Oriental Festival 2006:
Delving into Oriental Culture, Dance
and Surviving Israeli Military Attack
June 20-25, 2006
feel marooned in paradise!
in South Lebanon, and I am still here, staying the extra time;
I wish I could have stayed a month after Amaniís
Oriental Festival last year. In my time here, I have
learned so much in terms of dance, culture and language that I
want to share with dancers around the world.
I am safe,
but sad for Lebanon. It is such a beautiful country, with people
with a love of life, warmth, and generosity. They have welcomed
me with open arms, and have taken exceptional care whilst I have
that Israel is attacking, I have begun to understand how the
Lebanese have lived for 30 years of war. Social values and family
meals keep the thread woven, feeding a deep sense of belonging
areas North of Beirut are safe ground and we watch the TV solemnly
as Beirut burns.
a second time has led me to understand more deeply Amaniís position
and goals in dance and in the Middle East and my respect for this
accomplished living Oriental dancer deepens as I sympathize with
her for the difficulties she faces.
a country open to the arts. Half of its population is Christian,
so women do not need to ďcoverĒ if they do not wish, and indeed,
popular fashion implores high-heeled shoes and looking fabulous.
However, deep Middle-Eastern culture has its roots set firmly.
Lebanese music is rich, the food opulent and Belly dance draws
one of the dancers I saw in restaurants worked any deeper to
their art than a field worker picking tomatoes! Yet, there is
a woman so
respected by the Arab nation that she stands alone as a solo female
dance artist of the highest standard.† The Lebanese regard her
as a theatrical figurehead and ambassador of Lebanon. In the Middle-Eastern
paradox, it is the approach she uses that has drawn dancers from
20 different countries to study with her as well as the internationally
acclaimed choreographers and theatre directors she has chosen
to teach at her festival.
masters never teach regular classes. They are Lebanonís most
acclaimed artists. They have travelled the world with their
work, and have a singular trait in common: the effective theatrical
portrayal of Oriental dance art.
for larger view
proudly lifted a trophy signifying the winner of her "Sultana
de la Danse Competition," with Russian dancer Sophia
Sarkissian. Samira Carmen Oxturl
of Australia became the second place winner, costumed in
lavendar, while Heidi Malinen of Sweden
danced in red and won third place. Other than trophies and
publicity, it is unclear whether the winners received any
other prizes or awards at Amani's competition. The competition
night entry charge for contestants was included in the cost
of the 5 day event. Audience members were charged $50 which
included a full service meal. The event was held in the
Ceasar's palace which was turned into a Lebanese style restaurant.
The guidelines for the competition were simple enough:
Oriental music only may be used.
fusion may be incorprated in dance or music.
are allowed 3.5 minutes and troupes 5.
are held the first night and the final competition takes
place on the last night of the festival.
and old friends from last yearís festival reunited during June
20-25 for the 2006 festival. Finally, it was my great pleasure
to take class with Madame Georgette Gebara, founder
of Ecole Libanis díBallet, whom I missed last year. Her
style of hand movements and conceptual work inspired me. Her choreographies
take Oriental custom and tradition into full-scored ballets, worked
around central themes. She explained her work through discussion
and video projection; then, after a warm-up, she taught a piece
expressing womenís reactions to tragedy. The simplicity of movements,
extracted with such caring finesse from their source, opened vast
directions for my own theatrical work. How to express a ululation
with the arms and hands only; how and why the women celebrate
their lost sons, the spirit of community, the use of veil: all
this, she depicted in beautiful, clean lines. Those participants
with other dance training felt inspired to call on their work,
while straight Oriental dancers had the opportunity of exploring
ballet expression within Oriental routines.
is clearly gearing the festival towards touching the subtleties
of Oriental technique.
explored emotional expression in one of three workshops she taught,
featuring basic movement layered and altered through archetypal
shifting. Amani opened the festival in her trademark style with
a modern choreography workshop incorporating classic moves with
dynamic arms and feet. Her unique style, grounded and light simultaneously,
calls both contemporary theatre and Oriental history to the forefront
of peopleís imaginations. Learning her combinations is exciting
and always fresh with inspiration.
be 60 people following Amani yet she already knows almost all
dancersí names and she bounces energetically between everyone,
making certain that they see and understand the movements. Her
attentive care is also her trademark.
workshop she taught was (Persian) Bandari: a Bedouin
dance of wild abandon inviting freedom in the hips and spine,
featuring (hand-numbing) ecstatic clapping. It is a hard choice,
but this was my favourite of all the workshops.
Many of the
workshops at the festival cover traditional community dancing,
where the Oriental style has its roots. Franscois Rahme,
certainly one of my favourite instructors (though it is difficult
to choose only one) is an exceptionally talented dancer and choreographer,
working many years with the legendary Caracalla group.
taught a Bedouin sword choreography as well as Andalusian harem
dance with veil.
Back Row l-r:
Chica Hilma, Katharina Moroz, Svitlana Dekhtyar, hidden
face. Olena Sinelnikova, hidden profile, Dalila El Qamar,
2 hidden faces, Besma, Hayet Bedroose, Linda Nealon, Heidi
Prescott, Silvana Mardini, Ann Larsonn, Heidi Malinen, Suran
Negishi, Safira, Mary d'Angelo, Suzanna, Vaike Kermas.
Front Row: Suraya Farah, Amirah, Denise, Nicole Najjar,
Amani, Christine Najjar, Lily Tsai, Nannette du Toit , Vivienne,
for larger view
and Sam Khoury with participants on excursion to the beach
Back Row l-r:
Lily Tsai, Karine Aghnatios, Bervely Joffe, Samira Ozturk,
Dersa, Suran, smile bent over, Angelo, black haltertop,
black behind, Amani, half hidden face, Sa-ra, Hayet, Dalila,
Blanca, Adreana, Chica, Victoria, Irena Smirnova, Heidi
Mallinen, Suzanna, aqua hands on thighs, Martin Castillo,
Maya Gaorry, brown outfit,
Front Row: peach top, Nuria Diez, Julia Went, Stephanie
Sullivan, Denise, Sandra Perez, ladysmiles behind, Sami
Khoury, Christine, Safira, Nannette, Nicole, white muscle
for larger view
with participants and winners
holding their certificates
Back Row l-r:
half of face, eyes behind, Allegra, Sa-ra, Chica, hidden
profile, black dress, Safira, Adreana, Nannette, cross neck,
Anne Knowles, Silvia, Ann Larson, Suzanna, Vaike, Vivienne.
Front Row: Hayet, Dalila, Stephanie, Sandra, Amani,
Samira Ozturk, Sofia Sarkissian, Heidi Mallinen, Mahitsu
for larger view
He is one
of the finest dancers I have ever seenóacross all genres of danceóand
his work in modern Oriental theatre is breathtaking. He has ideally
preserved the folk roots and cultural mannerisms in his dynamic
choreographies that call on a high level of application. He assumes
that you have warmed up properly and are ready to hit the stage
running, but he is generous with his time in answering all questions
and confirming the steps.
master teachers, many more of whom I have not included here due
to space constraints, the festival this year also offered classes
by international guest teachers in American Tribal Style Belly
dance taught by Julia Zafira of Holland, Samalady
(Samba Oriental) taught by Maya
Gaorry of Italy/ Brazil, and I taught Rotational
Yoga for Oriental Dancers! I presented a new system I have developed
to help Oriental Dancers achieve the necessary strength and flexibility
for safe and enhanced stage performance (and then, we do the Dabke).
The best treat
came on excursion day! After travelling to some beautiful, historical
sites, we lunched at a beach resort and the Dabke kicked off with
Mounir Malebís performance group leaping through
the air with magnificent steps and clashing sticks, getting us
all in the mood for what came next.† Next, we learned Lebanonís
renowned folk dance with the passionate, effervescent Sami
Khoury. The beach was the perfect setting, and Samiís
contagious energy came through each and everyone dancing. Sami
is a real livewire, and sadly, I missed his session on Oriental
day broke three full days of back-to-back workshops from 9 a.m.
to 7 p.m., hosted at the Regency Palace Hotel in Adma, which is
a beautiful artists district overlooking Jounieh Bay about 20km
North of Beirut. (Relaxing in the Regency Palace 5 star complex
feels like time-out at a spa.) The soft, clean mountain air breezes
through the valleys and the pool staff will bring you anything
from the Nargillah (water pipe) to ice cream. There are a number
of restaurants indoors and out; so, there was little need to leave
the hotel complex during festival.
To get the
most out of your trip to Lebanon, I recommend arriving a few days
before the 5-day programme to settle in, and leaving a week after.
Give yourself some time to enjoy downtown Beirut with the friends
youíve made and organise short trips to some areas worth seeing
in this beautiful little country. People visit the nomadic tribes
in the mountains, thereís a spoiling for choice as theatre-producing
dancers seek backdrop shots in the ancient buildings, sprawling
vistas and crumbling Middle-Eastern ruins, and Amaniís team is
happy to connect you with tour operators or taxiís offering guidance
can be expensive, but you should know some basic facts that
will help. Agree taxi prices beforehand: taxis from Adma (or
Jounieh) to Beirut should cost $15 (daytime) and double at night.
A bus, though, will cost you 50c, or 750 LL. It will also take
a few days getting used to the dual currency of Dollar to Lebanese
and clubs offer mezze covers, fruit covers and full meal covers.
Some places have great entertainment, and they differ from family
restaurants (great atmosphere 12 a.m. to 3 a.m.) to clubs (open
later and good from 3 a.m. to 6 a.m.). Some of the best places
for Arabic music are in Jounieh (5 minutes drive from Adma)
and downtown youíll find hip-hop and house clubs. A full night
out should cost around $60 without alcohol tabs.
- Never give
your passport to anyone except hotel staff or the Amani team
for safekeeping. The Lebanese are very trustworthy and adore
tourists, but the foreigners may try their luck with you.
- All gestures
of goodwill from Lebanese are mostly sincere; they want tourists
in their country, and they will go out of their way to ensure
you are safe and happy. They are happy to make friends and take
you out, but as a rule of thumb, itís safer to be with family
people and have a woman in your group. This keeps Lebanese men
on their best behaviour.
cuisine is outstanding and a real treat for Vegetarians with
so much fresh mezze and fruit. Beyond the restaurants, if you
can get yourself invited to a home-cooked Lebanese family meal,
you will be eating a gorgeous selection of dishes from a rich
traditional heritage. With just a few herbs, sun-ripened vegetables,
bean combinations and accompanying carbohydrates you will find
the meals balanced and beautiful. (I will never fit back into
my Oriental dance costume!)
It has been
an absolute pleasure visiting Lebanon for Amaniís 2006 Oriental
Dance Festival. Iím happy that all other attendees left Lebanon
in the weeks before the trouble with Israel, making that 69 less
visitors to worry about (because Amani and her team are wildly
protective over their visiting dancers). The Lebanese have experienced
many years of war, and they have me stowed away safely.
Alena, Vitoria, Betty, Julia, Beverly, Maya, Nannette and
I wish for
Lebanon an end to the current conflict, and I wish for a successful
2007 festival for Amani.† Such a treasure of Oriental experience
should be open to all!
more information on Amani's Festival see: http://www.amaniorientalfestival.com
a comment? Send us a letter!
Check the "Letters to the Editor"
for other possible viewpoints!
My Experience With Amani’s
Oriental Festival by Beverley Joffe
June 14-19, 2005. Amani placed strong emphasis on the folklore
and identity of Oriental Dance when compiling the program and
offered touring to assist in blending technique with emotion.
Eilat Oriental Dance Festival,
January 2006 - Report by Sophie, Photos
by Gali Tibon
As my friends' car was making its way through the desert,
the sense of anticipation, mixed with excitement, was growing
Tatseena's Bellydance Fantasy Festival
2006 Photos by Lynette & Carl Sermon
July 28 & 29, 2006 Marina Community Center, San Leandro,
California. "This festival was created for family, friends,
and fun!" says Tatseena.
Independent Contractor or Employee?
The important thing is that the relationship between
worker and payer be classified correctly for tax purposes so that
you are aware of what taxes and filings you are liable for.
Bellydancing, Mythology and Astrology:
Exploring the creative character of dance expression by Keti
Is dance a ritual, a means of celebration, a form of
entertainment, or something more? Could it be a mode of human
expression that harnesses the secrets of the universe?
What Middle Eastern Audiences
Expect from a Belly Dancer by Leila
Audiences in the Middle East, especially Egyptians, see
bellydancing as something to be participated in, critiqued, and
loved (or hated) with gusto.
Bellydance Journalism Rhythm and Reason
Series, Article 14 by Mary Ellen Donald
One powerful tool used to mislead is bellydance journalism.