A Year in Spain
by Crystal Silmi
posted May, 2012
in Spanish- Espanol
It is 2012, and it has been just over a year since I set sail for a new life in the old world. I left the comfort and ease of life in Santa Cruz, California, with an amazing group of women dancers to see what life (and love) had to offer on the “other side” of the ocean.
No part of me can say that it has been an easy ride! Setting forth alone in a new country, speaking a new language with no one to vouch for you is a daring adventure, not to mention a lonely one.
My first attempts (made from the USA) to forge a contact with Spanish dancers were short of successful! In a lucky, misguided Internet search, I was led to discover the school of Alessandra D’Ambra, a lovely Italian dancer who is living in Spain. Alessandra was the first to open her doors to me.
The dancers in Spain seemed a bit wary of me at first: You are from San Francisco; why haven’t we heard of you? Are you Tribal or Cabaret? “Well, um–not really either, and yet both,” I wanted to answer.
(In Spain, “Tribal” is pronounced “tree-ball” so of course, I had no idea what anyone was talking about.)
This obsession with style classification in Bellydance is a worldwide phenomenon, and to be bluntly honest, it makes me squirm. I don’t want to be “tree-ball” or anything else. I am a dancer. I teach dance, technique and style, and all artists are free to choose what best suits them and their mood. No?
One of the greatest things I appreciate about my having studied with Suhaila Salmipour is that she was always encouraging students to discover their own voice in dance. Likewise, I try to encourage those who dance with me to do the same and not to be a knock-off of another dancer’s look or style of movement.
We dance to express ourselves; that is what art is – an expression of feeling. At least, for me it is…
Little by little, doors started to open for me in Europe. I traveled to teach workshops in Germany and Italy and perform at the awesome Split Tribal Fest in Croatia.
I stuck my neck out and did those types of performances that I had always refused to do in the US in which you actually have to pay to dance.
I don’t mean “pay” in the sense that I show up and pay someone, but to get on a train, book a hotel room, or even board an airplane to show my face on a stage somewhere to present myself and my work. I am not sure if it is my ego or my general practicality that prevented me from such quests in the US, but if you want to move to a foreign country and be a dancer, there is no other way.
My dear friend Ariellah, with whom I had the great honor of collaborating in Deshret Dance Company just before I moved to Spain last year, has been invaluable in trying to help connect me here. She spoke with Morgana who produces Gothla España and encouraged her to invite me to teach and perform at Gothla in 2011. Morgana is very popular here in Spain, and her events always attract dancers from all over the country and beyond. This event presented the opportunity to have some of my dancers from RaksArabi (my troupe in California) join me in Spain. Ah! It felt like old times again. In one weekend, we performed and taught at 2 workshops in Madrid and drove to Valencia, then back to dance at Valencia Tribal Fest.
This was the lifestyle to which I was accustomed–and the lifestyle that I missed.
Life is starting to get on a roll for me now in Spain: I had successful workshops in Sevilla and soon I’ll be heading to Malaga, Barcelona, back to Croatia, and then to Montreal in the fall.
I am grateful to all the dancers near and far who have “taken me in” and have helped me carve out a niche in the European dance community. To return to California to teach and perform at Tribal Fest, as well as to reconnect with my local dance community, was an amazing experience this time around. It is grounding for me to be immersed with the dancers with whom I have spent many years (many of whom embody the vision of my work and my passion).
For any other dancers who may be thinking of committing an act of travel as an expatriate, you should be aware that the road is paved unevenly, so have a good supply of faith as well as patience in your first aid kit. This should get you through the rainy days and steep slopes!
Ready for more?
- 5-31-11 NEW VIDEO UPDATE-7-8-11 [Scroll down to June 14, GS ‘met Crystal in Madrid]
An experimental travel blog. Let see how it goes! The plan is to update this page frequently.
- 2-7-07 Sunday Photos PAGE 1-Carnival of Stars [Photos of Crystal at the top of the page]
Event Sponsors Alexandria and Latifa November 11 & 12, 2006 Centennial Hall, Hayward, California (panel discussion and Sunday photos PAGE 2 yet to come…)
- 3-14-07 Morgana’s Animal Magnetism, Interview with Morgana of Madrid
After seeing Morgana’s Serpent Dance, where she embodies the personality of the serpent, I was hooked. Any snake lovers or snake dancers will have a special appreciation for this piece.
- 1-18-11 Europe’s Newest Dance Destinataion, Split Tribal Festival in Croatia
It’s like an Italy that one can actually afford, due to the fact that it is not yet an European Union country, and therefore not subject to the massive cost of living spikes of EU member nations.
- 3-16-12 The Stars Converge in Barcelona, El Festival Internacional de Danza Oriental 2012,
Munique Neith is Brazilian of Arabic descent. She is the prestigious and well traveled organizer of the International Oriental Dance Festival in Barcelona. More than 1500 people take part every year in the 2 gala shows, the competitions, and in different workshops with the best international master teachers.
- 8-18-10 Nesma, Dancer of Passion
To manage the orchestra is quite complicated. They are all men and the dancer must always keep her distance from them. You have to use the service of a manager who is the intermediary between you and the other persons involved in the business. It is very important to have a good manager, a good professional and good person as well. And it is not so easy to find, I can tell you.
- 3-11-09 Munique Neith’s Studio: What You are Missing if You aren’t in Barcelona!
What inspired me to write this article was not only the unbelievable setup that is presented in Barcelona, but the fact that I have never truly felt the warmth and compassion from any situation in the dance world that I have from Munique, her husband Albert and their studio. They were warm, receptive, and incredibly gracious
- 10-16-08 Solstice Festival in Catalunia, Spain
For the third year in a row, Maria Cresswell produced a dance and music festival honoring the Summer Soltice. This year’s three day event took place high up in the Catalunian Pyrenees, in a rustic hosted fed by fresh springs and bordered by a rushing river.
- 11-23-07 Danza Del Vientre by Devorah Korek Book Review
Book is in Spanish. Once in a while an object of desire comes along, which is deemed important by its obscurity. Such could be the case with this hardcover, difficult to acquire tabletop adornment from Devorah Korek, an American-born Belly Dance teacher living and thriving in Spain.
- 10-12-06The Soltice Festival, Belly Dance in Spain- Part 2,
held June 23-26, 2006. Part Two- The Evening Show, Event organized by Maria Cresswell of Tribal Girona at Sanctuari Els Arcs, Girona, Spain. A medieval hostelry with a chapel, set in the beautiful volcanic natural park of La Garrotxa near the picturesque village of Santa Pau.
- 10-11-06 The Soltice Festival, Belly Dance in Spain- Part 1,
held June 23-26, 2006. Part One- Workshops and Setting, Event organized by Maria Cresswell of Tribal Girona at Sanctuari Els Arcs, Girona, Spain. A medieval hostelry with a chapel, set in the beautiful volcanic natural park of La Garrotxa near the picturesque village of Santa Pau.
- 9-6-05 Making New Musical Inroads in Spain
Helm takes Rhythm Diatribes Workshops to Europe, series continues…
- 7-31-00 The Dancers of the Infidel Emperor
Did you know that Belly Dancers played a significant role in the life and destiny of a great European monarch?