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.
The 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!)
Ready for more?
- 6-20-05 The 2005 Eilat Festival, My Fete in Israel
This was the first professional festival of its kind in Israel. Despite its being overwhelmingly exhausting and loaded with material, the celebrating continued in the lobby, well into the night, with endless conversations and the exchange of tales.
- 5-4-04 Belly Dance in Israel
Belly dancers are the hottest trend at the moment, unlike the totally frozen attitudes towards the Arab culture in Israel.
- 4-7-11 Our Changing Dance World, a Response to Leila’s "Dance for Dancers"
Of course, we learn musicality and so forth, but where dance classes in some places are an hour long, teaching long choreography is not sustainable to an instructor.
- 10-7-07 Glimpses Into the Past:On DVD at Last!
Some current dancers may find that the sentiment of the 70’s feels alien and therefore unable to relate to it. However, I believe many dancers will be thrilled to see faces attached to the names of some of our dance legends like Bert Balladine in Gameel Gamal.
- 11-10-11 A Month in Cairo, Egypt, Report No. 3: Fresh Eggs and the Festival Begins, Ahlan Wa Sahlan, Part 1
One of the aspects of AWS that I enjoy most is the contact it offers with dancers not only from Egypt, both Egyptian and foreign-born, but from all over the world. It’s a rare opportunity to find out that our dance idols are real people who are warm, friendly, and eager to share their knowledge.
- 11-7-11 Jillina Drum Solo Video from International Bellydance Conference of Canada
Jillina dances for drummer, Suleiman Warwar. This performance was held at the Acrobat Lounge in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
- 11-4-11 SFBA MECDA Gala Show & Festival 2010
Produced by the San Francisco Bay Area chapter of the Middle Eastern Culture and Dance Association, held on November 15, 2010, in the Hillview Community Center in Los Altos, CA
- 11-2-11 Radio Bastet, Where the Hafla Never Stops! An Interview with Its Creator, Marisa Young
Here’s one thing that is very frustrating: finding out that you have two or three copies of the exact same record, released on different labels, with different artists names, different track names and arrangements, and different covers!
When did Ballet become a requisite for Belly dance, and why is it stated that it should be an essential part of a Belly dancer’s daily regimen?
- 10-31-11 Sirat Al-Ghawazi, Ghawazi Research, Part 10: 1977, Nawary Gypsy Background of the Mazin Ghawazi
"They came to the aforesaid Shah and asked him for dwellings in his country … the greater portion he placed in Mazandaran as a check to the pride of the Uzbak, Turkmans, Umid, and the nomad Tatars, who are always starting raids, and acting as highwaymen."
- 10-28-11 Europe- Helm Musical Adventures, Part 3
Last winter my husband, Mark Bell, and I were hosted in Paris and Slovenia to teach Middle Eastern rhythms and present Tribal Belly Dance with live music. The following are photos from our adventures.
- 10-27-11 Why I Went to Camp This Summer, A Report of Bahaia’s 2010 Camparet
Before much time had elapsed, I found myself dancing while bound mid thigh with a hot pink velvet stretchy band and a drinking straw inserted between my teeth. Crazy? Yeah, like a small red fox.