Did you know it was World Belly Dance Day this Saturday? There is a select group of Donegal ladies skilled in the Arabic art, and here's how you can see them dance tomorrow:

Audrey Doherty. Photo credit: Philip McFadden

A group of local women are set to amaze with Arabic dance moves at a special celebration in Derry on Friday, May 12th.

The Donegal dancers will be forming part of a troupe to raise much needed funds for charity.

The sparkling showcase will be a colourful event at 7pm Friday May 12th in the Nerve Centre, Derry, to raise funds for Zaatar NGO in Athens Greece. The organisation helps displaced immigrants in Europe, focusing on unaccompanied minors and other vulnerable refugees who are seeking peace and freedom.

Tickets are available from www.wegottickets.com/event/401504 or in the Arabic Café. Advance tickets, including a buffet meal, are £10 or £5 for children.

The evening of fun, sparkle and jamming is hosted by Carndonagh native Audrey Doherty of Oriental Dance, who now lives in Derry.

Audrey, who has trained manly Arab teachers around the world and performed with well-known Arab musicians, will also herself perform in the show.

Audrey Doherty, Photo: JSutherland

She currently teaches an exotic mix of Egyptian and Arabic dance classes at Fireworks DDTA Pennyburn and facilitates and performs in special occasions and events nationally and internationally.

Audrey will be joined by her daughter, Natasha Prince, a singer-songwriter who also lives in Derry.

Natasha Prince

A diverse range of Donegal women will take part in this event:

Valerie Frewen from Donegal Town teaches Tribal and Egyptian style and will be performing under the name Sheeoneh.  Tracey Acorn, a dance student of Valerie will take to the stage too.

Lorraine and Tony

Salsa teacher Lorraine Simmons (and her husband Tony) based in Carndonagh will dance as a couple under the names Bachatta and Kizomba.

Rather than the Americanised term of ‘bellydancer’ the group refer to themselves as Arabic dance artists or Middle Eastern or Raks Sharqi dance artists.

The charity they will be supporting, Zaatar NGO, is also the name of one of the herbs available at Arabic Café in the Nerve Centre, which will be providing food on the night.

The new Arabic Café is a solidarity enterprise which was set up to help locals integrate with Arabic speaking refugees and migrants. It is open every Thursday and boast the best falafel and baklava sweets in the locality.

Mosad Dandousha recently travelled from Egypt to Derry and now works in the Arabic Café. He said, “I feel very welcome in this city. It is my pleasure to share our Arabic food and culture with our new friends and neighbours. We have the best falafel and baklava sweets for 100 miles! Some customers like to talk with me and I like that.”

Janda Hasan arrived in Derry one year ago with other Syrian refugees. She said, “Everything is different here, compared to Syria – the weather, the language and the food. It is good that people here are interested to try Arabic food too, like mint tea, humus and cake. I love working in the Arabic Café. I want to contribute to my city.”

Nerve Centre resident musician Mary Coyle said ‘’It is with a warm heart that I am witnessing the work of Audrey Doherty and Jo Bird in such projects as Arabic Café and World Bellydance Day at the Nerve Centre with our Middle Eastern neighbours, bringing people together through the arts and cuisine. I’m very much looking forward to meeting new friends and potential collaborators through this organization whose ethos towards human rights and social inclusion are admirable’’

Audrey is looking forward to the event and thanks the team of dancers who will be taking part: “A little sign from God to have this charity recommended to me by my Athens based friend Hiba Zein.  I must say a huge Thank You to the artists involved who are generously donating their time for this worthwhile cause.

“Performers include Sheeoneh & Tracey, Asem Sweiden & Caroline McNulty, vocalist Tasha Prince, keyboardist Sammy Fodel, Nadine Hegarty of Fireworks DDTA and Lorraine & Tony Simmons 4K KizombaKonnexions and also for the support of Marty Coyle and Pearce Moore at Nerve Centre and to Jo Bird and the amazing cooks at Arabic Cafe. I am overwhelmed by the generosity of spirit of people around me.’’

Want to join the glittering cultural celebration? Tickets are available from www.wegottickets.com/event/401504 or in the Arabic Café of the Nerve Centre.