Gilded Serpent presents...
The 2005 Eilat Festival,
My Fete in Israel
evening, and I'm exhausted, yet overwhelmingly excited! Lolita,
my make-up artist, forcibly restrains me while, for the one hundredth
time, she powders my face and sprays my hair with extra, super-hold
hair spray that could hold the Eiffel Tower atop my head.
not easy being a star!” she proclaims.
not, I think to myself, especially when one has to keep a personal
make-up artist and hairdresser in order to maintain one’s standards
at each consecutive performance. Additionally, I will fly my artist
from Tel Aviv to Eilat in order that she may dress me suitably
for this extra-special evening that is soon to begin.
As a last
touch, Lolita showers me with sparkles. Then she photographs me
in my new costume, while, with a giant smile filling my face,
I dance with exhilaration the routine I had taught at my workshop
earlier in the day.
My new costume,
together with two other outfits, will help me kick off today’s
show, the opening gala of the festival. After all the effort that
I have put into the production, marketing, preparation, logistics,
and the workshop that I gave this afternoon, I still expect to
give an above-standard show.
Student watch as Assi demontrates
Yael Moav, has chosen an easier
path and has decided to give only workshops, and not perform.
Instead, Yael has opted to have dancers from Arabesque (the dance
academy that she manages) perform tomorrow evening.
evening is another story altogether! In the mean time, tonight
I must get up on stage to do what I love to do most of all—perform.
is about to begin. Around five hundred women (and a few men here
and there) fill the impressive, round-staged theatre, waiting
for my show to begin. About twenty dancers and students, modeling
costumes designed by Dorit Yeyni, open the evening
with a fashion show to warm up the audience. Dorit, who also teaches
at Arabesque, has come to Eilat to offer workshops.
is exceptional because it is the first evening of the first Belly
dance festival in Eilat that comprised solely of Israeli talent.
We will have our own festival, in the city of Eilat, bordering
Egypt to the west and Jordan to the east, and it will be the first
festival of its kind, celebrating Arab culture, which is, in fact,
part of the complex weave of Israeli identity.
If I were
to delve into the minds of the hundreds of women attending this
festival, I might feel as though I had entered a marvellous haven
of femininity, with palm trees and the wondrous blue colour of
the Red Sea! Within the exquisiteness of the landscape would be
this female celebration of clothing, jewelry, and enchanting music,
where she can sway according to the passion of her soul. In my
imagination, she would be dancing without the undermining eye
of any judgmental male; instead she will be in the company of
loving female camaraderie, reminding us how truly contented we
are with ourselves…
dancing is at a peak in its popularity in Israel,
lagging mightily behind the USand
Europe. Only lately has a new era of understanding emerged in
which female power stands at the very center of this brilliant
dancers take pleasure in the glory of their occupation as well
as from the flocks of women that attend their workshops and performances.
Women from all sectors of society and varied ethnicity desire
to join the abundant classes available throughout Israel.
in Eilat was an all-Israeli event, (with no guests from outside
the country). We offered thirty workshops during one extended
weekend at a vacation hotel in Eilat. We held two performances
also, perfectly filling the needs of both the audience and the
is no longer a form of sensual recreation for a predominantely
male audience, but is a gift of non-stop pleasure for women. The
dancers create inspiration and the students discover the means
to attaining high self-esteem and acceptance of their bodies.
The few men
that joined their spouses for the weekend were left isolated in
the whole affair. They gazed, stunned by the performers during
the two shows of the festival. In my opinion, the desired image
of a dancer with a strong presence, charisma, and the ability
to seize the audience was delivered by only a few performers.
Nevertheless, every woman who took the stage, performing in her
own personal style, received an astounding applause, regardless
of whether or not she was a gifted dancer or gorgeously attractive.
of the festival lay in its presentation of femininity—from its
vast rainbow of colors and styles—and this instilled inspiration
and value among each woman that attended.
Orit, Lower photo: Assir performs
at the festival also performed, and demonstrated the richness
and wide variety of belly-dance forms in Israel.
Ness, an experienced dancer and valued teacher of Egyptian
origin, moved naturally with the rhythms of the Saidi style, and
sang the lyrics of the songs by heart.
Alaluf performed a Turkish, Gypsy-style routine, doing
so with great skill, having lived two years with a Gypsy family
costume designer who sewed all three of the outfits I wore that
evening, Assi Haskal, is of
Iraqi origin and is a special dancer. He grew up watching the
Arab movies that were broadcast every Friday evening on television.
He knew quite well how to excite the audience when dancing to
a song by Abdel Wahab, as well
as how to let loose with his brilliant mime to a modern hit, popular
Mendelssohn, once a ballerina, having also spent a year
in Chicago, portrayed the classical image of a skillful dancer
with extreme stability and beautiful hand movements.
Klein gave an exceptionally unique and comical performance.
Klein is an experienced dancer and for the past few years has
been performing a stand-up comedy show on Belly dance called “On
a Full Stomach.” The show offers heaps of laughs, a little bit
of dancing, and oodles of roly-poly stomach movements!
photo: Nili, below: Fifi Ness and cane
a dramatic story into my dance performance. With a sharp transition,
I switched over from a theatrical and strongly-emotional dance,
to a game with the audience, and then to a dynamic and complicated
drum solo in which I demonstrated how the entire body can dance
(including eyelashes and fingers that can drum on floor of the
About a dozen
more dancers performed short and diverse routines on stage, creating
a rich and distinctive mélange called “Belly Dance in Israel.”
All of the
performances were an expression of the current scene of belly
dancing in Israel. In
the remaining days of the festival, the workshops were crammed
with students who were eager to get to know the teachers and their
style—up close and personal.
took place from morning ‘til evening in different halls throughout
the hotel, and they were consistently full to capacity…
were given the opportunity to pass freely between workshops without
any restraints upon entry. From one hall one could hear a loud
dum-dum-tuk, from another hall, a slow floor dance, and from a
third hall, one could jump jubilantly to the sounds of Nancy
was requested to create a unique language and style that would
enrich every participant and avoid any redundancy of style and
technique. In the workshops, the participants were taught: a Saidi
cane dance, how to work with zills, scarf technique at various
skill levels, how to reveal expressions in free dance and choreography,
dance with live drum beats, Turkish-Gypsy style, choreography
for pop songs, improvisation for Shiftateili rhythm, long warm-ups
for dancers, Alexandrian dance with an emphasis on mimicking,
and the list continues…
the dancing, we decided to hold academic workshops on material
such as the Arabic language, the connection between lyrics and
dance movements, and understanding the different rhythms involved
in Arabic music.
of the festival was so powerful that music and dance filled the
hotel throughout the entire three days. The palm trees in the
middle of the lobby created an Oriental atmosphere. A colorful
bazaar was rich with clothing, accessories, and music, just like
an authentic market in Egypt—or even closer—like the entertainment
and market boulevards in Dahab, Tarbin, and Sharam in Sinai that
abound in palm trees, colorfully appealling to the eyes of tourists.
at the festival came from all over Israel,
and they were introduced to new ideas and opportunities that exist
in belly dancing.
This was the
first professional festival of its kind in Israel.
Despite its being overwhelmingly exhausting and loaded with material,
the celebrating continued in the lobby, well into the night, with
endless conversations and the exchange of tales.
we bring for next year’s festival to heighten the excitement?
We will welcome from Egypt Dianna Mahiou who
has accepted my personal invitation to come to Israel.
She has been living and teaching in Egypt
for many years and offers workshops all over the world. We will
also add more workshops to meet the great number of expected participants.
We hope to
preserve the intimate atmosphere of the festival, and thus, we
have decided not to move it to a larger hotel. There is something
exciting about the central feature that characterized the festival:
the close proximity of all of the activities.
At the next
festival—on January of 2006—we will present a mini stage in the
evenings where amateur dancers will be invited to perform in the
hours before the main performance and thereby gain on stage experience.
festival will offer workshops around the swimming pool and a Bedouin-style
sitting area with festive garments, pillows and water pipes. We
will invite new teachers who did not participate in the previous
festival. The performances promise to be exciting and original,
especially since Dianna will be honouring us with her special-guest
may ask how the evening (that I started to tell you about earlier)
concluded. Well, the gala was unbelievable! I split the stage
with Fifi Ness. We divided between ourselves
all different styles of dance to keep the evening interesting.
I gave up on my Beledi dance and instead, put on a more modern
performance while Fifi portrayed the classical stream.
responded from the heart with tremendous applause, and throughout
the entire festival participants complimented Yael and me on our
organization, pleasantness, and professionalism of the event,
as well as on the care we took concerning minor details. We produced
a DVD that features most parts of the festival. To give you a
brief taste of it, I have prepared a short clip that characterizes
the feel of our festival.
You may enter
my site to the “video” page where you can view the clip called
“The Eilat Festival.” www.bellydancer.co.il
direct flights to Eilat and this year we would be honored to welcome
guests from outside of Israel.
We have much to offer, and you are quite welcome to come and see
So long from
sunny and warm Israel.
a comment? Send us a
Check the "Letters to the Editor"
for other possible viewpoints!
Dance in Israel by Orit Maftsir
dancers are the hottest trend at the moment, unlike the totally
frozen attitudes towards the Arab culture in Israel.
Belly Dancer of the Year 2005 Grand
Dancer, more Duos, Trios & Troupes photos by Monica
May 28, 2005, San Ramon, California.
6-18-05 Gitaneria Arabesca:
A Different Approach to the Student Recital by Vashti,
Photography by John Steele
the student recital. There is nothing like watching fledglings
leaving the nest, discovering their own creative wings and flying
off into the wonderful world of belly dance.
Rakkasah West Festival
2005 Photos- Saturday & Sunday Page 2 photos by GS Staff
Belly Dancer of the Year 2005 Page
1 Duos, Trios & Troupes photos by Monica
May 28, 2005, San Ramon, California.