The Gilded Serpent

 


Author performing
photo by André Elbing

Gilded Serpent presents...
My Winning Experience
at Leyla Jouvana and Roland's
1st Bellydancer of the World Contest

by Khalida
Winner of the 1st Place in Solo Raks Sharki
and 3rd Place Solo - Fusion Fantasy Categories


The 15th Annual Leyla Jouvanas International Festival of Oriental Dance took place in Duisburg, Germany, November 23 to December 2, 2007. The guest stars and teachers included Aziza of Canada, Sharon Kihara of Bellydance Superstars, Hind of Morocco, Magdy El-Leisy, Maria Shazadi of Mexico City, but also Leyla Jouvana & Roland, Christian and Seetha and many many more. Dr. Mo of Egypt participated in the event as well, giving workshops on various topics throughout the week.  The festival drew more than 4,500 visitors from various countries around the world.

As usual, the event was packed with 10 days of workshops and ended with a 2 day gala show. But for the first time now the Festival also included (and started off with) an international contest named "Bellydancer of the World". Aziza, Magdy el Leisy, Schachlo, Maria Shazadi and Hind were in the jury. Leyla herself judged as well, but Maria Shazadi replaced her whenever students of Leyla’s dance studio competed.

On a personal note: I've had some doubts about entering this contest because of the ‘big’ title attached to it, but after much thought I decided to go for it anyway.

Working towards a goal really helps me to focus and setting the stakes high pushes me beyond my comfort level as a dancer. But what convinced me even more was the fact that the guest teachers would also be the judges in this competition, which meant we would be able to ask for specific feedback afterwards.


Author with Aziza

Judges or Jury

Day 1 - Workshop with Aziza
Figuring it would be less stressful to arrive a day early, a friend from Holland and I checked in on Friday and took a veil workshop with Aziza in Leyla’s Studio on the day before the competition.

Aziza was wonderful as always.. She is truly a warm-hearted teacher who generously shares her passion for this dance form with her students. Her veil work is so fluid and graceful, and I am amazed again and again at the new tricks and beautiful poses she keeps coming up with. 

We talked with Leyla for a moment after the workshop. She had been working day and night for weeks trying to put everything together and was still answering phone calls and emails on the spot. I have nothing but admiration for the massive amount of work she puts into this yearly event, while still taking the time to help out students, guests, and visitors.

We spotted Magdy el Leisy in the Studio as well and asked him to pose for a quick picture with us.

Day 2 - The Contest
So.. After months of preparation this was the day contest time! I would be dancing in 2 categories, Solo Fusion/Fantasy and solo Classic Oriental/Raks Sharki.

The competition was held in a giant sports hall in Duisburg. There was a big bazaar in the front of the hall and there was a nice big stage on the other side. The audience was seated in rows directly in front of the stage, and the judges were on an elevated platform behind them.

The kick-off was a short solo performance by the judges and guest stars. It was fun and inspiring to see them dance, each performer with their own speciality and style. There was a quick break after the show and a few minutes later the first participants started.

For the Fusion/Fantasy Solo, I had prepared a piece using "Isis Wings" half-choreographed with floor work. The audience was great (I heard some zaghareets!) and the dance went well, but my nerves did get to me a bit during the first drum solo improvisation..

I was not able to watch many of the performances that day, but what I did see looked quite good. For example Fériel Rodriguez (France) danced Argentino-Oriental Fusion with great stage presence, and I was very impressed with the technique and polished style of Leyla’s student performance troupes. They won several awards that day (Fantasy and Fusion for groups and for formations) and they were loved by both the audience and participants.

After the soloist drum solo improvisations, I ran to the dressing room to change costumes, jump around a bit and clear my head for the next category.

Before the Classic/Raks Sharki solos started, the Fusion/Fantasy category dancers had to go backstage once more to hear the announcements of the 5 highest scores.  What struck me most about that moment was the positive attitude of the contestants backstage: people were literally cheering each other on behind the curtain.

After we figured out which order we had to go on, I heard Leyla say my name through the speaker.  A moment later I heard her say '3rd place'. At first I was not sure if I had heard correctly, but looking at my friends jumping up and down back in the audience I realized it was true! My first award! I was over the moon, so I kept smiling for the rest of the evening.

The first place for this category went to Fériel Rodriguez of France and second place went to Manon Garin (also of France).

Winning the 3rd place for the Fantasy/Fusion category helped me dance with more confidence during my solo for the Classical/Raks Sharki. The second drum solo felt much better as well. I was able to really hear the music and connected with the audience. I was told by several people that the joy and playfulness I was feeling also radiated off the stage.

A few moments later, the dancers of the main category had to go backstage and wait for the final announcements. After the third and second place were called out (Suleyha-Munhira and Caroline Lemm), we looked around and tried to guess which dancer would be named for the first place.  When I heard “Khalida” through the speakers again I could see my friends jump up and down for the second time this day, way back in the audience.

Magdy and Aziza were dancing on their chairs as well, and then quickly came up to the stage to congratulate the winners.

It was a long day altogether, 263 participants danced in thirteen categories, and the people were quite tired at the end. What struck me most about this day was how smoothly the competition went (despite the large number of participants and groups there were no big delays or problems), the great, amicable athmosphere, and last but not least the fun loving and professional attitude of everyone involved, organisers and participants alike.

Thank you so much Leyla and Roland for making this all possible and setting up this wonderful event!!


Off-site resources:
The results of the competition (5 highest scores per category only) and more information about the yearly festival can be found at www.leyla-jouvana.de

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