Afra al Kahira

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Afra is the founder and creative director of Celebrating Dance Festival.

Afra started her dance career over 35 years ago and during that time she has seen the UK grow and evolve into something very different from when she was just a novice dancer. Afra built up a strong reputation as both a teacher and performer in the UK as well as internationally, where foreign engagements included two very successful teaching/performing trips to the USA. Afra has had an exciting and varied career outside of the belly dance community with performances ranging from private functions and celebrations, to large corporate events. She has danced for top politicians, members of the British royal family and many other VIPs and dignitaries, including the Turkish Consul General who said he was deeply impressed with her authentic presentation of his home country's dance. Over the years Afra also received many compliments on the authenticity of her Egyptian-style Oriental performances, with some audience members expressing surprise that she was English not Egyptian - complements that Afra is incredibly proud of given how hard she had studied in this style of dance.

It was not all Oriental dance though, as Afra was a UK pioneer in the area of Experimental/Theatre Dance and Fusion. Her experimental numbers were a greatly anticipated part of Celebrating Dance's Gala Show when she debuted new works exclusively to the festival's delegates. Many years on delegates still talk about her show-stopping performances of 'The Siren', when she danced with double wings, covered in gold paint, the very moving 'Black' and the very entertaining moment when she was 'shot' by John at the end of 'The Bride'!

Afra was the first UK dancer to perform with single and double Isis wings, which she studied in depth in NYC with the leading expert in wings Ayshe of New York. For many years Afra was considered the UK's expert in dancing with this prop, she even gave private tuition on both this and veil fans to members of the Bellydance Superstars in advance of them incorporating the props into their next show.

Whilst Afra is no longer able to dance due to complications from her treatment for breast cancer in 2010/11, she still has a wealth of information and knowledge accrued from her long career in Oriental Dance/Belly Dance and is available for talks, lectures and practical workshops to share this with the dance community. Her lectures and talks at Celebrating Dance are always a popular part of the festival. As a fully trained Theatre/Film/TV/Photographic Make Up Artist Afra offers workshops in the art of performance make up for all levels of dancer and dance environments. Filled with tips and tips for everything to choosing the right products and tools, understanding how to make the very best of your looks, down to how to apply those pesky false eyelashes, these workshops are huge fun as well as being highly informative! Why not book Afra on the day of your haflah/show and go straight from the workshop to the stage, all glammed up and ready to dance? Click here for information on just some of the workshop topics Afra can offer or email afradancer@live.co.uk for further information

In October 2010 Afra was diagnosed with a serious type of breast cancer and after a mastectomy in November 2010, she underwent an intensive course of chemotherapy and radiotherapy during 2011 during which she almost lost her life. Afra and John are hugely grateful for all the support they have received from the dance community both here in the UK and abroad during these difficult times - thank you! Lots of you have asked about making donations to a breast cancer charity. Afra actively supports the following organizations:

Breast Cancer Care (www.breastcancercare.org.uk)
Just Because (www.justbeacause.org.uk)
Knitted Knockers (www.knittedknockersuk.com)

Afra offers and extensive range of workshops, lectures, talks and video presentations
to pass on her 35yrs of experience to the next generation of dancers.

Example topics include:

Talks and Lectures
10 Songs Every Dancer Should Know. There is a collection of songs and pieces of music that it's essential to know. Learn about their history and how to recognise different arrangements/versions of each song. Performance Make-Up. As a fully trained Make-Up artist Afra can help you develop your skills so that you look your best out on the dance floor. (BYO Make up, mirror and applicators)
Name That Instrument - can be split into topics covering a single type of instrument (eg: percussion, air, strings). This workshop can be done in conjunction with a musician to demonstrate many of the instruments discussed in the workshop. Performance Make Up for the more mature dancer. As we grow older we need to adapt our make up (both on and off stage) to enhance our best features and not end up looking like 'mutton dressed as lamb.' : -) (BYO Make up, mirror and applicators)
Singers & composers of the past and their legacy. An exploration of the lives and music of the most influential music stars of the past and how they continue to influence our dance today. (There is a separate lecture focusing on Oum Khalsoum). Beauty on a budget - how to get the look without breaking the bank. Looking good in performance doesn't mean you have to splurge on expensive cosmetics brands. Afra will show you how develop a classy look without spending a fortune. (BYO Make up, mirror and applicators)
Oum Khalsoum and her legacy of beautiful music. Learn about the life and music of this incredibly influential singer. The Eyes Have It. Expert advice, hints and tips on how to make the most of your peepers, including how to put on those pesky false eyelashes. (BYO Make up, mirror and applicators)
The Stars of the Past & how they still influence us today. The 'Golden Age' of dance, its stars and their legacy. Business Skills for the Professional/Semi Professional Dancer and/or making the transition from amateur/hobbyist to earning money from your dancing.
A brief history of the development of modern belly dance. A look back to the earliest days of our dance history and follow its development through the decades to the present day. Where do I go from here? How to put together a Personal Development Plan and why you need to do it
Passport To Dance - an exploration of the countries of the Middle/Near East and the dance styles associated with them. Planning and running a dance event. Tips and hints for a smooth-running & successful event. Benefit from Afra's 25+ years of experience in putting on haflahs, shows and hosting workshop with the stars.
The history of dance costuming. An exploration of the development of dance costumes from 1900 to the present day. It's Showtime! Are you considering taking a step up from organising haflahs to putting on a theatrical show. Learn from an expert how to create and stage a professional level stage show.
Behind the Veil - an exploration of the use of the veil in dance, types of veils used from past to present including information on the fabrics. Dance styles - how to recognise them and where they came from
Picture This! Tips and tricks on getting the most out of any photo opportunity. This can be turned in a longer event, with the opportunity to have a photo taken with a professional photographer on the day - (numbers limited for this option). Does my bum look big in this? Not sure about what style of costume to buy? Want some honest, trustworthy and helpful advice on how to choose the right costumes for your height, weight and colouring? Afra can help you make the most of your body shape and colouring in a completely safe and non-judge mental environment, helping you avoid costly mistakes.
Travels with my Tassels. An opportunity to hear Afra talk about her 35yrs as a dancer. The highs, the lows, the giggles and the outrageous, from her early days as dance novice to where she is today. A Q&A session can be added to the end, if audience members want to ask specific questions. This works well done during a long break between other workshops/lectures, i.e. an extended lunch break or at the end of a day, as people relax before going home. An Introduction to the Art of Teaching. Afra has been a qualified dance instructor for more than 30 years. She was the founder and principal of one of the UK's earliest teacher training programmes - Al Kahira School of Middle Eastern Dance (ASMED). This is an opportunity to learn about what is involved in transitioning from student to instructor and includes information on a wide variety of topics, including dance training, teacher training, recommended study materials, insurance and more. It is not a comprehensive list of everything you need but a starting point for those looking to extend their careers beyond performing. Ideal as a 90 minute lecture/discussion but can be expanded to 2 hours. Afra also offers half and full day workshops on this topic.
Performance Related Topics
Creating Dance - understanding how to put together a show-stopping choreography or improv, from idea to performance Experimental Essentials - an introduction to the process of creating a Dance Theatre number.
Effective self-critique - building yourself up, not tearing yourself down Express Yourself - How to use acting and visualisation skills to add an emotional depth to your dancing
Let's Get Engaged - how to make and maintain a connection with your audience Working with Props - Expert coaching in Wings, Single/Double Sword, Dancing on Glasses, Veils, Veil Fans, Cane & Single/Multiple Veils, Gymnastic Ribbon.
Afra also offers private coaching/workshops to groups and soloists who want honest and unbiased feedback/critique on their work coupled with expert advice on how to tighten things up and add polish and pizzazz to your work. This can be done in person or via Skype, private YouTube channel or by sending Afra a video.