London - Fantasia Festival 2002

FANTASIA festival takes place twice a year in London and is organised by JWAAD (Josephine Wise Academy of Arabic Dance). In May 2002 I was invited to dance and teach at the festival.

Where has all my money gone? 
First of all: London is expensive! Be it the hotel, food, entrances or general shopping. Prices are mostly on the same level as in Switzerland (while people earn less in the UK!) if not higher. And then there's this huge choice of things to buy that are different than at home... My credit card nearly exploded!

My cheapest two days were the ones spent at the festival! Of course there was the souk - about 20 dealers offered everything from costumes and accessories to CDs, videos etc.. But as I had just been in Cairo in February, I didn't really need much. Unlike in other years, the shops were not located in one big hall but in many smaller rooms on 3 floors. There were about 2 - 3 dealers in every room.

By the way: In London (7 million inhabitants) there isn't a single shop specialized in Oriental dance! And all the exhibitors at the fair are home operated and sell mostly via Internet and during festivals.

An important part of every big festival is a wide range of various workshops. As I was already there to teach, I also took two workshops with other teachers. The "smallest" class that I saw during this weekend had 16 students - the others had much more students! Dancers come from all over the country to this festival, even from Ireland.

I took my first workshop with Khaled Mahmoud, an Egyptian living in the UK. He is one of Ibrahim Akef's students. Some of his specialities are very small, sharp hip drops and accents. There were about 40 other women in this class! Therefore the location had to be changed and we mostly danced in a large circle around Khaled.

The second workshop was taught by Galit from Israel, a member of Josephine Wise's dance group. She showed us the "Shisha-Dance" that is mainly known as a Fifi Abdou number. Besides dance movements Galit also showed us how to handle a waterpipe. And there was this really cool trick where she was blowing the smoking through one nostril. Even I who am a convinced non-smoker really wanted to try this. We had a lot of fun in this class!

On Sunday I taught my own workshops (Nagwa Fuad dance style and Levels in Dance), which 24 and 32 students had booked.
 As I never teach such big classes in Switzerland I was a little worried that this might work out well. But the room was large with a very long mirror, so the students only had to stand in 3 rows - and I was running back and forth all the time so that everyone could see me.
 These are some of my students:

There was a short walk between one workshop venue and the other and some undertook it in full dance gear... (Doesn't this look a little like a Beatles record cover?)

The Show
As I spent most of the time during the show backstage, I'll have to wait for the video to give you my opinion... But I can tell you what some of the audience members said.

The program was very versatile - and it was interesting to see that there were none of the "Spanish-Arabian" dances that are so popular in the German speaking region right now. Instead there was a whole range of different styles like modern Oriental, Baladi, Moroccan and a Turkish candle dance. The Masriat Dance Company showed an Oriental fantasy as well as a gangland stick dance.

The dancers came in different ages, experience levels and sizes. Especially the heavier women showed that a good dance performance can let you forget the body shape of the dancer. Khaled Mahmoud also showed a dance number that was very well received.

This was my contribution:

We changed our costumes in the gym that belonged to the same building as the theatre. It's rare to have so much space, light and mirrors at a dance show!

I got a little bored because my number was on in the second half of the show and I had to wait quite a while after I had put on my make-up and costume. So I took loads of backstage pictures!

The Masriat Dance Company fixing their hair
The closest I get to a gym....
I had made this costume especially for the choreography I performed that night.

Galit working it
 Khaled Mahmoud getting fit!
 Jo Wise on her throne
 Jo in a very lovely costume
 Yasmina of Cairo paying us a visit
Vashti, a real lady

The end of the show was only the beginning of another party! As soon as the lights went on you could see that the audience glittered just as much as the dancers on stage did! And now everyone headed to the bar where an Egyptian live band played for everyone to dance.

Although I came home nearly broke, the trip to London was really worth it. I met so many nice people and learned a lot. I think I'm really getting hooked on festivals... So if you are organizing a festival and you want to invite me - just tell me, I'll come!!!