Gilded Serpent presents...

2011 Eilat Dance Festival with T and A!

Eilat Map

by Terry Del Giorno
posted November 15, 2011

Even before we arrived at the Club Hotel Eilat in Israel, where the Eilat Festival was held in 2011, we were met with warmth and generosity from fellow attendees and instructors.  Their display of graciousness was evident in every aspect of the event.

While waiting in the Ben-Gurion Airport, we were able to identify other dancer types, from their enthusiasm and flamboyant dress style.  We were ushered into appropriate lines with the help of returning festival attendees. After our brief flight from Tel Aviv to Eilat, we were bussed on a minuscule ride to the hotel where the festival took place.

The skillful organizational skills of Orit Matsfir and Yael Moav became evident as soon as we entered the Club Hotel Eilat. We received a packet with room keys, program of events, a CD of music (How nice is that?) and a bag in which to put it all.

The hotel is situated across the street from the Red Sea, sharing borders with Jordan and Egypt.  Eilat is a bustling attraction for many tourists, boasting world class beaches, diving, and great weather, which was one reason that we picked this destination in January! Of course, with the allure of a dance vacation, it was the perfect destination for my long-time dance buddy, Alnisa, and me.

Terry and AlnisaThe hotel’s architecture is nautical in theme, but I didn’t notice this immediately because as soon as you enter, it seemed dance-based. Everything from the huge banner in the lobby to the Naima Akef  and Samia Gamal Hall spoke of Oriental dance.

The first evening was a welcome party for dancers. It was complete with a generous spread of wonderful food, live music, formal and informal performances of the instructors and a bottle of Arak (an anise liquor) for every table! I was content.

There was an abundance of dance classes to enjoy: everything from Tribal Style to Tarab, as well as lessons suitable for beginners through advanced dancing. Most of the classes seemed to be limited to 1-1/2 hours in length. In all of the classes I attended, I noted a  generosity of spirit that I have not seen before. Students were allowed to video the choreography. (Time was delegated at the end of each session to do so.)

There were opportunities for amateurs to perform in casual settings along with the requisite gala shows.  Shimmy and Beledi competitions took place poolside in the Bedouin tent.  An evening (marked as a competition) was an incredibly hilarious testament to Asi Hillani’s talent as a mimic to Belly dance stars of past and present.

Despite the language barrier, it was clearly obvious to me who he was impersonating!

 He shrewdly directed the band, stopping and dissecting the dancer’s signature music, and rhythm up. Base rhythm, embellishments, melody and vocals were explored and there was time for weaving anecdotes of each dancer in turn.

As only one of a handful of Americans, I can say that the language barrier was the only  drawback to the festival for me.  We didn’t find out about our daily breakfast spread until the last day! Poor me! We didn’t realize we had designated dinner seating and nobody told us about them. Perhaps it was my fault, but these minor oversights did nothing to diminish our enjoyment of the Eilat 2011 Festival.  However, I must note that all of the classes in which we participated were mostly conducted in English.

Whether you are a beginner or seasoned student of dance, Festival Eilat offers excellent dance instruction and a lovely venue for a vacation. Now, the festival is in its 8th year; Orit and Yael have created a world class Belly dance event. I’m wondering: will I go again in 2012?

*Our next stop is Cairo: the “Calm Before the Storm, Brain Cancer, and My Cup is Overflowing”!

Welcoming banner in the lobby as you enter Hotel Eliat with photo of Tahia at lower left.

Opening Eve Gala with tabla and tabli making the rounds

Sunset in Tel Aviv on the night before we left for Cairo (that chapter coming soon!)

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