We live in a wonderful time for belly dance. Thanks to the internet, we have instantaneous access to videos of performers from every era and geographical location. We have forums to support each other and to learn. We have access to in-depth articles and online courses on everything from dance technique to history and culture.
We also have an abundance of belly dance festivals! One of the best things about attending a festival is to see and experience *in person* a wide variety of styles and approaches to dance. Since festivals feature a wide variety of teachers–many of them highlighting multiple genres– fans of all styles come together, ideas are exchange and–gasp–real life dancing happens! 🙂
“When I see others dance, I feel like I am dancing with them. I release everything during the shows and really enjoy myself. To me, every dancer has a story and they tell us that story in their dance, the music they pick, the faces and emotions they show. I get to see and feel, first hand, another story that is not my own all of the time. Like watching a movie. Is the dancer sad? Is the dancer happy? Is the dancer conveying a lesson or perhaps adding a personal moment to her dance? It tells me alot about the different artists and I get to catch a glimpse of other stories instead of just watching mine.” – Moira
I love the getting to know dancers from all over the world through Facebook, to get lost in a YouTube rabbit hold for hours on end…. and getting to expand that into a real-life experience is the wonder of a festival.
There are so many to choose from! Some specialize in one genre or umbrella style, like Tribal Fest in California (tribal… obviously), or RakStar (Egyptian focus) in Miami. Some make a point of offering headliners and teachers in many different genres, like the Las Vegas Bellydance Intensive in Las Vegas, and Art of the Belly in Maryland. Some festivals specifically cater to higher-level dancers, and some offer workshops at the beginner level, too.
“I love learning from various instructors in an immersion style which has more of a lasting impact on my dance. They foster a broader community (if they are done right) and I think it’s good to take the pulse of the dance outside of our immediate area.” – Tava Naiyin, CT/NYC
I’ve been to so festivals all over the country–and each has its own character, its own unique vibe. Soon I’ll be putting together a festival “survival guide”. But for now, I’d like to help you think about attending a festival and figure out what *you* can get out of the experience.
For Beginning Belly Dance Students:
- Exposure to different styles of dance: Specialty topics often not covered in regular classes.
- Different movement explanations from a variety of teachers: Find new gems of knowlege that will help a movement click.
- Performances in various genres: See what styles speak to you.
- Performances by both top-level dancers and student performers: Learn what moves *you* in a dance performance. Technique? Emotion? Music? Costuming?
- Vending at price points high and low: Pick up a special costume piece, veil, or jewelry item that you get to try on in person.
For Int/Adv Students:
- Expand your knowledge base: Great opportunity to study topics that you may have heard or or just briefly experienced before–or discover something new!
- Challenge yourself: Try different styles, learn combos and choreography that are out of your comfort zone.
- Performance opportunities: Many festivals have open performances sign-ups or show applications. Great chance to try something in front of a new audience!
- Sharing the experience: Getting to know other dancers and their journeys.
- Shopping: Now that you have seen a lot of different styles and costumes, you can peruse the displays for the thing that really tickles your fancy.
For Professional Dancers:
- Inspiration: Working dancers often deeply benefit from a learning immersion to reinvigorate your own art.
- Networking: Getting to know other dancers from around the world
- Performance opportunities: Many festivals accept applications for pro-shows–which often are captured by top-notch videographers!
- Competitions: Whether for experience, exposure, or glory, competitions can help us up our game.
- Add to your teaching arsenal: Bring back gems to share with your students.
- Remind yourself what it’s like to be a beginner: Try a style that is out of your comfort zone.
- Continuing education: As teachers, we must continue to learn and grow–or we become stagnant!
Some more quotes dancers I know and love about *their* reasons for attending festivals…
“I attend them because I get a chance to learn from teachers that I wouldn’t normally get to learn from and new techniques that I’ve wanted to try. And I get to reconnect with bellydance sisters!” – Racquel Hagen, CA
“I attend workshop weekends to further my knowledge of the dance. In my opinion, a dancer should never stop learning. There are so many amazing teachers out there, offering expert instruction on so many different aspects of the dance: folklore, musicality, classical, fusion, music theory. When I take a workshop, or a weekend full of them, I’m looking for inspiration and knowledge. To expand on what I may already know, and to learn something new, whether its a full style, or just one small piece of information that I didn’t know before. There is ALWAYS something to learn and take away.” – Yasmin Diab, NV
“To push my own limits, evolve, grow, always improve my art….” – Red Rob, NY
“Meet, take class with and closely observe dancers who I feel I can gain knowledge or inspiration from. Videos are great but in the flesh is better. To learn from fellow participants and energized by their work. To work hard and for long hours so I can feel change take hold of my body. To have an opportunity to dress up and dance for the toughest audience–other dancers!” – Souzan, FL
“I’ve attended enough multi-day workshops (mostly salsa festivals) to realize that I’m not going to absorb everything presented, even if the instructor allows us to record the choreo at the end. What I really take away are the smaller refinements in technique that come from a different instructor explaining a move or giving me feedback, and inspiration from how they approach the dance – the attitude they bring to it, how they present themselves, how they think about it. That’s what stays with me.” – Barb Strom, MA
“I love that dancers from all walks of life, from different geographic regions, can get together and for that time they share the joy, expression and growth that only happens through this very unique dance. That’s what I love.” – Katayoun Hutson, VA
By the bye…. here are some festivals where you can find me teaching over the next few months!
- Las Vegas Bellydance Intensive, Las Vegas, NV – September 10-13, 2015 – “A Dancer’s Hands & Arms
- Pittsburgh Bellydance Festival & Belly Off Competition, Pittsburgh, PA – November 6-8, 2015 – Topic coming soon
- Art of the Belly, Ocean City, MD – March 17-20, 2016 – “Delicious Pauses: Negative Space in Movement” and “A Dancer’s Hands & Arms”
- River City Raqs, Jacksonville, FL – June 3-5, 2016 – Topics coming soon
Rosa Noreen’s Grace Academy: Helping dancers add depth and dimension to their work so they grow in confidence to take their places on stage and in the world.
Workshops, Performances, Instructional DVDs, Online Programs & Coaching in Belly Dance and Ballet.