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Interview with…Maëlle Roger

17 Jul

Interview with…

Maëlle Roger

Love to Belly Dance caught up with London-based belly dancer Maëlle, the winner of Bellydance Trophies 2012. Here she tells us about her experience in the contest and how her passion for the dance began.

“I grew up in a little town called Arras in the North of France and started performing on stage at the age of 4. I first felt the urge to perform when my parents took me to see a children’s musical. I was so ‘wowed’ by the whole thing that I told my mother that’s what I wanted to do. Every day I would ask her about it, so, to satisfy my curiosity she arranged to meet the director of the show.  During the visit, I saw all the kids rehearsing and couldn’t hold myself back, I just had to join in and that’s exactly what I did. The director initially told my mother that they didn’t accept children under 6 years old but when he saw how excited and happy I was, he couldn’t say no. I then went on to do the show for 10 years. During this time I also trained as a rhythmic gymnast where I experienced the demanding and stressful side to competing.
As I matured, I began looking for something different, something which would allow me to express myself and grow as an artist and that’s when I discovered Middle Eastern Dance.  During the year 2004 while still living in France, I fell in love with the beautiful style of my first teacher, the lovely Aida. I moved to London in 2007 and started to go to Jo Wise classes. Since then, I have never looked back.”
Did you have a lot of experience as a belly dancer before entering Bellydance Trophies?
“Most of my belly dance performances have been since I moved to London where I featured in the ‘Shafeek Ilham Show’ in 2009, then straight after, I was lucky enough to join the very prestigious Johara Dance Company directed by the talented Josephine Wise. We toured the UK and France during the summer of 2011. It took us two years to prepare for this show and I learnt so much about performance skills and artistic creation. I also met some wonderful ladies who became my closest friends, and we are now a new dynamic collaboration of belly dance artists called ‘Ahnémon’. We combine traditional, alternative and experimental characteristics to create a sensory phenomenon unlike any other. Anyway, to sum it up I have been dancing all my life and belly dancing for nearly 8 years.”
Why did you decide to enter the competition?
“After the tour with the Johara girls in the summer of 2011, I was still on a high and I needed a new challenge for myself. This is why i decided to enter Bellydance Trophies – but if I was asked to enter a year ago, I would have said no! I was very scared of competitions as a kid but the show’s organiser, Farah Nasri, convinced me that new challenges make life interesting and I also needed to prove to myself that as an adult, I had the strength to handle it and I did.”
How do you feel about the competition now you’ve taken part and won?
“Bellydance Trophies has a very unique and original concept a bit like X factor, it’s not just a one-day event but more like a marathon. Taking part was like having to prepare for the olympic games decathlon final every month! We all had a coaching session, I had mine with Anne White and she made me feel so special, more confident about my dancing and gave me very useful feedback. The competition was a real learning process and you have to learn fast. For each stage we had a new challenge, for example, in the semi finals I had to choreograph a moroccan Shaabi which wasn’t easy considering that my training is mostly in Egyptian style.  After lot’s of research, head aches and help from friends, I did it and I’m actually very glad and proud of myself. I would never have had the courage to try and perform this style if I hadn’t been pushed to. Bellydance Trophies is a very special competition where dancers help and support each other. I feel blessed to have met such great girls and inspiring artists, some of the competitors remain great friends of mine.”
Has winning the contest changed you as a dancer?
“Well yes and no, I’m still the same dancer and am still nervous before going on stage but I feel stronger and more accomplished than before. I guess I feel more grown up somehow. This challenge has been very tough in many respects, so the fact that I won made the long hard road worth the journey. I can’t find the right words to thank enough all the people who surrounded and helped me throughout.”
How many costumes do you own and do you have a favourite?

“At the moment I have 9 costumes with me in London. They are all very special to me, each one of them represents a style, the music, feelings and a choreographed piece.  Sometimes I get inspired by them, and in the past I have even choreographed a piece only for a costume. My favourite one at the moment is a beautiful fully silk costume designed by Amalura Bellydance Artiste, a fellow dancing friend of mine. It looks both wild and elegant and is so comfortable to wear.”

And finally, where do you hope to take your dancing next?
La Où le vent me portera – Where the wind will bring me… As we say in French.  I’m always willing to learn new styles, set new goals and dream another dream. I have started teaching classes in the heart of the City (since last November) and I’m available for bookings at restaurants, private parties and weddings. My dancing is not just a hobby or a career, it’s a passion, so I keep learning and never stop developing my skills and techniques.”
Thank you so much for agreeing to the interview, you are an inspiration to us all! Here is a video of Maëlle performing at Bellydance Trophies. If you would like to attend classes with this beautiful dancer they are every Friday between 5:45 and 6:45pm at Fitness First, Broadgate, London (nearest tube Liverpool Street Station). If you would like Maëlle to perform at your event then drop her an email at:  maellebellydancer(at)yahoo.co.uk

Janelle Issis – TV Stardom

28 Jun

Belly Dance Finalist

So You Think You Can Dance USA

‘So You Think You Can Dance’ USA has unveiled its finalists, including a belly dancer in the top 20 for the first time. Janelle Issis is a 24-year-old, full-blooded Palestinian living in Alabama. Janelle is an Honors graduate of the University of Alabama with a Major in Dance and currently holds the title “Queen Belly Dancer of the Southeast”. Believe it or not, she was discovered in church and also performs regularly at nursing homes.

The routine for her first audition was performed to a hip hop track boasting modern, fast and authentic movements. Although she is skilled in other areas of dance, It’s clear she loves belly dancing and enjoys how positive it makes her feel.  She has the sweetest personality and amazing skill. Go Janelle!

Tambourines, Veils and…

1 Jun

…Olive Trees

Two belly dance groups joined together to create an evening of entertainment in Watford for a charity event by www.watfordfriendsofsalfeet.org.uk. After a hearty meal, intense meeting and a much-needed update on the progress of the charity, the light-hearted entertainment began.

Tambourines jingled, veils swished and hips swayed while members of the charity clapped along to the sound of the Middle-East.  Following some varied, energetic group and solo performances, the audience were encouraged to get up and dance!

With a room full of belly dancers, who could possibly refuse?

A video montage of the performances can be viewed below:

Belly Dance Classes

31 May

Boobs, Bums and Bitches

…and Belly Dance Classes

I thought about attending classes for quite some time before I actually went to one. When I expressed my interest to a friend who had been dancing for a couple of years, I decided to go along with her.  At the time, I was self-conscious and felt protected going with someone I knew.

It’s not that I didn’t like my body or thought I wouldn’t be able to dance, my lack of confidence was because I had this vision that belly dance classes would be full of intimidating women.  I thought my narrow back, flat chest and left-handed starts would just not be good enough, that I wouldn’t be able to keep up with the moves and everyone would just feel I was holding back the class.

The first class I went to had lots of students and was headed by a teacher who seemed very connected with the spiritual side of belly dancing. There were all kinds of women, young and old, thin and round. I felt quite comfortable at first. After attending for a few weeks, I noticed that some of the students had formed ‘cliques’. I would hear catty giggles during the class and watch them inspect other people’s hip scarves – The group consisted of women who were a good ten years or so older than myself (hence the title of this post).

This really put me off, I felt like an outsider and almost thought of not returning at all. To my luck, I heard that another belly dance teacher held classes in the area and better still, they were literally walking distance from my house. Off i went, on my own this time to join a different class. The group was smaller, the teacher seemed energetic and encouraging (despite some health issues as the time) and I didn’t feel any negative vibes from any of the students.

I stuck with it and still attend classes with the same teacher four years on. We have all formed quite a bond, but we’re certainly not a ‘clique’ and welcome new students with open arms. We’d lock them in if we could!  So, all in all, I think it’s important to feel comfortable in your class and not feel as though others are trying to show they’re ‘better than you’.

Ignorance is bliss and if I had the strength in my first class to fight the paranoia, then maybe I could have stayed there. However, It is also down to how your teacher handles the class, how much focus and attention is given to the group and you as an individual. It doesn’t matter how long you dance for, there is always room for improvement. The best critique given to you will be your own, be proud and confident but be strict on yourself and never think you’re better than the next person.

Here’s a funny video which I think is a great way to show how friendly competition can improve a group…Typically a boobs, bums and bitches performance but clearly ‘acting’ out the scenes.

Arabesque Nights – London’s Belly Dance Showcase!

2 Dec

Arabesque Nights

@ The Gunnersbury

Last night, my teacher and her students (which includes me), attended and performed at London’s hottest belly dance showcase, Arabesque Nights.

Organised by Natalie Borg, a respected oriental dancer and teacher, Arabesque Nights is a varied show incorporating a wide range of belly dance styles, themes and personalities.  Every month there is a new theme and fantastic line-up of unique performances.

Last night was, of course, all about Christmas!

Some of the performances included a mesmerising dance with candles, a dramatic sword display and a comical act incorporating a very large Christmas hat. Every ounce of creativity shone through and the audience cheered and clapped for the entire evening.  At times we were mesmerised by hypnotic body movements and stunned by jaw-dropping prop work then later on, we were all rolling about on the floor laughing.

If you ever want to see a belly dance show in London, then pop along to Arabesque nights. It’s under ten pounds for a ticket and you can enjoy a feast of performances on the first Thursday of every month at ‘The Gunnersbury’ on Chiswick High Road (which is conveniently situated over the road from Gunnersbury station).

Website: http://www.arabesquenights.com

You Tube Channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/ArabesqueNights?feature=mhee

2012 Themes

(remember it’s the first Thursday of each month):

January 2012: The James Bond Show

February 2012: The Love Show

March 2012: Pirates, Mermaids and Myths

April 2012: Two Year Anniversary

May 2012: The Vintage Show

June 2012: Fusion Show

July 2012: Strictly Egyptian Show

August 2012: Jazz it Up! Show

September 2012: Proptastic Show

October 2012: Two’s Company Show

November 2012: Vampires & Vixens Show

December 2012: Rockin Around the Christmas Tree Show

Dawn’s Hafla In Pinner

28 Nov

Dawn Harvey’s Christmas Hafla

“Amazing music, great performances and what a wonderful audience”

Last year, our teacher gave us the opportunity to perform a bollywood-infused belly dance at a hafla organised by her good friend and fellow belly dance teacher, Dawn Harvey. It was a fantastic show with an encouraging audience and performances that blew you away.

This year, we were informed Dawn was once again in search of some performers for the ‘Christmas Hafla’. I couldn’t help myself, I just had to get involved. As soon as I registered my interest, I began fishing around for some interesting music. A girl I worked with quite a few years ago, Stephanie Faysal (now a very well known TV presenter in Lebanon), made me a CD of Arabic music. Some of the songs were just so cheerful and upbeat that I thought one of them would make a great piece.

Eventually, I decided to use a track by Ahmed El Sherif, a Tunisian artist who was a contestant in the TV show ‘Star Academy Arab World’ and also a former love interest of the wonderful Stephanie. I immediately emailed her to find out what the lyrics of the song ‘Sahran Maak El Leila’ means in order to create a choreography.

I wanted to base the dance on a duet or small group and introduce a party-like atmosphere with the audience. The performance at this hafla meant so much, as the standard of dancing was so high last year and I knew there would be a whole host of greats this year!

A very good friend of mine started belly dance classes earlier in the year and originally, she was going to perform with me. However, I don’t think she felt confident enough to continue and left the class. Although we are still great friends, I think dancing is something you either have a passion for or you don’t.  Anyway, I was left with half a choreography written with us in mind and only myself to perform. Another member of the class soon stepped in and agreed to perform with me! I was thrilled, not only was there an added three years dancing experience, it meant we could get down to the finer details as soon as it was time to get rehearsing.

The music had an element of Spanish, so Layla and I tried to incorporate some of this into our dancing. After lots of concentration and many pieces of paper, I found myself singing along in Arabic and letting the music take the lead!  Layla and I worked together to try and make it as interesting and fun as we could during rehearsals.

We performed my first ever choreography in Pinner on the 26th November and I can not express how exhilarating it felt to hear the audience clapping and cheering during (and after) the performance. Yes they were a great audience anyway, but some of the comments afterwards gave us such a boost and we couldn’t stop smiling. It wasn’t in any shape or form technically difficult or fancy, and most certainly wasn’t ‘up there’ with the rest but we think we did a good job because we really enjoyed ourselves!

We performed in the first half and managed to enjoy the rest of the show. As expected, it was phenominal with star guest; Anne White, a beautiful dancer and the organiser of Planet Egypt in London. I can’t wait to see the DVD and photographs, maybe I will get permission to put some on here to share with you (fingers crossed). Sadly, Dawn it will be the last annual event in Pinner next year but one thing is for certain, it won’t go without a bang! Luckily for all her current and future students, she will still be teaching!

A bit of bad quality filming of some of the unique performances, my camera is not great with bright stage lighting:

Women, Childbirth & Fitness

23 Nov

Belly Dance

Women, Childbirth & Fitness

Belly dancing is known to help ease childbirth, lose extra pounds and keep joints supple. If you are suffering from back pain, arthritis or general stiffness then belly dancing is a great way to release the tension and tone essential muscles, often those used during childbirth.

Aldiya's Story

Fitness experts point out that this dance form has many health benefits because it involves the entire body in a slow and systematic rhythm. The dance form does not only exercises the abdominal muscles and help to keep them flexible and supple but it also exercises muscles in the hips, arms and legs. Joints are kept mobile and flexible, hence helping overall fitness levels. It is not unusual to find plus-size women and expectant mothers in track pants and t-shirts shaking and jiggling their bodies to a soothing rhythm. It is also a fun way to get rid of stress and rigidity as you learn to balance your body and build a perfect posture.

Belly dancing may help in easing the birthing process as many of the muscles used during the dance are also used when giving birth. However, belly dancing in pregnancy is not only about strengthening pelvic and abdominal muscles. Experts say that some belly dance movements are good to relieve various symptoms. For example, they believe that belly rolls can help ease constipation; while chest shimmies can alleviate heartburn. Overall, this particular dance is a good way to gently and thoroughly work the muscles during pregnancy and afterwards.

The frequency, duration and the intensity of movement determines the benefit of belling dancing to help reduce weight. It is believed that 30-45 minutes of dancing every day is enough to burn the calories and fat deposits from the body while improving the flexibility of the body, especially helping to tone the stomach, back, buttocks and thighs. Belly dancing as with all styles of dance, also increases the heart rate, protects the heart from diseases, builds flexibility, controls blood sugar levels and improves blood circulation in the body.

As a final note, every pregnancy is different – So before taking up physical activities of any kind, it is essential to consult a doctor. Most importantly avoid back bends, sharp movements and hip twists. Listen to your body and stop exercising altogether if you feel unwell or experience dizziness and/or pain.

Huntingdon Hafla

20 Nov

Back to Basics…

15 Sep

The Egyptian Walk

Back to Basics…

My teacher has always been very keen to make sure her students learn the Egyptian Walk and do it to perfection. I don’t know why she insists that we get it right but even after nearly 3 years, I still can’t do the walk the way she can.  It’s not that i’m trying to find an easier way of doing it or that I disagree with her teaching. After all, to dance well the moves must be executed well.

Firstly, What is the Egyptian Walk?

It’s a folkloric movement combining hip slides to the left and right with quick hip lifts and drops in between.  It sounds easy and looks easy but it isn’t. It might not be one of the most fun moves or elegant, but it’s essential for moving around the stage in style. It also helps to strengthen the muscles on the side of your waist and can be teamed with other isolation techniques.

What does it look like?

Like this:

Performing At Summer Events

26 Jul

BAHITI

Our dance group ‘Bahiti’ recently took part in Take 3 4 Life, which is Luton’s version of the Department of Health’s ‘NationalChange4Life’ initiative. The event included street, Zumba and belly dancing to name a few. The idea is to encourage adults to be active at least three times a week for 30 minutes or more. Take 3 4 Life also included ‘It’s A Knockout’ competition which was part of the London 2012 Open Weekend, celebrating one year to go until the Olympic Games.

We are also taking part in the Luton Summer Festival, which runs for six days starting on the 29th July. The event includes live music from local and international artists, theatre shows, dance performances and children’s activities. We shall be performing on the Market Hill dance stage and are looking forward to seeing what else is on show.

It’s fantastic that they have asked our teacher to gather some students together and pull off a routine because not only do we love taking our dancing out of the class, but we really enjoy performing. It makes all that time and effort worthwhile! It’s important to be included for shows however big or small they might be and it’s an excellent chance to demonstrate what we’ve learnt.

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