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Gilded Serpent presents...

Oriental Dance Festival in Germany
Duisburg, Germany
November 26 to December 4, 2005
Review by Artemisia

Shimmy Queen, Leyla Jouvana, organized and held the 13th edition of her annual festival in Duisburg late last year. It is one of the biggest festivals in Europe, and it is still growing. This year, the 10-day festival offered nearly two-dozen workshops, four shows and a big bazaar full of shopping temptations. Speaking of big festivals—this one had over 3600 participants and visitors, and I was one of them—a happy one!

Unfortunately, the weather gods did not smile on us

When I arrived, it was snowing—in a way this part of Europe does not see very often! Many foreign and local guests traveling by train or car became stuck in the snow. Therefore, the first workshop started late, because Leyla and Aziza decided to wait graciously an extra half an hour for all the participants to arrive.

Does Aziza still need an introduction? She is the Portland/Montreal Aziza, Miss Bellydance of the Universe 2002, and IAMED Cabaret Dancer of the Year 2003. Aziza was the main reason I decided to travel to the Duisburg, Germany, festival, so that I could take six of her workshops, and I was not disappointed. 

  • Although I already knew that Aziza is an excellent dancer from repeatedly watching her DVDs, I found out that she is also a quality teacher; she is warm and funny, encouraging and giving. Aziza is one of those teachers who do not withhold information; she answers every question and reveals all her dance secrets (even during breaks). Aziza's performance at the opening show (a small, more intimate show at the studio) was most impressive. I could hardly believe she was dancing there, so close, right in front of me: no DVD can compare to that live experience!. During the closing gala, she wooed us all with her veil routine, including some moves the had taught us during the weekI could hardly believe she was dancing there, so close, in front of me: no DVD can compare to that live experience!
  • I was pleased to participate in a workshop with Jillina (one of the Bellydance Superstars), who has an excellent manner of teaching choreography by means of combinations. During the closing Gala Show on the last weekend, it was especially nice to see Jillina dance as a soloist, and not just as part of the Superstars group! The standing ovation she received was well deserved.
  • I enrolled in Leyla's famous 1001 Shimmy workshop, with her husband, Roland, providing live percussion. Additionally, it was the first time I had seen Leyla perform. She performed an extra drum solo, replacing an absent guest, and was amazing. She is funny and sexy, and the musical interaction between Roland and Leyla is unique.
  • For me, Amir Thaleb was the biggest surprise for me, with his mix of masculine power, the grace of an experienced dancer, and above all, passion.

I liked especially several things about this festival, when I compare it to other festivals I have attended:

  • This festival invites several star dancers at once! For dancers who had to travel a great distance, (There were visitors from all over Europe, the US and Russia.) this made the festival much more appealing.
  • The Gala Show on Friday and Saturday starred only these big-name dancers, combined with only a few group numbers of Leyla's professional dance troupe. This selective limitation led to an exceedingly high quality show. All of the dancers had an opportunity to perform two long sets, and the audience could enjoy their dancing in full, without causing the show to become too lengthy.
  • In this Festival, students from the sponsor’s studio and local as well as foreign guests had invitations to performance in the afternoon Gala or as part of the program for the bazaar. Many other festivals casually add performances from students and lesser known dancers during their main gala, making the resulting shows uneven in quality, often boring, and always too long!

In conclusion, overall quality of this German festival impressed me and I was satisfied with the dancers Leyla had chosen to invite. The resulting Gala Show was one of the best I have ever seen. The organization was almost perfect, and they dispensed with small problems efficiently. Leyla is a very kind and welcoming person and an incredible performer (and so is Roland).

I went to this festival for my two heroes–Aziza and Jillina–and came home with three!

Leyla, in her role as a teacher, performer and organizer does a heroic job. The many flowers and long ovation she received after the Friday Gala demonstrated that I am not the only one who believes so!


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