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Katerina Joumana is from Moscow, but lives in Vienna these days to complete her education. With much work and devotion for dance she climbed up to the world’s leading group of belly dance, allthough her true speciality is the fusion of different styles. For this year’s World of Orient she will treat us with a fusion of Saidi and Drum Solo. Check out what she has to say about her
adventurous life …

Interview with Katerina Joumana

by Marcel Bieger

How did belly dance and you meet. And why did you stick to it?

It was many years ago, when I still worked as a ballet dancer. Once I saw a bellydancer, very professional, dancing just one piece in a big Russian orchestra concert on the Russian television. I fell in love immediately. It was an expression of femininity and total immersion into music. Later I was on tour with a dance company in China and funny enough, there I met a Brasilian choreographer, who was also a great male bellydancer. I asked him for classes and so he became my first teacher. We are still in touch. When I came back to Moscow, I began to take classes with wonderful master teachers, actually completely Egyptian style, then many workshops (still, to this day) and took part in competitions (won 7 and then it was enough). In 2007 I made a jump into the unknown, left my established work and founded Joumana dance company. It was built from scratch, so I earned money with solo performances and invested every rouble into costumes, videos, rehearsal space rent, etc. Running a show is a huge thing - you learn all professions possible from choreographer to accountant, from costume designer to sound and light engineer, from tough business manager to your dancers' psychotherapist, you become a bodybuilder, carrying heavy suitcases and a cleaning lady washing and repairing costumes at nights. And it’s not you who lives in your apartment, but actually the costumes.

What kept me in? With the show - to see how it grows and develops. With oriental dance generally - I love the freedom of it, I love the music and the feeling of your body being the music... telling your own story, being yourself...

Do you have a training in any other style of dance?

 Yes, classical ballet, modern/contemporary dance, Russian/Central Asian folk dance, and a variety of world dance styles, like salsa, samba, tango. I still can dance can-can and all the Moulin Rouge style stuff.

I was a ballet artist. Additionally I had my master's in international economics, but never really used it.

What made you go to Austria?

I get asked that often and I always reply it was the airplane that took me to Austria. But actually, I came to Austria first to do my professional 4-year training in the Feldenkrais Method of Somatic Education. I was travelling between two countries and after two years took a decision to try and live in Austria for a while. I guess I am just a very curious person, open minded, and have always wanted to try living abroad. I love the international atmosphere here in Vienna and feel blessed having students from 35 countries of the world as well as meeting interesting people. However moving to another country and establishing yourself is not as easy as it seems, so I am having my big share of frustrations and struggles... On the positive side though, Vienna is so central that one can easily travel around Europe and I can go to see my friends and dear colleagues in Moscow. All in all it was definitely a life-changing experience and I feel much stronger as a person and as an artist after having made that step.

Drum Solo and Saidi seem to be your specialities; what gave you the idea to fuse them both?

I love Saidi and I love drum solos. I would actually go a bit deeper and say that I have a big passion for fusion. Probably it comes from the extensive previous dance training in many styles. Once I get inspired I cannot stop before I create a piece, which I consider more a work of art. Back in 2006 I started winning dance competitions with show pieces

- just as example, one of the first solos combined ballet point technique with oriental dance and a bit of humour, another one was a completely contemporary/release technique piece with oriental flare, etc.

I must say I highly appreciate classical raqs sharqi, perform/ teach it, but with all respect to create a stage fusion piece in my opinion requires so much more effort, precision, abilities and financial resources as well. I get my inspiration from many things - it can be just a word overheard in the street, or a piece of music, or a visual image, or an emotional experience. It is essential for a fusion piece to have a story - what do you want to tell people, what is it that you are communicating. It is not enough just to take two dance styles and mix them together...You need to reveal your personality and furthermore very thoroughly stage your story according to certain rules. Then comes the costuming and for a fusion show piece it must be something special, custom designed to support the storyline. Often various props come into the picture or you have to learn some new skills. Even probably to take extra classes in something new.

How is the bellydance situation today in Russia?Oriental dance is definitely at a very high level in Russia. We have great "old school" teachers who have lived and worked in Egypt and are now teaching in Moscow, we have festivals with wonderful international artists. Russians are traditionally a "dancing", artistic nation and we take dance seriously, even if it just a hobby for most.

What will you show us on stage at Asmahan's?

This will be a solo classical raqs sharqi dance and two pieces with Joumana Dance company.

The first company piece is a fan veil dance and it it is very dear to my heart, because of its history. In 2011 I climbed the Mount Elbrus (in the Causcasus). It was my way to say goodbye to my brother. He was a very experienced alpinist and tragically died in that region one year before. I had to train as never before in my life for 6 months to be able to do it, as this mountain is 6548 m high and difficult indeed. On the actual day of the ascent my guide and me started at 2 a m at night from 4200 m height. One must be on top of Elbrus before 12 a m, after that it becomes too dangerous due to weather conditions, so you feel the time pressure. We climbed non-stop in high snow and slippery ice in complete darkness, it was freezing cold and at some point you just stop feeling your hands and feet. This was quite scary but we kept going for a few hours and then suddenly I saw the most amazing thing in my life - this picture is still in front of my eyes. As the sun began to rise, the sky from pitch black suddenly became deep blue, then purple, turned into pink, orange, yellow and this huge amazing mountain cast a giant shadow across the whole sky. I was in awe, as if touching something sacred. I thought - just to see that was worth all the sweating and hard work. And later, as we were on top of the Elbrus the view was unbelievable - as if you are on an airplane. I laughed and cried and talked quietly to my brother. Two weeks later I heard this amazing music by the Uzbek composer Sultonaly Rakhmatov and the puzzle fell into place. I chose the Elbrus sky and sunrise colours for the costumes - deep blue, purple and yellow. This dance for me is a celebration of the beauty of nature and our wonderful planet. The second piece - well, let is remain a surprise :)

Please give us some more insight into your workshop

Those will be intensive two hours, as I have prepared especially for Asmahan a new show piece - a drum solo with a cane. There will be many tricks with the prop and of course oriental technique. The choreography is rich, playful, combining elements of various styles - so it is excellent for a rocking solo performance anywhere - at a festival, competition, any private/corporate event, for friends, etc. I will give tips, which I call "quick fixes" - how to make your dance look very professional with just a tiny effortless change here and there.

What are your plans for the future?

Firstly, never stop learning, use all chances and possibilities for that. Secondly, there are two areas of

big interest for me - artistic/performance/choreographing and movement/medicine/improving health through awareness and movement.

With artistic direction my highest aspiration is to stage a professional theatre show involving various genres, including oriental dance with a clear storyline. I have the concept ready, but obviously that needs investment, so I am looking for sponsors/ maecenas at the moment. That is not easy, but I hope for a little bit of luck. I love teaching/ performing internationally and will continue with that, as well as with the school in Vienna and my dance company.

The second direction is very close to my heart. Over the years a lot of experience and knowledge has been accumulated through dance, somatic therapy, the Feldenkrais method, anatomy studies, collaborations with osteopaths, medical professionals, and working with students. Now I have a concept of healthy movement/dancing, which I try to bring to my students, through looking at anatomy, kinesiology, neurobiology, somatic practices and revising the whole dance technique accordingly. It is too big a field to go into detail. And one more project I am looking for financing now is movement for people with neurological disorders. I find collaboration with neuroscientists and the latest research on the plasticity of the brain inspiring and even making a breakthrough in our understanding of how movement can help healthy people as well as those who suffer from various conditions.

All in all, i want to contribute as much as I can to those fields. I am very happy and thankful to life for giving me that chance.


Katerina Joumana on facebook ...

Katerina Joumana is guest at the WORLD OF ORIENT - 10. - 12. March 2017 in Hanover
she dances at the Saturday Night Gala!

Her workshop
“SHOW DRUM SOLO” takes place on Sat., 11. March, 10:00 – 12:00h.
Infos and registration:
Photos: publication with kindly permission of Katerina Joumana
Joumana Dance Company