Getting away from it all


Finding some alone time

Last year I was invited to take part in aa weekend residential for belly dancers.  It was a great weekend run by an experienced hand  and I thoroughly enjoyed myself.  by the end of the weekend I found myself involved in the organising of this years’ event!  We are talking steep learning curve, Folks (excel spreadsheets ffs!)!

There ‘s a little collective of us running the event and I have to say, it’s different on the other side.

I’ve always enjoyed going to residentials – I love the fact that for those 2-3 days I am no longer ‘mum’, wife’ or ‘housekeeper’.  I can just be Rita -Rita who like to dance.  The freedom of not planning meals, clearing up or staying sober is wonderful!  I relished it most when my children were small (yes I’ve been doing it that long) and I needed the physical and mental separation form a young family.  I can’t say I went back refreshed but I went back sober (good) and a little more inspired and demented by the world of dance (not so good perhaps).  These days my needs are neither the same, nor so urgent, but I still love and protect my weekends away.

These days I enjoy the break from routine and the luxury of being waited on and entertained.  But mostly I like being inspired and having the opportunity to be a student again and not just a teacher.  It’s invigorating to meet old mates again and catch up with nice ladies who share the madness.

Anna does love a conga!

I recommend that everyone go on a belly dance break.  I’ve never done Summer School which is a much longer event, not sure I’m built for that.  A residential gives you a chance to immerse yourself in the dance that a single workshop can’t do.  After a whole day of dancing we might become tired, but our bodies are looser, the moves come more easily and muscle memory has a chance to fully function.  OUr brains become acclimatised to it all and we really open up to the dance.

Residentials allow us to try new stuff, without commitment, in a safe environment.  There is an understanding that we are ‘having a go’ or ‘getting a taste of it’, that is sometimes not achieved when you have to pay 35 quid up front for a two-hour workshop in  another town.  I’ve done all sorts of residential workshops on a vast array of styles and props and many I have shaken off as soon as I left the room.  Others have stayed with me and I’ve built on them.

Lovely grub and no washing up!

Of course, I love the fact that these weekends are also freedom from the daily grind.  No cooking, no cleaning and no washing up.  At our forthcoming residential we have the fabulous Barbara Conroy catering.  I like Barbara, she believes in the power of cake!  But I don’t relish her job.  I never realised how many tricky eaters (I thought my son was the worst) were in the belly dance world. I never knew there were so many ways to be a tricky diner.  Gluten free, salt free, vegetarian, vegan, the list goes on… and on.  It’s just as well Babs is doing all that as I’d probably send out an email and tell everyone to bring their own sandwiches!  In the early years of our marriage we had lots of friends around for dinner, it all seemed fairly uncomplicated – I’m not sure I could cope these days.  Are these new allergies and diagnoses really new or did they just go unremarked in the 80’s when I was all ‘Abigail’s Party’?  Or did I send all my guests home with belly ache?  (Oi! who said ‘probably’!)

Our little collecting is a nice band of teachers all bringing different skills and different approaches.  This year, putting together a list of workshops to offer was fairly easy.  We made suggestions which created nice big list and then Anna made decisions.  I suspect that next years’ list will be trickier when we don’t want to duplicate workshops or become samey.  Watch this space.

Me and the ladies getting down and sticky with crafts

This year we will be duplicating one thing in that I am going to be repeating a ‘no sew hip belt’ workshop that worked really well last year.  There was a real buzz and chatter about it so we thought we’d try it again.  This year, however, we shall have a dedicated craft room and if projects aren’t finished people can pop back in at spare moments and finish off.  Just one of the many lessons we learned last year.  Crafts workshops within residentials and festivals are becoming more common.  Part of it is broadening the appeal the event, part of it is embracing belly dance in its entirety from dancing to costume-making and part of it is that us old folks like a sit down now and then.  I really feel that many events are changing to accommodate the ageing clientele.  Back in 2000 I could do 7hr-days of back-to-back workshops at Joy – that its no longer the case.  I need naps now!

Vanessa explains reflexology

Another nice thing about residentials is the  possibility of treats.  There’s nothing like a good foot or back massage when you’ve danced two days straight!  Lots of residentials ‘buy in’ therapists and specialists.  Usually I’m too skint to take advantage but at a recent a event I decided to splurge and book a massage.  Sadly the booking system was a bit rubbish and although I thought I’d booked a lovely massage, the masseur did not double check the list and went home.  I went un-rubbed.  I was very cross and very sad.  Another lesson to learn for our own weekend – make sure that doesn’t happen to anyone else.  Treats have always been injury and/or dance related and that seemed to make them ‘valid’ within the context of a dance weekend.  But these days treats can be make up, facials, nails etc.  The times they are a-changing!

A natural and peaceful place for a retreat to revitalise and restore yourself

I’ve never been of the mind set that residentials are a ‘retreat’.  There have only been a few times when I have ventured outside the workshops buildings at any event – I like to keep my dance shoes on.  But for many people the chance to go to a rural setting is rare and blissful.  Many events include walks and outdoor sessions.  Sometimes rain stops play, other times the sunshine makes us all gambol outdoors like lambs.  The chance to be still, to focus on ourselves, to collect our thoughts and simply ‘be’ cannot be underestimated.  Whether you take a long walk or do a yoga session the opportunity to decompress at a residential is wonderful.

I don’t think we were saying ‘cheese’!


The very best part of residentials is finding and making new friends.  Discovering that a distant facebook friend is a nice lady who gives the best hugs is beyond price.  And just being allowed to dance in a wonderfully supportive, friendly and fun-filled environment is just the BEST!  Lone workshops can give rise to performance angst, but in a weekend filled with fun and laughter one it tempted to break boundaries and be brave.

These are the many things I like abut belly dance residentials.  There are many more….

All the pics here are taken from last Year’s Castle Head residential.  This year’s event will betaking place September 21st-23td 2018 and details can be found below.  Apologies for the advert but, come on, I’m on the committee I’m meant to be getting bums on seats.

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