Feb 5, 2014

Dance: Festivals around the world (reviews).

1. BellyFest Peru (Lima, Peru)

9th - 11th (approx) of August each year.
Annual and gala show
No competitions
Vendors (costumes, CDs/DVDs, props)
Organized by Luna Dance Peru 

Teachers:      Amir Thaleb, Tito Seif, Saida, Yamil Annum, Shanan, Tarik, to only mention a few, have already been part of this amazing event. For this 2014 not only the wonderful couple, Saida and Yamil have confirmed their attendance, but also has the amazing Egyptian teacher Khaled Seif

Workshops:   Usually includes two days of workshops starting as early as 9 am and going all the way until 7 pm with short breaks in between (a longer break for lunch).

Location:       Workshops usually happen in a large convention center, and so does the Gala Show. The annual show, the biggest one, has been at the one of the beautiful auditories of Museo de los Incas (Incas Museum) for the last two years. If you are coming from a different country I highly recommend asking the staff/students for help with directions and transportation (buses, taxis, etc).

Show/Gala:   The festival usually starts with their 2hrs annual show. They also have a Gala Show where they feature dancers not only from Luna Dance school but from many other schools as well. Last year, dancers from various countries in South America had the chance to dance at the Gala. They also had the chance to receive feedback - at no additional cost - from Amir Thaleb, Saida, Yamil, among other teachers.

Quality:          One of the highest quality annual shows I have witnessed. The workshops organization runs smoothly as well. Everything starts on time and there are no long lines to wait on. They also help you out finding lodging, among others, if you are flying in from another city or country!

Cost:             Last year the cost ranged from $180 (early registration) to $210 for the VIP package (all workshops included). It is truly a VERY affordable price in comparison to other international festivals, especially taking into account the quality of teachers and organization.

2. Miami Belly Dance Convention (Miami, USA)
Labor Day Weekend (August 29th-Sept 1st 2014), each year.
MBDC Publicity
Two gala shows
Competitions (Rising, Professional, Tribal Fusion, Group, Junior, Teen) No cash prize
Vendors (costumes, CDs/DVDs, props) 
Organized by Nathalie 

Teachers:        Saida, Yamil Annum, Jillina, Sadie, Zoe Jakes, Amar Gamal, among other wonderful artists... Including Nathalie herself of course! 

Workshops:     There are 4 days of workshops, from Friday to Monday. Usually there is only one master class on Fridays right after the preliminaries for the competitions. Saturday and Sunday include most of the workshops, some of them going on at the same time on different rooms at the hotel.

Location:          The whole weekend (workshops + galas) happens in an amazing hotel/convention center. You get an amazing view of Miami Beach! Don't forget your bikini ;) 

Galas:               Usually things run smoothly, and each gala lasts about 2 hours with a break of 15 minutes. The gala on Sunday includes the performances of the finalists (risings dance to a CD while professionals do to a live band). Beautiful showcases full of talent and elegance!

2nd Place Winner Rising Star MBDC

Competition:     This is one of the most prestigious competitions in the U.S. Be on TOP of your game. You don't get to know who your judges are until the moment you are about to perform, and the teachers judging the preliminaries may not judge the finals. The organization underneath the competitions is excellent. You will always find someone to help you if needed, and the environment - despite the fact that is a competition - is really friendly and comforting. It's an amazing opportunity to challenge yourself and to get your name out there! I am proud to say I was the Second Place Winner for the MBDC Competition 2013 Rising Star.

Quality:              Excellent. Nathalie is truly amazing, and despite all the stress that may bring being in charge of a large event like this one, she will always have a smile for you. Everything starts in time, and if you have a VIP pass you don't have to wait on any line!

Vendors:           Hollywood Music Center, Atelier Balily, to mention only a few have been present both years I have attended the event. There are SO many BEAUTIFUL items on sale. They are present throughout the whole weekend (which gives you time to really look around and choose!)

Cost:                 $347 early bid for the VIP package this 2014 (all workshops - except the one on Friday - and galas). I highly suggest taking this package if you are looking to make the best out of this great event. You get to try as many classes as you want! The hotel is not included, but there is always a very nice discount if you are attending the MBDC. 

3. Raks Madrid Festival (Madrid, Spain)
First week of July (approx), each year.
Gala shows
No competitions
Vendors (costumes, CDs/DVDs, props) 
Organized by Nesma Al-Andalus

Teachers:       Yousry Sharif, Nour, Said El Amir, Nesma, Rafael Jimenez (Flamenco Fusion) were some of the teachers last year. They have had Mahmoud Reda, among other icons in the past as well! 

Rosa and Said El Amir (Germany)
Workshops:    Three days of intense learning. The organization was excellent as well, the timing for classes (2-2.5 hrs each workshop usually) was right on schedule every time. Several workshops were held at the same time in different rooms (which actually makes it so hard to decide which one to take!).

Location:       Last year all the workshops were held at a Hotel/Convention Center in the middle of Madrid. Conveniently located next to a train/bus station. Excellent rooms, extremely large and beautiful. The 2 gala shows were held at a local restaurant/bar named Galileo Galilei (it's a very famous place for concerts, dance showcases, etc). The stage is not too big nor small, the place holds a pretty huge amount of people, and all the staff is wonderful. Delicious food, and a very welcoming environment!

Rosa dancing at the Opening Gala
Galas:           I was given the opportunity to dance at the Opening Gala, which was such a huge honor for me. Nesma allowed us to get there earlier in order to test the music, the stage, etc. Both galas lasted about 2-3 hours, and both of them touched me so deeply. The Closing Gala brought me to tears after watching the performance of the famous singer Yasser Alswery and the beautiful Nour (Russia/Egypt). All the artists, both local and international are amazing. I met dancers not only from Spain but also from Japan, Korea, and various countries in Europe.

Quality:        The workshops were unbelievable amazing (Just look at the list of teachers!!). The galas were full of so much talent from all over the world. Nesma and all her staff are prone to help you with anything you may need, and everything is handled with a lot of professionalism. HIGHLY recommend it.

Vendors:       The costumes that you could find there were to die for... all original, beautiful pieces. The CDs are also unique. You find a lot of fusion (flamenco especially) music, and original CDs from Nesma's Music Company - I highly recommend "Nesma, Memories of Cairo" and "Nesma, El Nasseem". www.nesma.es
Cost:            Although prices are a bit high (about 65-70 euros for each class), I definitely encourage you to join this festival if you are around Europe at the time.

4. Orient de Luxe (Berlin, Germany) 
24-26th May (approx) each year (these are held many more times throughout the year though)
Gala shows
No competitions
Organized by Beata and Horacio Cifuentes

Rosa and Marta Korzun
Teachers:       Beata and Horacio Cifuentes, Marta Korzun, Eman Zaki, Shafeek (Egypt), Engin (Turkey) were the teachers in 2013, the year I attended. All extremely great, with so much knowledge to share! I personally had never tried Turkish style until then, which I truly find energetic and unique. 

Workshops:     Two days full of classes (about 2 hrs/workshop), small breaks in between. The organization was excellent, no delays. The environment was really friendly, they all make you feel at home!

Location:        The workshops and gala show were both held at Beata and Horacio's dance school in Berlin. The classroom is really large, tall, and just beautiful! It is one of the most beautiful classrooms I have seen. For the gala show, a beautiful fabric was used to cover the mirrors, and half of the room was filled with chairs. Lighting was beautiful, and sincerely, it all looked gorgeous.

Galas:             Beautiful showcase of all the talent in Europe and more! Beata and Horacio Cifuentes they both performed as well. If you haven't seen this couple dancing yet, whether together or individually, I encourage you to do so. Such delicate and elegant technique.

Quality:          EXCELLENT. Workshops were fulfilling, and the gala show was beautiful to watch. 

Dinner:           You get the chance to have delicious food and great conversation with the other students AND the great teachers. It's an amazing opportunity to get one-to-one interaction with them outside the dancing scenario. 

Cost:              Each workshop was around 40-50 euro. Excellent price for the amazing teachers you get the chance to study with.

5. Belly Dancer of the Universe (Long Beach, California, USA)
February, each year
Gala shows
Competitions (Egyptian, Universal, Drum solo, Taksim, Fusion, Junior, Duet) Cash Prize
Organized by Atlantis Long and Tonya Chianis
Rosa and Atlantis Long

Teachers:    Atlantis, Tonya, Angelika Nemeth, Sadie, Amir Sofi, Amina Goodyear! And this year they are having Aziza, Issam Hoshan, among other fantastic dancers such as Anjelica Scannura (Canada) and Mireya Yamilett (Puerto Rico)...!

Workshops:  Amazing. Any workshop that you attend to during this event is just wonderful. I highly recommend you complete the Certification Program! You have to attend three master classes, compete, and do 1 final performance at the Opening Ceremony on Sunday. I had the chance to dance next to Sadie (live music by Amir Sofi!) and Angelika Nemeth. A truly UNIQUE opportunity.

Location:    The whole festival is held at a big Convention Center (except the Opening Gala and first workshop - which were held at a local place near the Long Beach Bay). There are plenty of very affordable hotels near by as well.

Galas:         The Opening Gala is a very nice opportunity to watch beautiful performances in a very loving environment, while enjoying good food. The next day, competitions are held throughout the whole day while at night some of the teachers will peform. The day after that, the finalists will dance, and so will the dancers completing the Certification Program. Some of the other teachers will perform as well. This festival is full of intensity and TALENT! The best of the best.

Competition:   This is one of the MOST renowned belly dance competitions in the world. Getting the title of "Champions of Champions at BDUC" is an amazing success. It brings you closer to many great opportunities in your dancing! So if you are planning on competing, PREPARE. You will compete with many dancers (both locals and internationals) that may already have a prestigious belly dance career, and hence, lots of experience along with it. The four finalists of both Egyptian and Universal category will then compete on Sunday night. The four dancers of each category get on stage, and dance to a new song, at the same time. That way the judges can simultaneously appreciate their technique, stage presence, creativity, etc. I have to admit, watching this competition is OUT OF THIS WORLD! 

*If you are taking all the workshops and competing as well, the time you have in between is very short. Always be ready to go! It is very useful to have someone to help you, but if that is not the case, then keep your organization skills up at all times and you should be fine.

Quality:       The quality of dancers is the best. So much talent that gets discovered in this festival! The organization is pretty good as well, although because of the large amount of people attending, I would suggest you arrive each day a bit earlier to avoid doing any waiting (nothing major anyway). You get to meet so many dancers from so many countries, that I will highly recommend this festival to anyone that is serious with their belly dance careers. It's an eye opener! And plus, Atlantis is such as a delight, always prone to help you out.

Cost:           It depends on the amount of workshops you take. The price per workshop range. The registration for competitions vary as well. The Egyptian and Universal categories cost $98 (and the cash prize is $1000), while the other categories are around $78 (cash prize between $300 and $500). 

Have you attended any of these Festivals? If so, what is your opinion?
Don't hesitate to ask if you have any question!

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