Belly Dance

Leyla Jouvana from Germany – Interview Series

Leyla dancing
– Interviewer (Sadie Marquardt)

Sadie: Hello everybody, it’s Sadie and Leyla Jouvana here. We actually just finished an amazing festival, the ‘Oriental Pearl‘, here in beautiful Accro, Israel…Leyla is one of my favourite dancers.

Leyla: Hi. I’m Leyla Jouvana and I’m very happy to be here with Sadie in Accro, Israel and it is really fun here and you (Sadie) are one of my favourite dancers and I am very happy to have seen you in Germany and to now stay here with you.

Sadie: So we’re going to do a little interview about your festival, so the next time I’m going to be seeing Leyla is this November and December. Maybe you could just tell us a little about the festival. I’ve been two times before so this will be my third time. You can tell us the amazing line-up of the stars. I still don’t know everything about your festival even though I’ve been there twice because it’s so impressive i.e. it’s the biggest festival in Europe. It’s been going on longer than maybe any other. Twenty something years now?

Leyla: Twenty years.

Sadie: The competition – the belly dancer of the world is producing really amazing talent. Some competitions are good but these men and women who are winning your competition go on to be big stars around the world. So please tell us about your festival.

Leyla: We start with the belly dancer of the world contest and we are honoured that participants come from all over the world, from all continents and we have 11 days for the festival and we have 60 workshops. We are very honoured and proud to have this line-up like Sadie, Raqia Hassan, Nadia Nikishenko, Silvia Salamanca, Mia Shauri and many many more. We are honoured to present the best of the best in the world.

Sadie: That is very impressive and I know that every time I am there – (I always) just do not know how you guys do it because you are organising it, you are also teaching, you’re also performing. It’s mind blowing so really of all the events I have done around the world, this is my favourite one and its such as honour to be there.

Speaking about the festival, one of the things I find so interesting when I travel around the world is seeing how different cultures love belly dance, they love oriental dance and in Germany I found the audience so much fun. They are funny as they like the humorous things in the performances. Maybe you can tell us a little bit more about the audiences and also the people in Germany. How do they welcome belly dance and oriental dance and how do you find it there.

Leyla: In Germany people really love belly dance with a level i.e. at a high level. So (at the festival) we like to have a good line-up and we like to present the art of belly dance and this is what our audience expects. They like entertainment, fun and humour but it has to be a high level.

Sadie: In addition to your festival there, you also do tours of Turkey? I thought it would be nice if you can tell people about this as well.

Leyla: At the beginning of May every year, we do the trip to Turkey. It’s like a vacation and you can come with us for one week or two weeks and we teach every day. It would be nice if you can come.

Sadie: Do you go, when you are on your trips to Turkey, to visit any of the Turkish dancers, any places where you can see dancing there, or study there? Or bring in any of the Turkish artists for teaching?

Leyla: We visit Fethiye (in Turkey) so it’s really a vacation: It’s like paradise. Sometimes we see Turkish dancers but if you want to see more, you have to go to Istanbul. But we see some dancers in restaurants and the local dancers.

Leyla with Roland on the Drums

Sadie: So now I’m going to ask you a few personal questions! I remember the first time I met you and Roland, was maybe nearly nine years ago now. It was with Suzy Evans, it was a while ago. It was my first experience (of belly dance) and I said wow – who are these people – I have never seen anything like this before. You two are just amazing and you just blew away the audience. Was that your first time in the U.S.?

Leyla: The first time we were with Amaya and we met Suzy Evans and she invited us two or three times. It was a wonderful time and we met you (Sadie) and many great dancers and we produced shimmy and layer videos.

Sadie: I would be curious to know how you and Roland started to do your duet together. How he started drumming for you and how progressed? Is this something you’ve always done or were you belly dancing on your own and then you brought Roland into the picture?

Leyla: I started belly dancing twenty five years ago and Roland started drumming a few years later than me and yes, we found out that this is what we love and that this is what we really like to do and I am happy that my husband has the same hobby like me – so we stay together and we are together all the time. Otherwise I would travel alone and alone, I wouldn’t do it!

Sadie: Yes, It’s always more fun to have a friend. It’s more fun when there’s people around. How long were you dancing before that? You were dancing before Roland….

Leyla: I first started dancing when I was a child. I started with Folkloric traditional dances, samba, African dance, jazz dance and then later I discovered belly dancing. I like the femininity and the sensuality in (this form of) dance and this is what I like. You can express yourself and you can keep in shape and it’s good for your health and soul and for your body. It keeps you young! So I recommend belly dance to everyone.

Sadie: Wonderful. And that actually leads me to one of my questions. You’re so beautiful and you’re so fit and you keep getting more beautiful…so what are some of your beauty and health secrets. I am guessing belly dancing is one of them. Maybe you can share with us anything that you can’t live without, which would be useful for anyone watching that they can incorporate into their beauty regimen?

Leyla: I think first of all. I can’t live without Roland’s love, so I wish for everyone, for every good person to find real love! This is one of the secrets – to be very satisfied and to be happy. Belly dancing is for the soul and for your body. This is what I recommend.

Sadie: That’s so beautiful. I love that. It’s so true that just having happiness in your life and peace, is what you have to do (what you need). That’s another thing I will ask…I don’t think most people recognise, unless they are touring dance artists themselves – I think most people really don’t understand how hard it can actually be – it can get quite lonely; it can be very stressful. I know you have Roland with you but I am sure it’s still isolating. The different cultures, not always having access to the food you are used to, different climates. Not to complain because we love what we do but how do you keep balance in your life? Is there any ritual you do when you are about to travel or when you get home to try and keep peace and make sure that you don’t stress and have too much stress in your life.

Leyla: Yes, sometimes it’s hard but we really try to have some days off and to be around nature and we try to have quiet places to recover and we go to a sauna. This is what we need.

Note from Valeria:

Leyla is famous for her very energetic drums solos and for her amazing shimmies, of which she knows many variations. I attended one of her shimmy workshops once, when she came to the UK, and it was really a great workshop. Leyla has made some instructional DVDs and I can recommend her Shimmies Variations DVDs, produced by IAMED, which you can buy from Amazon.

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Valeria is a dance researcher completing a PhD in dance and heritage. Valeria also teaches and performs as a belly dance but also enjoys learning ballet, jazz dance and other dance genres.

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