There is nothing more exotic and enticing to me than the nasal sound of the Mizmar calling a snake out of its basket followed by the deep “dum tek tek” of Egyptian drums. The sounds immediately conjure images of Princess Jasmine, her long jet black hair falling against an olive-skinned waist that sways and undulates in time with the rhythm of the drums. Bejeweled bra and hip scarf studded with gems of every colour jingle with each movement and a sparkling Bindi between her eyes catches the light as she dances. Belly Dancing. Only those who have entered Aladdin‘s Cave know the secret of this ancient dance form…it’s ability to unlock a woman’s femininity and sensuality, giving her that quiet inner confidence that comes with accepting and enjoying what it means to be a woman. Interested yet? If you already do Belly Dancing or would like to try it, why not combine the experience with a little holiday in exotic Egypt?
From 27 June to 4 July 2012 the Ahlan Wa Sahlan or AWS Festival takes place in Cairo. Whether you’re a novis, pro or a teacher, all levels are welcome and catered for. You can also choose which of the 60 or so teachers you would like to take lessons from. This of course is only useful if you know who all the teachers are and their teaching styles, however the website just provides pics of the teachers, no bios 😦 AWS travel is a registered travel agency through which your trip can be booked along with a place in the Festival. This is quite useful as AWS is the only travel agency with access to the festival so if you have not booked through them, you wont be able to attend the workshops. Workshops and classes are daily from 10am to 7pm. There are also Opening and Closing Gala Dinners on offer as well as performances from professionals and of course, a competition. The only downside is that classes are not included in the package and have to be paid for separately. Classes are 2 to 3 hours and cost between $40 and $80 with a minimum charge of $200, so you should come ready to “shake it” a whole lot! If it’s just the idea of putting on a sparkling costume and playing dress up that tickles your fancy, costumes will also be on sale.
A beginners costume is simply a pair of Harem pants (pantaloons) or a full skirt worn under a coin hip scarf and matching coin-embellished top. As you get mor into Bellydance you will probably want to spend a bit more on your costume as it is an expression of yourself. I got my first costume made so that it fit my body like a glove. I used all my favourite colours in a variety of shades and textures. The result was breath-taking and it’s the only type of outfit where more is more…more colour, more sparkle, more texture, more of anything your heart desires. Making your own costume is time-consuming and expensive so I bought my second one. I chose it not only because it fit (don’t laugh, its difficult at 5″1 to find costumes that fit and you can’t alter them because all the detail is at the bottom of the skirt!) but also because of the colours, they were completely different to my first costume and showed a brighter side to my personality. Here are some pics of my different belly costumes…
If you really want to get into Belly Dancing then be prepared to spend a lot of money. Professional costumes cost anywhere between R1000 and R7000 but it doesn’t end there. You have to buy your props which are a veil (R200 -R1000), a sword (about R900), zills or finger symbols (R200-R400), fire sticks (about R500), a cane and folkloric costume if you want to go this route as well (total of about R1000) and a tribal costume which I never did so I have no idea what they cost but judging from the pictures, they are expensive too. But of course you can’t forget about the accessories, large dangling earings, head and hair jewelry, bindi’s, ankle bracelets, cuffs, necklaces and rings. Considering all this Belly dance is a rather expensive hobby to take up and if you become professional you will probably never make back the money you have spent on your costumes by doing shows alone. Most professionals also teach and conduct workshops, much like yoga practitioners.
If you are interested in becoming a professional performer or teacher then the Winter Intensive Course may be more up your alley. The course runs from 5-16 December and includes technique training and steps, how to combine steps together, how to stage your dances, why you should mix the steps together, which steps complement each other choosing the right music for your choreography.
You could also head to Egypt in April where you can partake in two different festivals. Shem al Nessim marks the arrival of spring in Egypt and is celebrated throughout Egypt on the Monday after Coptic Easter in April. Then, from 17 – 22 April 2012 is the Oriental Folklore workshop as well as the Miss Bellydance competition from 18- 23 April. Traditional Folkloric dance is different to Belly Dance. The dancer wears a galabayah that covers her body entirely. The galabayah is often adorned with coins and jewels and comes with a matching head and hip scarf. The dancer will use props in her routine. A common prop used is a cane decorated in gold or silver which the dancer swings and taps throughout the dance. The music has a distinct rhythm and you wont be able to contain your foot-tapping! Dancers often perform in groups in complicated patterns which rival those of synchronised swimmers.
Belly Dance is truly an amazing dance form and I highly recommend trying it out even if just for a bit of exercise. It’s really good for your hips and spinal flexibility. All the hip circles help lubricate your hip sockets and the undulations you do with your upper body increase mobility in the spine and strengthen the abdominals. Belly Dance, especially the belly rolls, used to be used as a preparation for giving birth in ancient times. But despite all the health benefits the greatest benefit will be an increase in self-confidence and acceptance of your body in all it’s natural feminine splendor.
Just for fun I have posted a video of one of my favourite dancers, Sadie. After seeing this you will definitely want to get your body a-shakin’!
For more info on the various festivals check out these sights.