Sunday, January 24, 2010

Out Dancing

I'm definitely enjoying my pre-AUC vacation to the fullest here in Cairo, even if it means a crushing lack of sleep and sore legs.  Allow me to explain: I'm now working on (casually) 5 different types of dances now.  Between re-learning how to do belly dance moves in a new way, going out salsa dancing every other night, working on bachata, meringue, and hip-hop I think I could hit up nearly any club around and have some moves to throw out there!  We not only go out, but a couple of us tend to hang out and practice a few times a week in addition, just to get that real wobbly sensation in the legs.

Belly dance is going well, it's difficult work learning to remake my dance image and styling, but hey I did it two years ago and I can do it again, plus I am now getting to the part when we begin to do all the fun stuff.  You have to learn the new techniques before you can speed them up and make them do tricks.  The stuff I'm learning is strenuous, tough, and I'm sure you would love to hear all the details, but frankly my teacher explains these things far better than I can.  Stay tuned for when I have more time/patience to explain further.  Suffice to say though it's going to be pretty damn fantastic when these things start working well and become effortless!

I'm also beginning a translation project with a couple friends to improve my Arabic and to start to compile a resource for dancers.  We just worked through a really adorable Shadia song last night which hopefully I will be using in shows later on. If anyone reading this has a song request to get translated, leave it in the comments or email me!

Salsa, meringue, and bachata are fantastic, and providing that social dance thing I do tend to miss in my life when it isn't present.  Who knew there was a thriving salsa scene in Cairo?  There's several cool places to go, that I recommend you check out if you're a salsa person (or just like social dancing) visiting/living in Cairo.  These are the ones I've been to:

-Bian Cafe near the Atlas hotel in Mohandisiin.  A 50LE minimum charge, no alcoholic drinks, and they play do play bachata and meringue too.  I liked it for the atmosphere, which is sort of warm and casual, plus the 50LE is a minimum charge not a cover, so you can get a lot of fairly decent food.  There's a group lesson before the open dancing which was well-attended so it seems there are regulars who enjoy coming often.

-Stiletto across from the Sheraton on the Nile. 50LE minimum charge too, full bar, and maybe one bacchata song all night in between the salsa music.  Cute, classy place, and on the water so there's a lovely view across to Zamalek, but we got bored with mostly just salsa music and it was less well-attended (or perhaps just seemed like it due to being a big space).  Also there is a full bar, but the drinks tend to be on the weak side.  There are beginner and intermediate lessons beforehand too.  Fun fact: had my first kiss in Cairo here last year!

-Nile Maxim in Zamalek across from the Marriot.  All us belly dancer girls know it, because of the dinner shows, but there's also a salsa club too in case you didn't know!  It's 50LE cover which includes like 2 non-alcoholic drinks, but there is a full bar of imported liquor for which you get your money's worth.  My rum & coke was half Bacardi at least!  The good news is they play a variety of Latin dance music with a few Arabic songs kicked in for good measure--belly dancer-cum-salsa-dancer's dream!  The problem is that the place is dark, in a classy way, and freezing with a small-ish dance floor.  Also, mind the men at the bar and don't hesitate to ask a waiter if he knows the guy that just bought your drink is a creep.  Never give out your number, ladies--take theirs!

People seem surprised when I tell them there is a salsa scene in Cairo, but it seems to be thriving in spite of being small.  It seems like with such a big, highly populated city, there have to be enough people around to go out dancing, even if we're a small group percentage-wise.  I suppose everyone is also wondering what we all wear when going out, which is almost whatever you want. Personally, I don't dress exactly like I would to go out back home, but closer to it.  On top you can pretty much get away with whatever (except maybe something that is the size of a bra: revealing on the top of the shirt or revealing on the bottom, both is not so much) and for the bottom most people opt for pants or knee-length+ skirts, but I can't tell if that's modesty or just the fact that you get spun around a lot in salsa and don't want people seeing what color your "wednesday" drawers are.  Heels are appreciated, especially if you're 5' like me!  I am so, so beyond overjoyed to have a reason to wear my stilettos out somewhere here again and grow my shoe collection to rival the boxes upon boxes I left back home. It's not just vanity either, when I was practicing with a friend I decided to toss the flats and throw on some heels for fun and he ended up going "hey, you're dancing better like this," so there ya go.  I need some aggressiveness in my step to have the right dance attitude apparently.

I also hit up the Cairo Jazz Club in Mohandisiin the other night for my friend's birthday which was great fun.  The music kind of sucked, but the venue was totally cute, clean, well-staffed, but the right amount of dark and smoky for a jazz club.  My friend is German/Egyptian so we were sounded by chatter in all manner of languages, but somehow I ended up seated next to the other American here from New York and we had a fun time chatting and discussing the normal boring things one chats about on life abroad.  If the band had been better and there had been a little more room for dancing it would have been a home run especially due to the imported champagne! I haven't set my eyes on a decent champagne in months.

In other news, this fab girl Liz has arrived from the US and has been staying with me for a couple days till she gets her sea legs and moves into a room in Dokki.  We are having entirely too much fun, but it seems like whenever the terrain here abroad shifts I have a knee-jerk reaction to go paranoid and kick some ass.  One of my friends was right when she said, "it's like the wild west here, you can do whatever you want, but it may take some creativity and some covering up."  I guess I'm getting a gunslinger mentality happening here, but what do you expect to happen when strong women get together?  More on the new developments as they come...

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