’t need to buy the super expensive ones like Ardell (which go for between R50 – R90 here). If you want to test falsies out, buy the cheapies at the China shops for about R10, but definitely buy quality glue! The stuff that comes with the cheapies is mostly useless.
  • Mascara is your friend.
  • Filling in your brows is something that people seem to not talk about very often. Ever seen Zoe Jakes without makeup? Nearly no eyebrows. On stage? Super amazing eyebrows. That girl knows her brows. Honestly though, it’s important to fill in your brows if you’re performing. Having thin brows makes them disappear on stage and it can look a bit strange. (also, really thin/non-existent brows is NEVER flattering!) If you ARE going to fill in your brows, use a powder to do so. Loads of brands stock an “eyebrow kit” for doing exactly that. *
  • Don’t go for a lipstick that is too dark. It can often look black and black lipstick is never flattering. EDIT: As Rasha Nour pointed out in the comments – don’t wear a lipstick that is too light/natural either or it can fade away. I think your best bet is to go for a vibrant red or bright colour.
  • Use YouTube. There are plenty of YouTube gurus who can help you out with ideas and tips for the perfect look for you.
  • Make sure your foundation matches to your skin. Nothing is weirder than seeing somebody’s face is shades lighter/darker than the rest of them.

I’ll be writing another post soon about some of my favourite YouTube gurus and makeup videos – if you’re interested!

Here are some of my more recent make up looks, and I think I have improved dramatically!

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And my most recent, taken just a month ago at International Bellydance Day!

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I hope some of this was helpful to you, and if not, I hope you had a giggle at my earlier makeup. It’s a bit cringe worthy, but hey – what was your makeup like when you were 16? 😉

I didn’t want to talk about buying things too much in this post, because I believe that there are plenty of makeup blogs that cater specifically to that, and I also don’t believe that expensive products mean better results. It’s often about how you apply the products, and there are plenty of cheaper brands out there that are perfect for dancing.

To finish this post off – I do think that knowing how to do your makeup is a very important skill to have if you’re a performer of any sort. With the internet and YouTube tutorials, there’s no reason you can’t learn!

Until next time! *waves*

*I have a bit of a thing about eyebrows.

Casablanca Nights & Oriental Dreams

It’s already March, and I’ve failed to post these photos and videos from November last year. Oopsy! I kept meaning to, but thought that perhaps I should write something interesting instead of just posting videos and photos.

I have since failed to think of anything interesting to write, and while there are a few vague ideas for blog posts in my head, most of them are rubbish and I get sick of thinking about them for a while.

So instead, I’m going to post tons of photos and videos from the 2 performances in November. I’ll start with Casablanca Nights.

Casablanca Nights was a dance showcase hosted by Anita from Moondance Studios. Anita asked our troupe to perform 3 pieces at the showcase, and of course we were happy to do so! Anita is really a wonderful woman and I always enjoy spending time chatting to her. Our troupe performed 3 pieces, 2 of which we have on video. The third piece we performed was our choreography from the Oriental Festival, which you can see in my previous post.

I performed a solo piece, and I must say, I’m getting quite into performing solos. They may not always be as interesting to watch as group choreographies, but I find such a creative freedom when I perform solo – mostly because if I mess up, nobody knows! This choreography was a piece I created a while ago, and I posted a video of me performing it for the first time. Since then, I’ve forgotten the choreography and now mostly improvise with a few set moves thrown in for stability.

Anyway, here it is, and a SUPER HUGE thank you to Paula for taking the video and to Kash and George for the photos! ❤

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Behold my abs! Seriously though, I’m super proud of my stomach for coming to the table and showing everybody what I’ve got. Yay abs!

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The troupe also performed our 2012 creation, Lunar. Every year we try and learn a very difficult choreography from a dancer. This year we chose to learn from Sera Solstice, and did her choreography from her DVD, Lunar. Sera doesn’t teach the choreography on her DVD, but does all the combos on the DVD and then a performance at the end, so there are some changes that we made to suit us, but roughly followed the choreography.

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Later in November, Leoni (Firefly) and I performed at Layla’s Oriental Nights Hafla. We had a really great time there, and I performed a new dance that unfortunately didn’t get recorded. Hopefully sometime soon I’ll be doing it again, so I’ll have something to show you. 🙂 But there are photos!

Firefly performed a fire dance with her poi and the crowd really enjoyed it – it’s definitely something different and adds an element of danger to the performance!

Crappy cellphone photo before the show!

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And I think that concludes my looong blog post. I hope you enjoyed the photos and video – I’d love to hear your thoughts. Hopefully a better blog post soon. 🙂

x

The Oriental Dance Festival 2012

What a crazy time the last few months have been! Just when I think I can catch my breath, there are a million and one other things to do! I guess this is life for most people, eh? It makes me all the more amazed that you all still find time for kids, partners, family, friends, dance, work and other activities! I sometimes wonder if there are enough hours in the day…

At the end of last year (can you believe 2012 is over?!) Maya Troupe performed quite a few times, and we also did a photo shoot with the photography company I’m working for! I’m hoping to post all of that in the next few days, starting with the videos and photos of performances.

In October, as per usual, we performed at the International Oriental Dance Festival. I got the chance to meet some lovely ladies who had flown down from Joburg to perform at the festival and gala evening. What a treat to meet such wonderful women! They were so friendly, and I hope they found Cape Town as welcoming and as warm as they were towards me.

The festival consists of 3 performance days – the Thursday is usually the gala evening. I’ve never been to a gala evening, but I’m hoping to go this year. On the Saturday and Sunday , the Fringe Program runs all day. Belly dancers are constantly performing in the tent all day, from 9am – 5pm. They have short breaks and alternate between the huge tent they set up and the amphitheatre.

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Dancing in the tent – thanks to Tarryn for the photo!

Frieda (our studio owner and troupe leader) made these wings herself! Many threats were made and much cursing happened during the making of these wings. I think the results are totally worth it. They’re super original, beautiful and I love that when she opened them up you could hear the crowd say ‘ooh’!

(I am second row on the R. 🙂 )

For the first time, we performed at the amphitheatre this year! It wasn’t as nice as I was hoping, and the ground was incredibly hot, so we ended up wearing our shoes. I hate dancing with shoes, but luckily this dance didn’t have much travelling. Both days went really well, and there were no serious mishaps, except some of the troupe being a bit late on the Sunday, which caused a bit of stress amongst those who were there early.

It was an incredibly hot day, and I am fair skinned, so I tried to stay out of the sun. It resulted in me wearing a scarf over my head and Leoni and Nadine calling me a vampire. (Thanks guys!)

As usual, the weekend was really fun, and I had a good time trying out the new makeup I had bought.

I can’t think of much more to say except that the performances went smoothly and we’re looking forward to performing again in 2013.

Anybody can be a belly dancer!

I was browsing through Shimmies, Sequins & Slippers the other day, hoping a new blog post would magically appear as I was scrolling. *ahem Roxanne, ahem!* Although I wasn’t surprised with a new blog post, I was intrigued by reading some old ones that are very good that I had forgotten about.

One of the posts that caught my eye was the unintentionally mean post. (I would recommend reading it here, before reading my post). In short, it was about a dancer that performed at a festival and was absolutely terrible. Roxanne just chats about whether all dancers should be allowed to perform in public – and she didn’t mean it in a mean way! (Go read it!)

I’ve been thinking about it for a while, and even asked my Facebook friends what they think of the latest phrase to be thrown around: “Anybody can bellydance!”

I’m going to be absolutely frank with you: No, not everybody can belly dance. It’s like telling a child that they can be anything they want to be if they work hard enough. Yes, part of that is true and it’s a wonderful thing to believe. But especially with art, a lot of it needs to be natural talent as well as hard work. Singing works as a brilliant example, just look at the Idols contestants every year. There are always complete opposite degrees of talent that audition for that show – the completely tone deaf that make the “Wooden Mic” reel, the people that can hold a tune, and then those with exceptional voices. I don’t know much about singing, so when I watch Idols auditions and I see those that can hold a tune get voted off, I often wonder why. The reason for this is that they can hold a tune. They can sing, yes, but there is nothing exceptional about them. They may be able to sing along to songs with no problem and maybe even make it into a church choir. But it’s a huge leap from there to being a professional. And in a competitive industry (like dance) you need to be better than good at your craft. You need to be exceptional.

Another example comes from my past – when I was younger I was obsessed with crime novels and investigation shows. I started out by reading Famous Five books, moved onto the Point Crime series, then started getting into Jeffery Deaver when I was 13. I watched shows like Bones and CSI. I even bought a “Forensics for Dummies” book. I was completely convinced that I was going to study forensic science when I left school. I was passionate and interested in it and willing to work hard at it. I ended up getting 40% for science at school, and got a tutor in who helped me get it to 60%. At the end of grade 11, I realized that I didn’t have that natural knack that some people have for science. My brain just wasn’t geared towards thinking that way, and no matter how much I trained it, I would never be as good at it as my tutor was – it was second nature for him. A completely natural way of thinking.

The reason that the “Anybody can bellydance” phrase came around was to show people how it was different from modern dance and ballet. It’s different in that it is a dance form that has no restrictions for learning. You can be any age, shape, colour or nationality to take a belly dance class. Ballet has always been a dance form reserved for the young, and although now we are seeing adult dance classes advertised, it’s still a new thing. Another big difference is that you can start belly dancing at the age of 25 and still go pro, where you can’t do that with ballet.

The unfortunate truth of it is that some people  believe that they can be a pro, because anybody can do it! has been floating around in their heads. And then you end up with a lot of mediocre dancers flooding the market and taking gigs away from seasoned pros. As well as dancers who take to the stage because they believe they are ready – after all, anybody can do it, right?

As dance teachers we need to have the guts to tell our students they’re not ready to advance to the next class or to perform on stage. There are lots of opportunities for students to perform, and if there aren’t then we should create more. Inviting family and friends to come and watch a student recital or small hafla is a great way to get dance exposure if you’re still new to dance and especially if you’re not ready (technically, artistically or mentally) to go pro.

In the end, it’s about being honest with yourself. Being honest about what you want from the classes – are you doing it for me-time, for the social aspect, for fitness, to be a pro dancer or some other reason? It’s also about being honest about your abilities as a dancer and learner. If you’re honest with yourself about your wants and abilities, there should be no problem. I know it’s difficult to admit your weaknesses, but you need to be honest with yourself to get an idea of where you are going and where you want to go.

Passion is a beautiful thing, but we have to be honest and realize that audiences don’t want to see somebody go onto stage and be passionate, but have no technique. Audiences (and other dancers!) want to see something impressive and different. I sometimes feel that a technically great dancer with little passion can go further than one with passion but no technique.

I think that as a dance community we need to have a definition of what makes a pro. Because – like we learned in school – every right comes with a responsibility. What are the responsibilities of a pro dancer? What are the rights of a pro dancer? As well as deciding what makes a dancer ready for the stage. The difficulty in doing something like this is that belly dancers don’t have a syllabus, so we don’t have a way to ‘measure’ our dancers and how to tell if one is ready for the stage. As Roxanne said in her blog, taking to the stage is an honour and a privilege and if we let everybody onto the stage, I think it loses it’s magic a little bit. Don’t you think? It suddenly becomes attainable and nobody wants to work hard for it.

I believe that anybody can enjoy belly dance, anybody can take classes and anybody can improve dramatically. I believe in student recitals (We used to do it every second term, where all the students would come together, we’d perform for each other and try out new choreographies on each other, and just DANCE together) I also believe in haflas geared towards students and giving students a chance to perform on a stage. I also believe in there being separate shows, bigger events like a showcase for when we bring in an international dancer – those showcases are reserved (in my opinion) for the professionals. I don’t even believe that I am ready for a big show like that (Although I’d love to be given the chance!).

I think the important thing here is to realize your potential, realize what you are capable of. And while it may hurt to be honest with yourself about your abilities, it NEEDS to be done. Some people are meant for the stage. Some people aren’t.

As a side note: I don’t even know if I’m a “real” performer or if I should just stick to smaller things. I love to perform and have a good time on stage, but when I watch the real pros I feel like I’m missing something. Maybe I’m being too hard on myself, but maybe I’m just being honest. 😉

Layali Haffla 2010

Layali had a hafla (or is that Haffla?) on the 20th of May and Maya was invited to dance! We had one slot, and 11 days to prepare, so we just did our dance from the International Bellydance Day which I am officially sick of after doing it for the last 2 months! Luckily, we started on a new dance last week (although I’m not mad about it yet).

Roxanne and I

I asked Roxanne from Shimmies, Sequins & Slippers for a photo because we’ve never actually been photographed together and to our readers, we may as well not know each other!! After gushing about each other a bit in the interval, we chatted as well because we realised that although we read each other’s blogs, follow each other on Twitter and are Facebook friends, we’ve only ever spoken to each other a handful of times! But isn’t it amazing how you get to know people through those great social sites, but hardly ever talk in person? 🙂

I really enjoyed the Haffla that night. As much as I love the Oriental Festival in October and the International Bellydance Day in May, I prefer the smaller haffla’s because it’s so much more intimate and you get to chat to the dancers afterwards, where at the big festivals, it’s difficult. I loved that there were all sorts of styles and types of people. SOMA wowed me – they were great! I also asked them for a photo because I don’t have one with them and unfortunately the light was pretty bad so I had to use my flash on the pictures. Shame, I had to ask Roxanne and Soma about 4 times for a photo because they didn’t come out clearly.

Elisha, Alex (me), Marissa

The rest of the photos are also pretty bad, I was trying out techniques for my photography assignments, and the lighting wasn’t great, so it bombed a bit. But I got a FEW decent shots, I think.

Marissa, from SOMA. I just want to steal their outfits...

Lara, the owner & teacher of Layali who is sadly leaving 😦 . I LOVE that she danced even though she's pregnant.

Karen aka Jamilla who will be taking over Layali from Lara. (I think... i may have misunderstood)

I’ve seen Jamilla at so many performances, but never known who she was! I THINK she is Karen, who is taking over Layali after Lara leaves.

I’m really excited to see what happens with the studio, because with a different teacher, comes a different style and method! I DO have something more exciting to post about later, but I just wanted to finish writing about this. 😀
Stay tuned to Roxanne’s blog, as she is bound to write a post about this!