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