Author competing in the competition
The three boys-
Jim Boz, Horacio and Khaled Mahmoud
Eman Zaki, her sister and Raqia
The International Belly Dance Congress,
told by Salwa of
the winner of the contest professional category
28-30, 2007, in Bogner Regis, England
Gala photos provided by Josephine Wise, others by
For the first time
in Europe, an international Belly Dance congress was held. Josephine
Wise, carefully organized the event, inviting
25 internationally respected teachers such as Raqia
Hassan, Randa Kamel, Yasmina,
Samasen, Khaled Mahmoud, Shafeek Hibrahim, Fathiem, Jim
Boz, Frederic David, Horacio and
Beata Cifuentes, Sara Abu Farah, Leila
Haddad, Raphaelle Masson, Heather Burby,
Galit Mersand, Kay Taylor,
Maria D’Silva, Margaret Krause, Yvette Cowles, Wendy
Marlatt, Deirdre MacDonald. Included also was Chas
Whittaker, teaching the tablas.
The weekend included
workshops, master classes with Randa Kamel and Raqia Hassan,
amateur, group and professional dance competitions, evening
galas, a live orchestra performance, an oriental bazaar, and
even a live concert with Natasha Atlas.
The event drew hundreds
of Belly dancers and belly dance amateurs from all around the
world (Europe, Korea, Canada, Russia, Japan…), including myself
and two friends belly dancers from Brussels, Belgium.
The Adventure Begins
– Day 1
After four long hours of travel we finally arrived
in Bognor Regis, United Kingdom, and the rush began. Bognor
Regis is a small city by the sea where the Butlins Center
is located. Upon arrival, we immediately noticed the efficiency
of the organization. We were quickly received and updated
on what was to come, which is never an obvious thing for
events that size.
With no time to lose, we
rushed to the first workshop led by Shafeek Ibrahim.
About 60 people gathered in the hall following this rising
young male star of the Egyptian contemporain Belly Dance scene.
Shafeek turned out to be a pleasant surprise; a very patient
and talented teacher and dancer.
After two hours of
work with Shafeek, it was time for the first master class with Randa
Kamel. Randa is currently one of biggest Belly Dance
names in Egypt. Meeting her clarified exactly why. This woman
is amazing, professional, energetic, and passionate. Randa
has all it takes to be a star.
this first introductory round, we headed to our rooms, a couple
of minutes to get ready, shower, eat and we proceeded to Horacio
and Beata Cifuentes new performance named Talisman.
and Beata were on stage with elegance and technical precision.
It was a good show. They wore magnificent costumes, most
of them designed by Horacio himself.
only little regret is the lack of renovation in their style.
Being a fan of the Cifuentes’ work I have seen them on stage
regularly for the past six years. I guess I just was disappointed
for not being surprised by the structure of the show (succession
of choreographies, no decors on stage). That being said, the
show itself was a pleasure to the eyes. I loved the Melaya
duet and The Muppet parody.
After the show, the
party continued with the live Awtar Zehebiya Orchestra and
two DJ’s from Tranglobal Underground.
The day had been long
and we returned to our rooms for a rejuvenating night sleep,
or so we thought … The Congress was held in a typical English
vacation center, populated by party loving English youngsters.
There was partying, drinking and shouting throughout the night.
We even had the questionable pleasure of enduring a private
English drunk girl’s karaoke till the early hours of the morning…
Some More! – Day 2
When the tribal
workshop ended, I found myself rushing to the oriental bazaar.
It is so seldom for us here in Europe to have so many oriental
vendors and costumers gathered in one big room! Among all the colors
and flavors I encountered Mrs. Eman Zaky, the
well-known costumer from Cairo. Going through her work I immediately
fell in love with two magnificent costumes. The temptation was
just too big so I ended up buying them both!
An early start for me! Being the first regular tribal dance teacher in Belgium,
it pushes me to meet fellow teachers and share wisdom. There was a workshop
led by Deirdre MacDonald, who is known also for her work with
the Gypsy Caravan. Unfortunately most of the attendees were novices so I didn’t
enjoy the workshop as much as expected.
I was due
to participate in the professional category dance contest
the next day. Since I was hesitating between two of my
costumes, I chose to go the third way and put on the lovely
white costume I have just purchased. Eman Zaky took the
required measurements and promised to make the requested
adjustments, by hand, for the next day.
workshop: Fathiem, cane dancing with rock
music. The teacher was as special and interesting as the title
of the workshop. I discovered a great instructor and fabulous
woman. This workshop overlapped the amateur dance contest as
well as the Raqia Hassan master class for
which I was scheduled so I had to leave before the end.
Saturday 2 pm. Raqia Hassan is one of the biggest figures in
the Belly Dance world. I have heard and read so much about
her. Now it’s time to see for myself. Raqia prepared a very
dramatic choreography for us on a Fadel Chaker song,
rich with expressions and emotions. Raqia has a way of explaining
it all in a very clear manner; a class with her is a great
moment of discovery. I was certainly not disappointed, what
a generous and rigorous woman!
was no time to let all of what we just learned sink in. We
had about an hour to get to the rooms, refresh, eat, and get
ready for the evening Gala.
Saturday night was
the night when “East meets West”. I loved Fathiem who
was impressive with her lateral belly rolls, graceful. She
was so expressive in that very classic oriental piece. Jim
Boz was energetic, and communicative. The man was
very charismatic and knew how to lead a crowd. Heather
Burby performed a delicious and fresh oriental choreography; Frederic
David: “whoa!” she just looks like a very perfect
doll in her dance, Raphaelle Masson: was very fun
with her “Emma peel in Cairo”, Kismet (performed a
very burlesque 7 veil dance) and the Johara Dance
Company with their very beautiful fire choreography
in the dark. The only setback was the lack of consistency in
the show. The differences in quality and technique levels of
the dancers were sometimes just too obvious. It is not easy
to follow a performance of someone as energetic as Jim Boz,
it’s true, but still, I think an effort of harmonization could
have been done.
I discovered so many
interesting artists; it was definitively a great show. We did a little more
partying and we retired to our rooms tired, but happy.
Contest Day – Day
It’s contest day.
I need to get my new costumes and prepare my choreograph!
was a tight schedule, along with a lack of practice space,
and an available electric plug making it pretty impossible
for me to rehearse.
We got up and, like
so many others, returned to follow the workshop given by Jim
Boz that surprised us all the previous evening. Jim Boz turned
out to be a very patient teacher and a great pedagogue. Yet
another fortunate encounter. Jim Boz’s workshop ended at mid-day,
only 30 minutes before the dance contest. As I had to throw
on some makeup and try my new costume, I left 30 minutes prior
to the end of the workshop and ran to the bazaar hoping the
last modifications have been done. Eman Zaky …
what a designer! My costume was ready and waiting for me with
an encouraging smile as well from Zaky. Off to the contest
I chose to perform
to a song that moved me: the third part of Oum
Kalthoum's, Inta Omri, (you are my whole life)
About 10 participants
were there, all pretty and ready to perform for the audience. The
extraordinary jury consisted of: Jim Boz, Heather Burby,
Samasen, Shafeek Ibrahim and Sara Abu Farah. Josephine
Wise presented the event and I couldn’t help but notice
the presence of some of the other teachers in the audience
as Galit, Fathiem and Maria D’Silva,
who all came to enjoy the show.
The contest began,
the three first dancers were beautiful, and then there was
me, in my brand new white dress. Looking back I think I was
lucky to buy this dress since two of the other dancers were
performing in golden costumes, which was very similar to my
able to prepare my planned choreography properly for the
Oum Kalthoum song, which is not easy to interpret to begin
with, I quickly turned to emotions in order to fill up
the space. Encouraged by a supportive and warm audience,
I let my self sink into the song and let the emotions it
built in me rise to the surface. It was an amazing experience
and a real pleasure to share that moment with the audience.
all the performers danced, it was time to announce the winner.
Third place a dancer from Spain, second place, a dancer from
England and first place? Me!
Needless to say I
was thrilled. It’s a great honor for me to be able to perform
in front of this jury, and to be able to move them… So I won
a cup, a crown, a free pass for next year’s Congress (YES!),
a slot to perform on one of the night galas, and a contract
with Book a Belly Dancer Agency (I still don’t
know what it means, but I’m sure Josephine will clarify that
for me soon).
As it has been since
the beginning of the weekend, there’s no time to let anything
sink in slowly. After the adrenaline rush from winning the
contest, I only had the time to run to the bazaar and thank Eman
Zaky, who was literally crying out of joy for me.
I was then watching the work of Frederic David in
front of about 100 fascinated students. She is so precise in
Four o’clock PM, its
the last workshop of the week end for me: Khaled Mahmoud.
Mahmoud is a purist Egyptian style dancer and a very generous
teacher (one of the only teachers who allowed us to film during
The weekend closed
with the third and last gala entitled “Cairo to Casablanca”.
The icing on the cake was Natasha Atlas in
concert at the end.
I enjoyed Shafeek who
performed a cane and stick dance with his wife. Khaled
Mahmoud performed the choreography he taught us just
a couple of hours before. He was brilliant!
like a mermaid and reminded me of Naima Akef! Yasmina from
Cairo was very sensual and beautiful, and finally, the person
we were all looking forward to: Randa Kamel,
smiling and strong. She was as generous of a performer as she
was a teacher. She was truly the star of the moment. It felt
like a birthday gift to see her performing!
The magnificent show
ended with a live concert of Natasha Atlas who
invited some of the male performers for an improvised dance
with her drummer. It was a delight.
One more night sleeping
and then it was time to go back home. What a fabulous journey.
Without a doubt, the first congress attempt in Europe was a
What else can you
ask for? Could something be improved? Well, I guess I could
say the schedule was very tight; the center a little bit too
noisy, and some work could be have been done for further valorizing
the teachers and performers. But all this is probably
being taken care of already by the congress staff and Mrs.
Until next time!
Festival website here
Textiles Part 3: Creating Your Unique Statement by Najia
is possible that you may never have performed professionally
while wearing a lampshade on your head…but I have!
for Middle Eastern Belly Dancers, Is a 501c3 Right
for You? by Dawn Devine
understanding the nature of non-profits, how they are organized
and run, you can see their potential for developing successful
arts organization, performance space, dance company or troupe.
Not Me; it’s You: Toxic People and What to do
About Them by Taaj
problem is, sometimes it’s hard for a reasonable person
to tell if she or he is under attack by a toxic person who intends
Web Apps for Busy Dancers by Asim
part of my day job is to keep up with technical information,
I thought I would write about three free useful online services
for busy dancers, and see if these can give you a hand—without
killing your Bella Budget!
Have All The Cover-ups Gone? by Ashiya and Naajidah
happened to professionalism? Mystery? Decorum and good taste? Some
people think that performing is a way for egotistical show-offs
to get attention. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
A true performer entertains her audience, doing her best
to make sure everyone is having a good time. What could be
more generous than that?
Bay Bellydance Bazaar by Aziza! photos by many
including: Aziza!, Carl Sermon and others, Santa Rosa,
were workshops all day (taught by Theresea, Susu Pampanin, Magidah
and Hannah Romanza), a large bazaar, all-day dancing performances
and an evening gala show. Everything a dancer could want.
Holidays, A Dance and Culture Camp in Tunisia Report
and photos by Denise Leclair
do you judge a dance trip? Would you go back next year? …in
a heartbeat. Damn the cost and mercury retrograde and the heat.
It was that good!