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Dance Festival Warms Oslo Winter


Nawal Benabdallah
This attractive and classy woman is a well-spring of knowledge. Moroccan, but based in Paris, France…

Oslo Oriental Dance Festival 2011

by DaVid of Scandinavia
by Anders Gundersen
posted July 25, 2011

The Oslo Oriental Dance Festival 2011 took place February 11 through 13, 2011, at Studio Orient, Belleville, and Cosmopolite, in Oslo, Norway with the backdrop of idyllic snow clad streets, briskly cool air and fuzzy winter jackets. HeleneThe festival was started by performer, instructor and Studio Orient owner, Helene Skaugen, and continues to be hosted by Helene and the Studio Orient crew, bringing together dancers, instructors and performers from all over Europe for a weekend of dance immersion. It was a never-to-be-forgotten chance for dancers from near and far to catch up with each other.

The festival is structured with:

  • An Oriental Dance competition for the title of “Dancer of the Year”,
  • 2 gala shows with guest dancers from France, Norway, Denmark, and the USA, and
  • 9 workshops with 7 different instructors

The Oslo Oriental Dance Festival has hosted Middle Eastern dance dignitaries such as Raqia Hassan, Randa Kamel, Mona El Said, Hamada Hossam El Din, Momo Kadous, Samassem, Nesma and Ranya Renee. This year’s main instructors were to have been the founder of the Reda Troupe, Mahmoud Reda, and the Paris based Moroccan dancer, Nawal Benabdallah. However, due to the unforeseen unrest in Egypt, Mahmoud Reda was unable to come.

Nawal Benabdallah taught Moroccan Chaabi and an Orientale choreography in her workshops, and additionally also taught a special class on Balady geared for professional/advanced dancers. This year’s guest instructors were Helene Skaugen, Majken Wærdahl, Siri Ydstie, Mari Sletten, Shirin and myself (DaVid). Festival participants experienced the enjoyable range of workshop subjects from Introduction to Bellydance, Drumsolos, Step Combinations to Shaabi Music, as well as Entertaining Skills and Shimmies from which they could choose.

The workshop program kicked off Friday afternoon and continued with the Orientale Dance competition for the title of “Dancer of the Year” with judges Nawal Benabdallah, Helene Skaugen, Hilde Lund and myself.

This competition is not open to professional dancers, and judges are required to give constructive feedback to encourage growth.

Anna Barner

Anna Barner

Eight brave dancers presented their Orientale pieces before the judges, and subsequently, Ingrid Kvam was crowned the winner, winning a costume by Istanbul Dreams, the title of “Dancer of the Year”, and hopefully, fame and glory. Rønnaug Stokke took 1st runner up, winning a DVD collection sponsored by Studio Orient and a year-long subscription to the Norwegian Middle Eastern dance magazine, “Al Raqassa!” and Anita Kjeverud took 2nd place runner up, winning a one year membership to the national Norwegian Orientale Dance Association,“Al Farah Orientalske Danseforening”.

The competition was followed by the Friday evening gala show at Belleville, featuring:

  1. Lizzie Hagen in a strong Orientale and
  2. Vigdis Bjørnøy in a mind-blowingly fun Moroccan Chaabi.
  3. Shireen presented a theatrical Jazz Fusion piece.
  4. Mari Sletten danced a sassy Burlesque Shaabi.
  5. Anna Barner, from Denmark, performed an elegant Mwashshahat.
  6. Christina Stjernsholm appeared in a sweet Orientale, and
  7. myself (DaVid) in an strong and upbeat Shaabi and an expressive Tarab piece.

The energy in the theater was enthusiastic, and we dancers peaked supportively at each others’ performances from backstage.

Saturday featured a day of workshops, shopping and cake-eating followed by the Saturday evening gala show at Cosmopolite featuring:

Nawal Benabdallah in an energetic Moroccan Chaabi and an ethereal Orientale,
Divas of Bellydance in a thrilling drum solo,
Helene Skaugen in a powerful Shaabi and a sweet drumsolo,
Majken Wærdahl in a flowing Orientale and a sultry Saiidi,
Hilde Lund in a playful Shaabi and an emotionally loaded Oum Kalthoum,
Michelle Galdo with a sassy Shaabi and a sultry Balady,
Siri Ydstie in a flowing Orientale, playful Shaabi with drumsolo, and
Madam Qadam in an athletic and smooth Orientale. Competition Winner Ingrid
Ingrid Kvam, “Dancer of the Year”, was invited to dance in Saturday’s gala (as per festival tradition) and delighted the audience with her winning performance. The theater was packed and the audience enjoyed the show throughout the evening.

HildeSunday was the last day of workshops, and the studios was, yet again, full of enthusiastic, motivated, and giddy dancers. I taught my shimmy technique and combination workshop on Sunday, and I had a hard working group of dancers of all levels in my class. They eagerly worked through the movements (even though, at times, challenged). It was an envigorating class!

However, let us talk about Nawal Benabdallah! This attractive and classy woman is a well-spring of knowledge. Moroccan, but based in Paris, France, she manages a dance company, tours the world, teaches at the Nile Group festivals in Cairo, produces dance works for Moroccan TV, produces a dance festival in Morocco, creates new dance works and assists Mahmoud Reda in his workshops from time to time, along with working to promote knowledge and skills in Moroccan folk dances and culture.

Nawal’s investment and engagement in dance is just intoxicating! Her workshops were packed with information on culture, dance mechanics, expressive quality and music. In her Chaabi workshop she ensured rhythmic knowledge and also set aside time for a group “dance-off”, with the class divided into two groups that would call and respond with dance movements, capturing the energy, playfulness and sentiment of Chaabi. Everyone enjoyed Nawal’s insights and thoughts on timing, expression and essence in the Balady class for professionals. Nawal’s Orientale class provided Reda-inspired foot work enmeshed with Nawal’s own flavor as a performer, choreographer, and dancer. Both of her performances in the Saturday night evening gala were graceful and enjoyable.  The audience received her Moroccan Chaabi, including rhythmic foot work on the Ka’ada (steel drum) with overwhelming enthusiasm.

The Oslo Oriental Dance Festival always takes place in February. If you have an opportunity to attend, I recommend that you do for an opportunity to experience the Norwegian capital along with many of the well-known Middle Eastern dancers of Norway.

Studio Orient:


Nawal Helene & DaVid


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