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18 October - We're on!
And now, ladies and gentlemen, friends and family of dancers, friends of the beauty and artistry of these richly varied dances from North Africa, the Middle East and beyond - please take your seats for the show Funoon wa Alwane!
Well done, Funoon Dance Company. Well done, you fabulous Funoonies! You have taken every thing this impossibly difficult day has thrown at you and come out smiling! It's a glorious show! The audience is on their feet and dancing. There are dances in the Bar during the interval, and dances out into the night.
One of the stewards, up dancing with the rest, was heard to say: "The very best night I have EVER spent in this theatre. Ever. No questions and no doubt!"
Thank you, Leeds!
18 October - Show Time!
The theatre is packed! We've sold more tickets than last year. As the lights go down you can feel the excitement - welcome, welcome every one of you to Funoon wa Alwane!
The colourful flying skirts of Dancers Bizarre take us to campfire-lit Eastern Europe:
Our wonderful special guests San'at Mahmudova and Rashid Shadat take us out along the Silk Road:
18 October 2014 - In the theatre at last!
Just before 4:00pm we're finally allowed to resume rehearsals. The theatre staff are in shreds with the stress of it all and are convinced the show won't be able to go ahead, or if by some miracle it does, everything will have to start an hour later than advertised. It's delightful to realise the Funoon crew have much more confidence in their abilities and to the astonishment of everyone we are indeed well rehearsed, beautifully lit, gorgeously costumed, exquisitely made-up and absolutely ready to go exactly to time. Apart from a subtle smell of scorched dust still lingering about the foyer there's not the slightest hint of disaster and not one of the excitedly queuing audience need ever know how near we came to cancellation.
18 October - So near and so far!
It's nearly 3:00pm before we're allowed back inside - but even then we can't start rehearsals. There has to be a full check of all electrical systems in the auditorium and someone in authority has to pass the place as secure for public access. At least there are free cups of tea and cans of coke and anyone with music on their mobile phone can find a quiet corner of the Bar to practice in!
18 October - What are we going to do!
Of course, if this was Hollywood somebody would sooner or later say: "Hey, kids, let's just put on the show right here in the Car Park!" Er, maybe not....!
18 October - Nearly 2:30pm - Still outside and still freezing!
Yes, we know you're Hot Stuff, Madame Nawarra, but poor Jo's nose is turning blue! The latest news is that a very small fire is safely out, but the building is not yet cleared for public use.
18 October 2014 - Fire!
It is bitterly cold: we've all had to come straight outside just as we are and wait and wait and wait! We've no warm clothes, no food, no money - and everything from our borrowed camera equipment to our packed lunches, our show music, and every single one of our precious costumes (except for those currently being partially worn in the car-park) is all neatly lined up outside the toilet-block whose roof is apparently on fire. It looks like Funoon wa Alwane is about to go up in smoke!
Still, Funoon strives hard to be glamorous even in such dire straits - and our Romy discovers her gorgeous designer silk number perfectly sets off a nearby skip...
18 October 2014 - Disaster first thing!
Show day! No idea what all last night's scaremongering about piles of traffic and road-closures meant - we all sail straight into a freezing cold Leeds from all over Northern England and most of us arrive so early there's time for coffee and catching up with gossip in the Bar. It's too soon to get started! Most of the Venue's staff and Tech Support crew are probably still in bed! Oh, if only we'd known what was going to hapen next!
Before too long costumes are all set out neatly on the downstairs rails, nearly everybody's upstairs in the Dressing Rooms getting changed for the first lighting call, our music is being loaded into the system, and an engineer is checking the backstage fuses....
A screeching alarm goes off somewhere in the building. There's a sudden strong smell of burning and smoke is seen coming from the ceiling of one of the backstage cubicles. College of Music staff and students are streaming outside - as are poor Funoonies in their sheer silk costumes - and there's a Fire Engine pulling up outside complete with real, live Firemen!
17 October 2014
Busy day! Costumes are flying through Beverley's sewing machine and Jo's printer is churning out programmes. Madame Nawarra is rallying the troops and chasing after everyone who might be persuaded to visit Leeds tomorrow night.
Jo's last minute snagging list involves getting her hands on: a portable CD player, six matching black bedouin belts, debke beads, silver earrings, pink earrings, hair clips, extra Berber jewellery, lantern batteries and a Tunisian water pot. So not that troublesome a list, really!
Bit of a nightmare item on the local news though - it looks like the Leeds inner ring-road will close all weekend from midnight tonight. Do hope that doesn't cause chaos tomorrow!
15 October 2014
News from yesterday's theatre Box Office says we've just gone past that all important "Half Full" mark - Hurrah!
Time for all those Funoonies who couldn't get to Liverpool to practise their warpaint!
The Venue has the ability to make side projections that play thoughout the show so there's a last minute call out to make something to fit. No worries! There's nobody better at burning the midnight oil than Team Funoon!
14 October 2014
Jess made these postcards of her packing for Funoon:
12 October 2014
Final dress rehearsal today so there's time for last minute alterations to all the new costumes. There are new dances for the Leeds show and almost the full Funoon crew will be on stage or back stage. There's also another big bag of accessories and a long list of everything we still need to locate in time.
Looks like Jess wants to be wearing everything at once! (Are we QUITE sure dancing doesn't send you nuts?)
20 September 2014
Some of us head over to Manchester tonight to see the show "Sacred Dances of the Silk Road" - an evening of Sufi music, poetry, and dance. It's a chance to catch up with San'at and to meet Rashid Shadat for the first time. It's a late night and a long drive home when there's rehearsals tomorrow - but so exciting to see what San'at and Rashid are planning for Leeds.
(Bit of a worry, though, Rashid's dancing boots are possibly even more dashing than Funoon's famous red spider-stampers! He'll not only have to get them past Funoon's boot-obsessed crew, but Dancers Bizarre are not likely to let delicious costuming slip them by either!)
31 August to 7 September 2014
For lucky dancers there's a Funoon Dance Holiday to the legendary Moroccan city of Fes. Organised by Nawarra, these holidays are the perfect way to meet dancers from around the world, study with some fantastic teachers, shop till you drop, and then soak up the atmosphere somewhere simply fabulous, this time the luxury 5-star Zalagh Palace Hotel.
Among the teachers at this time's Funoon Dance Camp were Beverley Smith from Funoon and Shirley Griffiths from Wales - Shirley will be hosting the Funoon Newport show in 2015. Joining the camp also was Algerian dancer, singer, drummer, story-teller and all-round living legend, Amel Tafsout.
Here's a moment in UK Arabic dance history: Back in 2002, here's our Nawarra meeting Amel for the first time and taking a quick turn at being a model for a costuming workshop at the Yorkshire Dance Centre in Leeds. These two champions of the music, dances, and culture of the Maghreb had to have first met somewhere - so now you know!
Looks like we might be having a spot of bother bringing our Beverley back home, though! All that 5-star Moroccan luxury seems to have brought out her inner Elizabeth Taylor! Come on, Madame Hazarah, back to work - there are piles of Funoon costumes to be finished!