Reviews: Katie Holland Double Veil Workshop at Orient Expressions

I’ve always loved veils. They are very closely linked to the popular image of belly dancing, and most people that have never even seen a dancer before will tell you “oh the seven veils dance!” if you ask them what they know about belly dance. Veils are alluring, mysterious, and incredibly feminine, and can add an extra layer to a performance.

I’d learnt basics of veil usage with my teacher Val in class, and later when I started with the advanced group I also had to learn a full group dance with a single veil. But we never really had any more advanced techniques, and the opportunity to take a workshop was too good a chance to pass. So off I went.

Katie is an engaging instructor, very clear when explaining and fun. She has an interest background too, and this reflects in how and what she teaches. Her workshop took us first into getting re-acquainted with our feet and step (more on that on a different post), and learning to turn properly, including two different ways of turning (toe-heel and paddle turns), and spotting. This first part of the workshop was wonderful, well worth the full price, and has helped me immensely.

And then came the second part, working with the veils themselves. Sadly this didn’t go that well, for several reasons.

Firstly, there was just way too many of us. I understand people do need to make a living, but the hall had about 25 people in it, and for using double veil you need at least 5sq.metres around each, which is understandable when you have an adult with extended arms and two pieces of fabric of about 3 metres long each. We were just too many, even when split in two groups, so many that I could barely extend my arm without my veils coming into the path of someone else’s, which completely ruins the flow of whatever it is you are trying to do. It also means that since you cannot do what you’re supposed to, you cannot pose proper questions as required. This, sadly, ruined my mood halfway through the second part. Having said that, this is not something I would land squarely at Katie’s feet.

There were other things that also, sadly, added to the miserable feel during the second part. I had put my hair up in two small chignons to keep it out of the way, but these turned out to be absolutely *fatal* for double veil work, as they blocked the veils flowing every time I try to get in or out of them, and since I had secured them quite tightly, I couldn’t take them down easily. And to add insult to injury, my veils turned out to be slightly too long and slightly too deep and entirely the wrong shape, and against my better judgement, I would have been far better with my smaller, cheap semicircle veils from the Turkish Emporium, which I despise because they’re too short, but in this case would have been absolutely perfect. Both these issues are 100% my own fault, but combining with the space issue, they made quite a bit of the actual veil work rather difficult to achieve, which resulted in much frustration and less enjoyment.

The instruction from this second part was not that different from what you can find in Petite Jamilla’s Double Veil DVD, except that with the workshop, we got a few things explained more thoroughly, like how to hold the veils for this sort of work, or why it’s a good idea to have an edging on them. To be perfectly honest, I think the workshop has complemented the DVD at least for me; I don’t think I came out of the workshop anywhere near confident enough to do a routine with double veil, but with the instruction I got, I do feel it was a great way of getting started. I would probably still suggest you get the video, for getting a bit more, and to refresh concepts you might have forgotten.

Overall, if I’d had the right veils, hairstyle and enough room, I do feel I would have been able to take more advantage of the workshop, but as it was, even just the first part was well worth it, so much so that when discussing the particulars with my martial-artist husband, he praised the approach Katie used and mentioned that, again, the sort of instruction we got for that was invaluable.

Would I take another workshop with Katie? DEFINITELY
Would I take another workshop on double veil or veil? Yes, but only as long as I am absolutely, positively certain  that there will be enough room, and that I own the required props to avoid frustration. And this time, I’d wear my hair down.
Would I take another workshop at Orient Expressions? Yes, and I’m already booked for one.
So in closing: good workshop, too bad about the number of people present.

Watch below an impromptu performance of Katie, showing off the type of moves we learnt through the workshop.

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