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From our neighbours in the West, Belgium, many extraordinary dancers have entered stage. We think of Khalida or Amirah, which we have portrayed and interviewed in this magazine already. So we are happy to put another flower to this gorgeous bouquet, Queenie from the city of Ghent. She is a traditional belly dancer of first class qualities, and that she became 1st place at the contest “Bellydancer of the World” last year in the most prestigious discipline “Raqs sharqi” is not amazing, but logical. Queenie is not only a lovely artist but also a charming conversational partner with a deep rooted sense of humour.

I AM AN ORIENTAL DANCER AT HEART

Interview with the Belge artist
Queenie

by Marcel Bieger

Please tell us something about your life before dancing, what did you do for a living, and can you live from dancing alone, meanwhile?

I started belly dancing while I was in university, which meant that I had a lot of time between classes to practice! I must confess that I mentally practiced choreographies in class as well, which made me truly believe in the power of mental practice, to help remember the sequence of the moves and combinations. Now I’ve taken that habit to my long car rides: I spend a lot of time in the car, which is perfect to listen to new music, get new ideas or dance to any song – in spirit.

As the years went by, I started dancing more and more, and supported by my first teacher, Samyra, I started performing and teaching. I was able to make the decision to dance full time ... until the economic crisis and the Zumba hype hit. From then on it became very difficult to make a living of dancing alone, so I started looking for a daytime job. I work part time as a PA/documentalist now.
What exactly gave you the belly dance bug?

I was inspired by Sertab Erener’s performance at Eurosong to take belly dance classes. In hindsight, there wasn’t a lot of bellydance involved, but after seeing it I was determined to belly dance! Classes in the area were on summer break, but my first teacher (to be) was giving a beginner workshop at a summer festival in my home town Ghent – which I was anxious to attend!

I was a little overwhelmed because the dance turned out to be more difficult than I had originally thought, but Samyra was able to convince me that the workshop contained material of about 4 classes. Reassured, I pushed through and went to class in September. From then on, one class a week became two, three four classes a week, and things sort of got out of hand.

I have some prior dance experience (salsa, tango, ballet, even modern Flemish folk dancing), but none as thorough as Middle Eastern dance. I do believe that practicing on all levels in different styles helps to develop general skills that can be used in belly dance, such as balance and body awareness.
You have proven that you are a fabulous raqs sharqi dancer, and on your site we are informed that you specialise also in khaleegy - why these two instead of others?

Of course, I want to keep learning, because it’s simply impossible to know everything about this dance, this art.

I’m a strong believer in moving from the heart, getting carried away by the music and literally dancing the music. On the other hand (as my students will testify), I think technique is extremely important too – and it has to come first, so that the moves become muscle memory and able to be performed when needed.

Khaleegy ... I love it so much because it makes me happy. The rhythm is so captivating that you just cannot NOT groove to the music! I am an Oriental dancer at heart though; Raqs Sharqi is my first love... of which I’m still discovering details that carry me away each time.
I left Raks Pro last year because my own schedule was becoming too demanding, after which the troupe was (and still is) led by Artemisia alone. I regretted having to say goodbye to the dancers, but considering the Belgian/Dutch bellydance scene is fairly small, we still run into each other backstage, usually resulting in crazy pictures on Facebook the day after.

Raks Pro was the first project during which I worked with Khalida, but it took us some extra time to truly connect - we started making our first crazy plans in Duisburg two years ago, in between workshops at Leyla Jouvana’s festival!
How come the Belge dancers are always sitting in the audience at Leyla Jouvana's contests and cheer for their fellow Belge dancers (you are the loudest, by the way). You don't have this from other countries. What is the secret of the Belgians sticking together?

Well ... first of all, Belgium is a tiny country. It’s practically impossible not to know everybody in the belly dance scene. Second ... I must say that the last couple of years, more and more events are being organised, causing more and more people meeting each other on a regular basis and connecting online, which caused a true community feeling.

It’s heart warming to see Belgian dancers cheering for each other at haflas, shows and contests, instead of letting competition or rivalry take the main hand.
But most of all, I am very excited about the two BOOTCAMPs! The concept is simple: four full days of intense dance training, workshops by Khalida and myself, one guest teacher, and a hafla. Originally, we had only planned one BOOTCAMP (5-7-8-9 July), featuring Constanze Janssen, a German ballet instructor. However, the event sold out so quickly that we decided to plan a second BOOTCAMP (19-20-21-22 July), featuring Amirah from Belgium, Tribal Fusion Bellydancer of the World 2010. There are only a couple more places free for this edition, and we have opened a waiting list for the first one.
Homepages:
Queenie: www.belly-dance.be
Queenie: facebook
"BOOTCAMP" with Queenie and Khalida:
www.belly-dance.be/en/classes/bootcamp/
Photos © Konstanze Winkler
Graphic & WebDesign Konstanze Winkler
Tell us something about you and "Raks Pro" - and about your other cooperations with Khalida.

I spent two years in Raks Pro, the first year as a guest choreographer, the second year as co-director, when Khalida had decided to step back because of her busy schedule.

Raks Pro being a troupe of independent professional dancers, it was very rewarding to work with dedicated people, especially since they usually worked towards a specific performance by means of goal-oriented practice.

What are your next plans and will we see you in Germany again?

I am looking forward to perform at Leyla Jouvana’s Easter show! Later this year I will be travelling to England for Jewel of Yorkshire, The Netherlands for Aisa Lafour’s Orientalicious festival, Aziza’s Dreamcamp in Canada, Shimmy in The City in London, of course there are the many events planned in Belgium, too, and Leyla Jouvana’s 20th anniversary festival at the end of the year. I’m excited to be a part of the jury in the 2012 contest, and to be teaching at the 20th Festival! I love the event because of its good vibes, and because it has a special meaning for me, but this year is truly going to be an amazing edition!