Funoon - Dances, stories and costumes


Shisha tableau - Egypt

Folkloric dance, wherever it’s from, is a dance of the ordinary people, and celebrates the wonderful ordinariness of every one of us. Once invited onto the theatrical stage, and particularly when put in front of film cameras, folkdance can take on a hugely-popular life of its own that makes stars of dancers who seem to embody the true character of the people.

This not-quite-folk dance is usually called a tableau. The "belly-dance word" for it is "estaraad", which is an Arabic approximation of the French "estrade", meaning something put up on stage, or "staged". We might even use the term "fake lore". Tableaux often tell stories, capturing an impossible moment of perfect fun that could possibly happen somewhere just around the corner in a part of town that's oh so familiar. We sensibly tell ourselves this sort of thing only happens in movies, but we daydream - and there isn’t anyone in the audience who hasn’t once upon a time wasted a few moments at work with a bit of a daydream…

This dance is Funoon’s tribute to Egypt's queen of folkloric tableau….!



Nawarra and Alex bringing a little bit of "Fifi Magic" to London, Newport, Rotherham, and Salford. Photos: Jo Hirons


Roma - Turkey

The ancestors of the Roma came from Northern India between the sixth and eleventh centuries, trading and travelling and settling where they found employment for their metal-working and other crafts. The most well-known of the Turkish Romani settlements was Sulukule, the region around the water tower in Istanbul, where, before its recent clearance by the Turkish government, the Roma held their workshops, homes, and cafés.

At the end of the long and wearisome working day, street corners and wasteland spaces become open air theatres where musicians, dancers and street performers come together to show off their skills and entertain their extended families. Children learn from their parents and grandparents and the story of the day’s activities, of great injustices, small triumphs, and proud inheritance, are told again in dance.



Beverley Smith dancing in Newcastle, Newport, Rotherham, and Salford. Costume: Baladi Bazaar (Beverley Smith) Photos: Jo Hirons


Desert blues - Mauritania

Lying between the Atlantic Ocean and the Sahara Desert, Mauritania is where the Arab and Berber Maghreb joins with Africa. In former times, trade and pilgrimage caravans travelling North, South, East, and West passed through Mauritania, keeping to the safer, outer reaches of the great desert. As the centuries passed, the ever-expanding Sahara swallowed up medieval cities, ancient mosques, humble farms and famous fortresses, leaving nothing but their abandoned ghosts to the destroying sand.

Today most people live in the south of the country, and their clothing, music, language and traditions reflect their shared cultural heritage. Very little difference is seen between dancing and playing games, and both are encouraged in children. Those who continue to dance well and without inhibition beyond the years of childhood are widely admired, for they have retained some precious part of their free spirit and kept it safe through the trials of growing up



Nawarra and Mark Zuza. To date, this dance has only been staged at Newcastle. Photos: Jo Hirons


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