About Us

Celebrating Dance is an exciting annual festival held in Torquay, Devon each Autumn.
It is the ONLY festival in the UK that is held in a 3 Star hotel,
offering a luxury belly dance weekend at a price you can afford!

How did it all begin?

Afra al Kahira started the festival in 2001 after she and her husband John moved to North Devon in 2000. She soon realized that there was a growing dance community which had very little access to quality workshops from top teachers. So she decided to rectify the matter and Celebrating Dance was born! The first few festivals were held in various locations in Bideford and it relocated to Torquay and the Toorak Hotel in 2005 which has been its home ever since. In 2016, after 16 wonderful years, Afra and her husband John decided to step down from the day-to-day running of the festival and are delighted to be able to hand over to the festival’s new Group Organiser Nikki Livermore. Nikki and her husband Neil will be dealing with the organisation of the festival from the 1st November 2016. Afra and John will continue to part of the Celebrating Dance team, so you will still see them at the festival itself but in a supporting role rather than being responsible for organising and running things.

Festival Organiser – Nikki Livermore

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Nikki & Neil
Originally from the North East, Nikki Livermore is an enthusiastic and vivacious Teacher & performer of Arabic dance, who is now located in Somerset,

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“I shall strive to ensure that this event continues to be the highlight of everyone’s dance calendar, as it has been mine.”

Nikki has been  bellydancing since 1996, when feeling socially isolated, following the birth of her 3 young children, and her husband Neil serving in the RAF abroad for up to 6 months at a time, and moving from one end of the country to the other, she excitedly attended her very first lesson with Tina Hobin in Wallingford. Since then Nikki has trained as a JWAAD Tutor, qualifying in 2005.

Nikki has taught and performed at most of the UK’s major dance festivals, including  Glastonbury Festival, The London Fantasia, Majma and of course, Celebrating Dance.

Nikki loves performing at events, parties, weddings, and for many years danced in Oxford’s most prestigious restaurant “Du Liban”.

Nikki & Musician
John Sleiman
It was at Du Liban, that Nikki met Musician John Sleiman, whom she has worked with for many years.  Together, Nikki & John teach workshops, in Festivals, schools and at team building days. They often team up at events to do performances together. Nikki also ran her own “Souk  “Simplyshimmy” specialising in Egyptian dancewear from  2001-2012.

Nikki who is a qualified Nurse, Fitness Instructor and Health Visitor believes completely in  the holistic health benefits of bellydance, both physically and emotionally, and has taught dance to post natal women to promote emotional health & wellbeing.

Nikki with her Dance Troupe the Isisters

 Nikki has enjoyed many years of attendance at Celebrating Dance; she was most impressed by the warmth & generosity of Afra & John, not only with their time, but with their knowledge, their laughter, and their special droll kind of humour!  This gentle couple take pains to ensure their guests are relaxed and comfortable. Due to their special and irreplaceable formula the event continues to grow and be inclusive, all –encompassing, relaxed & informal. This, combined with high teaching standards, excellent organisation, attention to detail and the ability to see the funny side of everything makes Celebrating  Dance the magical weekend in my dance calendar.

Nikki now lives in MInehead in Somerset, and dances out on a regular basis with her  2nd troupe ‘Yalla”

Nikki is available as a performer   and an instructor

Click here for more information


What’s special about Celebrating Dance?

Apart from the lovely venue, there is the high quality of teachers. Nikki invites a selection of talented teachers including top names from either the US or Europe along with a line up popular UK-based teachers. The festival regularly introduces teachers to the UK who have gone on to be highly sought after at other events across the country.

The exciting package of UK-based and international teachers means that Celebrating Dance welcomes dancers from all over the UK and beyond who wish to take advantage of studying with quality teachers in a quality learning environment. The weekend’s workshops are designed to offer something to most levels of dancers from those just starting out to those at advanced level who are looking for a serious challenge! Either way our aim is for our delegates to go home with a wealth of dance information to add to their own dance experiences in the year ahead as well as great memories from a fun weekend.

As one of our delegates so aptly put it – “Celebrating Dance – a festival with a heart!”

Afra & John – the creators of Celebrating Dance

They bring their own, very special brand of warmth, gentle humour and friendliness to the festival.

John’s MC-ing on Friday and Saturday nights is a particular favourite of our delegates!

Click here to read more about Afra, including how to book her for workshops and lectures.
John is also available as a professional MC.

Afra and John believe it is the combination of the following that has made Celebrating Dance the special event it has become over the years or as one delegate put it ” a dance experience you will never forget!” Nikki and her team will be following this tradition in the years to come so that the festival continues to offer such a unique dance experience.

  • Warm and friendly, non-competitive atmosphere. Dancers come back every year because other events just don’t offer the same atmosphere to their delegates. The festival team are there to ensure that you have a great time and are always on hand should you need them.
  • High quality instruction in a non-crowded environment with teachers who are friendly, knowledgeable and approachable. Celebrating Dance has no room for divas of any sort. Nikki carefully screens all the teachers’ credentials and she will never employ anyone, no matter how big the name, if she cannot establish a friendly rapport with them. She understands that no matter how hard you want to work, you need to have fun too!
  • Last but by no means least – we know how to throw a good party and on Friday and Saturday nights we have a huge amount of fun!


Celebrating Dance is an annual dance festival held each October at the Toorak Hotel in Torquay, Devon. It is the only belly dance festival in the UK that is held in a 3 Star hotel and has a strong reputation for its friendly & fun atmosphere, offering quality workshops from international stars and popular UK-based teachers. It was created and run for 16 years by International Teacher & Performer Afra al Kahira & John F Hancock. Although Afra & John remain on the team, from 2017 they have handed over the reins to new Group Organiser Nikki Livermore a well-respected Teacher & Performer.

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