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2017 Workbooks by Leone Dawson

Desire Map 2017



Mercado Persa Festival - April 2013

In April I had a fantastic opportunity not only to perform in a belly dance festival in São Paulo, Brazil (my native country in the event you don’t know!), but also to present one of my signature workshops in Latin-Arabic Fusion!

Mercado Persa Festival meets during 3 days in a large venue with two ongoing stages showcasing solo and group dances, competitions and evening show with Folkloric themes as well as live music. At the same time there are many workshops being offered and a souk (market) with irresistible goodies for all tastes.

As you can imagine I was very busy teaching, judging (yes, judged 4 competitions!), getting ready to perform in the evening show while trying to sneak a bit on a performance here and there and, of course, stopping by the souk at any 15 minute break I had! It was intense, I’ll tell ya, but I enjoyed every minute of it.

Day #1 - I arrived at the festival on Friday to watch the evening Folkloric show. Egyptian and Lebanese cultures were mainly portrayed showing different regional dances, with beautiful costumes and great energy by the performers.

Latin-Arabic Fusion WorkshopIt’s my second time attending this festival and it still amazes me the amount of men dancing! For styles such as the Lebanese debke it brings so much high energy and masculine umph, very typical in this kind of dance. There are also the ones playing gitanos (gypsies), a dance style embraced in Brazil that actually portrait various styles of this nomad group in many countries (not only what we know here in the US as the Roman style).

Day #2 - I started with my workshop in Latin-Arabic Fusion, which, I will confess, left me on the fence wondering how appealing it would be to a major influenced Latin audience. Well, I had a happy surprise, because the workshop was very well attended and the audience was in fact interested in acquiring the Latin dancing skills to fuse into their belly dance training/dancing!

After pictures, lots of new introductions (yeah, new FB friends and fans!) and warm compliments it was my time to become the student. Shalimar Mattar and Cris! BasimahFirst class was with the beautiful and talented event organizer, Shalimar Mattar, where we flowed with our veils around the huge gymnasium where the workshops were being taught, learning new tricks and maneuvers!

Next round was with the energetic and glamorous star from Argentina, Saida Helou. Serious, her energy is unbelievable and she kicked our booties with a mind-blowing and super fast drum solo. I really wanted to take the next workshop with her husband, Yamil, but didn’t have any strength left in my body! Saida Helou and Cris! BasimahBy now it had been almost 7 hours straight without lunch!!! On top of that I had to get ready to judge my first competition and to my later performance with Tony Mouzayek and his band. Okay, Yamil, next time for sure (his performance later on that night brought the house down!).

Another great resource at the festival was the booths with make-up artists and hair stylists who would take care of you for a very reasonable fee. They were my life-savers! The entire program schedule was running late and if I hadn’t had their help getting me ready I wouldn’t have made it to the show. Another evening performer and I were still judging the competition for the solo star category downstairs, when I saw on my watch our show should have started almost an hour ago! As soon the competition ended a few helpers came to rescue us and, of course, were rushed like crazy to be ready to perform in 10 minutes! Can you imagine if I hadn’t used every few free minutes I had on my hands to go get my make-up done (it had to be done in parts since I kept going up and down, here and there)? Hair was a big bonus and I was thrilled with it!

Tony Mouzayek and Cris! BasimahShow time! I so wished I had time to talk to the musicians beforehand since I had never performed with them before ... and didn't have the chance to check the stage entrances and exits. Well, nope. So I got lucky to bump into the singer while the band was playing an instrumental tune and ask him about having music to exit the stage or not. Cool, next question: how do I get on stage? Next thing I know I’m there, with very little space to dance since there were a lot of musicians and their usual equipment and cables! Didn’t get much love from the drummers (major surprise to me!) when trying to interact with them and so went to play with big star of Brazilian/Lebanese music, singer Tony Mouzayek. He was awesome and, despite my limited knowledge of his Arabic lyrics (I had an idea of what the song was about), our performances synched. Cris! BasimahYes!!! Then I recognized there was a lot of room in the ballroom, right below the stage, where the audience gathered around. Found the stairs and went for it. Being a regular restaurant dancer I love being close to the crowd and did have a blast with all the smiles, clapping and cheering! Then I realized they were ending the song and there was not enough time to climb back to the stage and finish it there. So I did my final pose in the ballroom and for some odd reason (not really, usually stages have stairs on both sides, right?) I went the opposite I came down to go back up. Where are the stairs??? Well, Cris!, they’re on the other side only. There’s no way back to the stage over here, an event assistant told me. For those long seconds I was lost and not knowing what to do. I can’t just walk all over that audience, climb up the stage and exit without music, I thought! Then a flash of insight (like the light bulb over the head!) showed up and I looked up the stage and Tony was there (guardian angels talk, you know?!). It was high but, with much elegance I put my foot up and extended my arm asking with my eyes, “please pull me up”! And he did it! I then turned around him, took another bow and left the stage. Relieved? You have no idea!!! Everything else between the moment I entered the stage and exited is a blur. Thank God for the wonderful photographers (see many shots from Sandra Reis, David Cezar and João Victor in my Gallery album) who documented my performance!

Baby category contestant and Cris! BasimahDay # 3 – Of course I had to take some time to sleep! So no Cris! until about noon and then ready to judge another competition. This time it was a “Baby” category. OMG, you want to squeeze, hug and kiss each one of those 5-7 year old performers! We judges (I finally met one of the most famous Brazilian dancer Lulu in person while judging a competition together) sometimes looked at each other and wondered “how can we 'judge' these cuties?” Performances even included props such as silk veil and wings of Isis! Take a look at the pictures Sandra Reis and I took. They’re worth your time!

Lulu Hartenbach and Cris! BasimahThen I went for a workshop with Ju Marconato. I finally had the pleasure to meet this teacher, performer and costume designer, with whom I had tried to get together (and get a costume made by her!) last year. Her dancing is so elegant, big and warm! She’s a beautiful person in and out as well and one of those you want to hug and be hugged by! Love at first sight, one would say.

Ju Marconato e Cris! BasimahBefore the final competition of the night and the closing of this year’s Festival, I had a chance to meet more wonderful people such as Mariana from Central da Dança do Ventre, who’s invited me to write an article about my Latin-Arabic Fusion workshop, and Amr Abd Alla from Egypt, who had performed Tanoura on Friday’s show, with all the lights effect on his costume (first time I saw it was in Cairo). Super cool!

Wings of Isis with Cris!Now you’re wondering, what about the shopping? Yeah, I told you I had short times to sneak at the souk but besides finding a blue skirt for my photo shoot the next day (I forgot my skirt at home), I also had to pick up a very special order with one of my favorite silk veil artists Therê from Silk by Therê. She painted a one of a kind Wings of Isis design in silk for me and I was looking forward to seeing it. As I expected it was gorgeous!!! By the time I showed up to pick it up she had many people making tempting offers on my wings! I took them to my photo shoot with photographer Sandra Reis the next day and recently have inaugurated them during a wedding performance. Beautiful and flowing!

At the last competition on Modern Arabic Troupes, which lasted 2 hours (!), I met more cool people (also very talented dancers) who were also judging with me, including Joelma Brasil and Ana Claudia Borges. Many performances were incredible in all aspects: costume, choreography, poise, synchronicity and fresh and creative concepts. Such an enriching experience!

And finally it was time to give the last awards and say my goodbyes. Lots of big smiles and happy tears. Lots of love and camaraderie. It was hard to leave… But I’m surely looking forward to my next time.


iconPS: The complete compilation of pictures taken at the Festival is in my Gallery section here at this website.