‘A New Direction’
Festival has been hugely successful for the past 8 years but
I have decided that the time has come to change direction and
give it a new meaning. Times have changed and so has the dance
scene. I love nothing more than a new challenge, so I have
spent my spring break redesigning it with this in mind. With
everyone (including me) now thinking internationally I think
there is now more of a need to think locally and support local
the Fantasia Festival in 2000 with a specific idea in mind.
I had been teaching and performing at festivals abroad, particularly
in German cities, and believed that the United Kingdom needed
original idea for the festival was firstly to promote UK
teachers. In my travels teaching workshops all around the
UK I found good teachers who were only known in their immediate
areas. I thought that if dancers came to the festival from
a wide range of areas, and tried workshops with a similarly
wide range of teachers, that the logical outcome was that
a teacher from Scotland could find herself invited to teach
workshops in Cornwall or vice versa. I had a vision of
the whole dance scene becoming one and being aware of one
I was aware that it was difficult for students of Middle Eastern
dance to find teachers, and when they did, to find out whether
they were being taught an authentic and good quality version
of the dance. I realised that if someone learning in a church
hall in Wales came to a festival with the best teachers in
the country, she would have an automatic guide as to the standard
of what she was being taught. Similarly teachers could come
and learn a wide variety of styles and material to take back
and teach their students.
At this point
I had already been running the JWAAD (Josephine
Wise Academy of Arabic Dance) Teacher Training Diploma Course
with Maggie Caffrey since 1992. This was my
original bid to raise standards of the dance in the UK by raising
the standard of teaching. When I heard accusations that I may
be using just JWAAD teachers at the Fantasia, I put the letters
JWAAD after the names of teachers with the diploma so that
it could be plainly seen who was and was not a JWAAD teacher,
and that a large proportion of the teachers were not JWAAD
trained. These days it is usually about half and half.
with I resisted calls to bring in star teachers from abroad.
This was because I was interested in promoting UK teachers
to UK students. I thought that this country had some very talented
dancers who were struggling to make a living and support the
dance, and that they deserved to be the stars of the show.
However, eventually the inevitable happened and I started to
bring in star teachers from Egypt. This was very successful,
although I was afraid of the ‘horse’s mouth’ syndrome, which
can develop, in which students believe that only an Egyptian
teacher can teach the real thing. In my opinion teaching is
highly skilled and not dependent on geography, although it
was now possible for anyone who couldn’t necessarily go to
Cairo, to again compare what was being taught with her own
Valois teaching a workshop at Fantasia in 2007. Amongst
the students in the front row is
of the International Bellydance Congress amateur dancer
Cleopatra Award in 2007
Fantasia had been running for a few years several new local
festivals sprang up around the country. I should say that Majma already
existed and was a very successful event in Glastonbury. However,
the new glut of festivals caused the same thing to happen that
I had seen in Germany several years earlier.
was that instead of having 2 or 3 big festivals with dancers
from all over the country, there were so many festivals
that everyone stayed at home and just went to their local
one. This meant that there was a less varied mix of students
of the dance at each individual festival, and the dance
scene was once again localised.
I developed, with Edwin Wood, the idea of
the International Bellydance Congress.
This was conceived as a truly huge event that had a mind-boggling
cast of star teachers and performers from around the world.
It was an enormous success and surpassed our wildest dreams.
We had some trouble with the venue (!) and afterwards Edwin
very sensibly retired from the fray of organising such an unwieldy
have now found some new partners and a great new venue
for 2009 – unfortunately the re-arrangement has meant that
2008 was impossible.
that I mention the Congress is that this is now a new event
designed for dancers from all over the UK. Actually it is designed
for dancers from many other countries as well, and they came
last time from all over the world. This means that there is
again an event that brings together dancers from different
worlds to see each other’s work and gain inspiration to take
home with them. But what does this mean for the Fantasia? I
am too prolific with my events, it seems! I took this spring
off to develop some other dance work and to go to the States
and enjoy myself! I have been thinking about the Fantasia and
what it is for, and have realised that it is still needed,
but as London’s ‘local’ festival. To this end I have been redesigning
it for its new purpose.
I have decided
to concentrate mainly on teachers and students from London
and the South. This doesn’t mean we won’t have visiting teachers
from elsewhere, just that the design will all be with them
in mind. I have expanded the idea of the evening show to include
more teachers and student groups, using the Studio Theatre,
which is a more relaxed performance space. This means that
the Performance Platform, the show and the dancing afterwards
will merge into one longer celebration of dance. This will
provide an opportunity for students to get performing experience
alongside their teachers.
Dance Company featuring Trish Rapley-Giles in the foreground,
performing a folkloric pot dance at Fantasia
Fantasia Festival will be held on 12th, 13th &14th December
2008 and I am now inviting all teachers to contact me if they
want to teach and perform, and particularly if they want to
bring their students to perform as well. I think we can all
learn by seeing what other dancers are up to, and I want to
bring people together so they feel more part of a community.
I know my success has made some people think that I am just
in it for the money, but believe me, if money were my prime
concern I wouldn’t be a dancer! I am always interested in what
makes the dance scene tick, and what will help it to develop
and grow. We have come so far since I started studying Arabic
Dance – in those days there were 3 teachers in the whole country!
I learned for 4 years before I first went to Egypt in 1985
and discovered that the dance there was very different to the
dance I had been learning. I also had to bring back badly
tapes bought in the souks and try to decipher what the music
was. Now we can buy all the music on the Internet and go to
famous Egyptian teachers in our home towns. I think that’s
quite an achievement for all of us!
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International Belly Dance Congress told by Salwa of Belgium
and the winner of the contest professional category
September 28-30, 2007, in Bogner Regis, England Gala photos provided by Josephine
Wise, others by author.
being 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.
London Belly Beat! by Alexandria
have nothing against tribal or fusion styles and seem to enjoy
all belly dance.
Rags to Rhinestones by Dolores
am most proud of having taken up dance later in life and having
become an acclaimed professional-level performer.
Ramzy Tour of 2003, photos provided by Hossam and
from:Brazil, Brisbane, MaryBorough, Wellington, London, Singapore
and Tibet? Readers- please help us with matching names to these
Shagged on Virgin Atlantic by Kayla Summers
is about a trip that took two days but never went anywhere.
Night in London Town by Justine Merrill
That’s how after a day at the Tower of London, I found myself navigating
the Edgware district after dark, in the fog and light rain, looking for dinner.
Christina trailed behind me, feet dragging, whiney and hungry, but hanging
on after a full day or of walking.
9-9-08 Bert & Me:
Vignettes From Our Partnership by Najia Marlyz
Bert might like to think of himself as a simple man, in fact,
he is a very complex and private person whose lifetime is filled
with famous and colorful characters and experiences.
Raqs LA Photos, Best from the Stage on the Lower Level,
Photos by Carl Sermon text by Carl Sermon, Ma*Shuqa
and Marta Schill
May 17-18, 2008 Glendale Civic Auditorium, California, produced
by Miles Copeland and organized by Marta Schill
Broken Vessel by Paola
too, must believe in our movements, believe in their purpose
and message, and we must deploy them with the array of human
faculties that begin to evolve when the Art of the Dance is taken