— Béatrice Curtis - Egyptian Dance –
Vejer Diary 2005
I have to confess I started off this holiday with a certain amount of trepidation. Concern #1 was that we'd had such a fun time last year that this year was bound to be a disappointment. Concern #2 was that one of the students booked onto the holiday had emailed me about it before we left, and I'd got the thought in my mind that she was going to be "hard work". Concern #3 was that the holiday was a week later than last year so we might not get such fantastic weather, which is no biggie in itself, but it's always nice to feel like everyone back home is shivering, while you're sunning yourself in the warm mediterranean sun. Concern #4 was that one of the ladies booked onto the holiday is a long-time student of mine and she's lovely and it was her first trip abroad, and her first holiday away from her husband, and I was worried that she might hate it.
But on the other hand, it was my holiday, and I was planning on enjoying it!
The departure was at the nightmarish hour of 6.55 am from Stansted- which meant I got pretty much no sleep the night before, maybe 3 hours, and I'm *really* not a morning person. I saw a couple of the girls from last year, and my existing student queueing before me at the check-in. Meret & I were the last ones on the plane, (she was busy buying magazines... cuh!) which must have been slightly worrying for all those who knew who we were & who would have noticed that we weren't there!
When we got to Jerez the weather was beautiful & it remained that way all through the holiday. So that sorted out Concern #3. We were in the same hotel as last year, though in different rooms. This was a disappointment to Meret, who last year had a beautiful terrace room- she was rather grumpy when she realised she couldn't have it this year. This is the view from the terrace so you can see why she'd want to keep it:
We were the first batch of guests to arrive (the others were coming from Malaga Airport) and we'd got in just in time for lunch, so we found the nearest tapas bar and all got to know each other a bit better. By then the potentially "hard work" lady had proved to be really good fun, so that sorted out concern #2.
The rest of the group arrived later in the evening and we got to know them over breakfast. Then we had a meeting that morning to get everyone booked onto whatever "optional extras" they wanted, like the day-trip to Morocco, and the picnic on the beach. It was the time for Meret & me to explain a bit about what we would be teaching, and our different philosophies and how we work together. After the Sunday morning meeting, we were off to the beach, Playa el Palmar, which is beautiful & unspoiled. The water was lovely for swimming in, because although there were a few rollers, it was mostly quite gentle. We all got to know each other better and we had a fantastic Paella lunch at a restaurant near the beach (Casa Francisco, very nice place and the waitress's English was excellent). Although it was a bit overcast in the morning, by the time we'd finished lunch the clouds had been burned off and the sun had come out. In the evening we all had a drink & a meal together (when Meret discovered the joys of a medium Oloroso)
On the Monday, the teaching started. Meret was dismayed to discover that her classes were running 9.30-12.00 on the first two days (with mine being 12.00-2.30) for the first two days, swapping around for the last two days. Except that the last day is a joint class with both of us teaching the whole 5 hours. Remember what I was saying about not being a Morning Person? Well neither is she. There's pros & cons for whichever way round we do it, particularly as a lot of the students double up & do both our classes. She does a nice long "touchy-feely" warm up with lots of yoga type stuff, which is perhaps more suitable for an early class. I do more technique based work than she does, so if I go first, then the students get a really strong sound technical base which frees her up to do the more interpretative stuff, which is more her forte.
We're teaching in a big sports hall rather than a nice intimate studio, but we make the best of it. We have screens to make a more intimate dance space and the screens have mirrors which can be really useful.
In the afternoon, some of the girls went on a walk around Vejer with Kati our lovely host, and she was able to talk about the history of her home town. Some of us lazed around a bit. In the evening we had a meal in the hotel restaurant which is the only Middle Eastern restaurant in Vejer and is out of this world! There was a dancer there, a Spanish girl and as you might imagine, ours was the only table clapping and cheering & zaghareeting- her face lit up when she realised there were dancers in the house! She was good- she did two sets, the first with candles then sagat & the second in a very pretty blue bedlah, dancing to veil. I fact she had her veil tied round her head, like a headscarf and when she untied it and we realised she was going to dance with it, it was lovely, but I couldn't stop myself from thinking, if that was me, it would be all damp & sweaty by now- not so lovely!
Tuesday, a gang of us went to the beach after class, and spent another glorious afternoon enjoying the sun, and winding up in the Casa Francisco again for drinkies before getting back to the hotel to titivate ourselves for the trip to Conil (a nearby town) where we were going to see a Flamenco show.
Just as I got in Meret (who hadn’t been to the beach with us) said that she’d just had an amazing massage with Ursula, (who does massages at the hotel). I immediately went off to see if I could book myself one, found that she was fully booked, mainly as a result of Meret’s recommendations! But Paula, one of our ladies, was an utter darling and offered to share her hour with me. So we each had a half hour and I booked us both in for another half hour each on the Thursday. Ursula was fantastic- even when she was doing the hard stuff it still felt good.
The Flamenco show was brilliant. A singer, a guitarist and a violinist and three dancers, they were great. Really passionate and dramatic (I always love a dramatic & passionate dance!). The boy was thin as a reed, and one of the girls I swear couldn’t have been more than 18, but she had such fire and spirit. It was beautiful & breath-taking to watch.
Wednesday was fun. We had a party in the evening and Gonen (an Israeli tabla player) & Philip (helping out on riq- I didn’t find out exactly where he was from but he was apparently half-Cypriot & half-Scottish, but he spoke with a Sunderland accent) had come round to talk to Meret & I about what we wanted to dance to for the Friday night do. (Which I haven’t yet mentioned… whoops… For the Last Night Party Meret & I were going to dance, and Kati, the Dance Holidays host, and an utter sweetheart, had arranged for us to be able to have live drumming- YAY!!!!!) so just before the party Meret & I had a rehearsal with Gonen & Philip, and the boys stayed on for the party (which was round the pool) which is quite sweet of them. I’m not sure what they made of us! They drummed a bit for us and watched as we all did our various performance pieces. We’d got the choreography that I’d been working on with the students, Meret’s more improvisational piece, then Lyn & Maureen did a piece that they’d brought with them, a very lovely Veil dance (always a risk in the open air!), which was followed by a funky African fusion piece choreographed by the lovely Yvette Cowles, then I did my haflah set - Edalla ala Kefak, Sidi Mansour (Alabina version) and of course my very favourite stick music, Amint Billa.
Kati also impressed us with her own little short Flamenco dance and Mara did her piece, dancing like an Irish Fairy Princess!
By the end of the evening there was a strong urge to go skinny-dipping, which sadly I had to resist as I had Petula (my hairpiece) on, and I’m not sure she’d be up to dealing with chlorine, but I’m pleased to report that one of our group did succomb on behalf of all of us!
Thursday was the Joint class. Meret and I had prepared a lesson for the full five hours, for those who were doing her course as well as mine. We were concentrating on the differences & similarities in dance styles between the Oriental dance form and the Baladi, with me focussing on the Oriental style & Meret the Baladi style, in keeping with the way we had each structured our classes earlier in the week.
We had a beach party on the Thursday afternoon, the intention being to dance as the sun set over the Atlantic Ocean, at Trafalgar. We had a henna session with Meret & me doodling henna all over the backs & legs, arms & hands of anyone who wanted it. (And we'll definitely be doing that again next year, that was FUN!). As the sun started to sink in the West we brought out the sagat & veils, and we danced as well as we possibly could with the sand between our toes.
Friday was a free day and some of the group went on the day-trip to Tangiers in Morocco. Since Meret, June, Sue and I had already done the day-trip last year, we decided to take a trip to Cadiz instead. We were joined by Mara & Elsa. Cadiz was a fascinating city, and I wouldn't mind going back again next year. The amazing thing was that we had somehow picked the Feastday of Our Lady of the Rosary, the Patron of Cadiz, so most of the shops were shut (probably no bad thing!). But we caught the tail end of the Procession from the Cathedral and we kept seeing little girls dressed up in traditional dress, looking like little Infantas. We had an interesting wander around the City, taking in the Women's Hospital, which was a Carmelite Convent, and one of the most calm and serene places I've ever been.
We ended the Friday with Dinner at the Casa del Califa Restaurant. We were slightly delayed, because the Morocco trippers didn't get back when expected and we weren't sure where they were (visions of White Slavery!) but it was just that the ferry had been delayed. They arrived in a bit late but in time to start dinner. Meret & I weren't eating, because we knew we were dancing, and we'd asked the chef to put ours to one side to eat later. I love to perform and the restaurant at the Casa del Califa is lovely to dance in. It has a magical atmosphere. And we had Philip & Gonen playing for us, which is so much more exciting than dancing to recorded music.
So Friday was our last full day, and although we'd heard of a Flamenco show at the Café Poniente, just outside town, that was due to start after midnight, we decided we needed to do our packing and get a reasonable night's sleep, as we had an early start in the morning...
The drive to the airport on the Saturday morning was subdued, and I had the opportunity to admire the scenery of Southern Andalucia. It's magnificent.
On reflection, this holiday was every bit as enjoyable as the 2004 one, though maybe in different ways... which takes care of concern #1. Both Meret & I knew more what to expect, and we were better prepared, both on the teaching front, and also from the more general point of view. It was a smaller group of people, but it was perhaps a more cohesive group than the previous year's attendees. And my student who'd never been abroad before? Had a magical time! So that proved all my concerns groundless.
Can't wait for next year's holiday!
For pictures of the 2005 holiday, click here.
Interested in joining us in October 2006? This link will take you to Club Dance Holidays and full details of the 2006 holiday.
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Created 24th January 2010