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Interview with the
Vietnamese-Tunisian
Dancer

Anasma

by Marcel Bieger

DANCE AND DIGNITY MAKE FUSION

When we saw Anasma for the first time, when she performed at the “Orientale” in Düsseldorf, Germany, we knew that we just had to get in touch with her and get to know her better. It is easy to get talking to her – she is very friendly, very polite und very amiable -, and we arranged for an interview. But since Anasma is so often on tour, it had to be by e-mail and it took its time. After receiving her answers, we knew that it was worth waiting every minute. Until now we never published such a long interview, but to shorten it would have been of no use, otherwise you might miss why she has so much presence that she easily fills every stage out, why she emphasizes so much that a dancer should also know a thing or two about acting or what is all this fuss about the “little devil”. But judge for yourself. Anasma can be seen in Germany from October 15 th to 17th in Hanover, where she will run a “Work Camp” (with a dinner show an Saturday) and after that you’ll probably have to wait till March 3rd and 4th when she will perform at Düsseldorf’s “Orientale 2011”. (www.anasmadance.com)

Being of Vietnamese and Tunisian roots this must make you a specialist for fusions of all kinds (and reading your biography, you not only tried them all but also "invented" new combinations).

My fusions are the reflection of who I am.  I am assertively a world citizen. Being  a “mutt”, bred in mixed cultures, I was naturally drawn to mixing my dancing. 

Being of Oriental descent, growing up and living in Western countries and especially cosmopolitan cities such as Paris and New York, I have been wanting to create Hip Hop Bellydance fusion for  years. Bellydance was who I am. Hip Hop was what my generation was. My Asian and Arabic origins gave birth to Wushu Bellydance. Two years after I started Bellydance, I fell in love with salsa. From then on, I dreamed to combine both forms together. I am now making this old dream come true. I started mixing Gymnastics to bellydance and hip hop in my second solo to Michael Jackson’s “Who Is It” in 1999. My most important encounter between different disciplines is that of Theater and Dance, for Theater can ‘layer itself’, combine itself to any dance style and technique.

To me, what counts the most in any dance act or show that I see, or create, is the message and the intention behind the move. Dance is self expression and to me, each dancer needs to find their own connection. To me, performers who touch their audiences the most are not clones of anyone else… And this is the same in many art forms. Picasso, Wong Kar wai, Edith Piaf were like no other.

I would like to come back on the term “invented”. I genuinely do the effort and have the intent to create “new fusions”.  I never wanted to be “like the others”. In France, I am not the typical French girl. I am “Half Tunisian”, “Half Vietnamese”. In USA, I am the French girl. In Vietnam, the locals, “my people”, do not consider me as (100%) Vietnamese. So I am the Vietnamese raised in a Western country. In Tunisia, the locals, also “my people”, do not even imagine I am related to them because of my Asian facial features. The Chinese “Ni Hao ma?” is what I am asked in the markets, when they do not interject the Japanese “Conichiwa!”.

When people ask my name, around the world, I am proud to say where I am from, and to have such an original combination of ethnicities. My parents did not decide to be together for this reason! (They had a tremendous love and respect for each other, and possessed an incredible open mindedness.) However I am so grateful and proud of my origins.

To be more accurate in my wording, my goal  is to create  “new fusions to me”. When I was 16, I got this idea I should Bellydance with a Gymnastics ribbon, a Vietnamese cone hat, or with fans. Years later only, I realized this “fusion” existed already. Camelia, a Japanese Dancer based in Paris, was dancing with ribbons, traditional Chinese dances use silk fans and silk ribbons (shorter and wider than one I used in Gymnastics), traditional Vietnamese dances used the conic hat…
So I “invent” new fusions starting from my feelings and from ideas I do not remember I heard somewhere else. But, I believe we are all connected and inspired by each other… Sometimes, on different parts of the planet, we simultaneously have the same ideas as someone else. We recycle. Life is a cycle. 

Sometimes I create an offer catered to “the market’s demand”, and this way, I seize opportunities. But usually I make sure my offering fit FIRST what I genuinely have inside of me.

And sometimes, the more I research, the more I create, the more I meet people, the more  I discover other artist have been creating their fusions, and sometimes similar to mine.

Assia Guemra (www.assiaguemra.com) who has a black belt in Tae-Kwon-Do has fused Bellydance and Martial arts long before I did.

Sylvie Abdel Khalek, my first troupe leader, wanted to combine Hip Hop and Bellydance on stage, with three hip hop dancers and three bellydancers. I was sixteen back then, totally fan of MTV music videos and commercial Hip Hop. Sylvie and I created a lot of the choreography through telephone conversations and visualizations.  Years later, in 2006, I discovered in the US that Bellyqueen (www.bellyqueen.com) (and particularly Elisheva and Kaeshi Chai) was starting to develop this work combining Popping and Bellydance.

In 2008, I met in NYC Vanessa Neva (www.worldancearound.com) who had created her Afro-Bellydance- house- breakdance mix. In 2009, I met in Paris Linda Faoro (www.myspace.com/Lindafaoro) who has been working on her fusion for years between Jazz, Hip Hop African, Bellydance... 
"Monkey totem", Anasma, Vanessa Neva und Lena Marti
In 2010, I met Raqs Steady Eddie and Ebony Qualls, two other American artists, who also have a great fusion work between Hip Hop and Bellydance.

To put it in a nut shell, what I “invent” in some of my fusions is a way to see existing things with a new perspective. I decode movement from different forms with a Bellydance eye, and some Modern dance keys of understanding, just as you use your mother tongue to understand another language at first. After a while, you HAVE to think is the language you are learning in order for it to be fluent (and, applying this idea to dance, it is KEY for me to train in the ORIGINAL form before I can fuse), but you do keep your mother tongue as your base, your comfort zone.

Yes, I certainly helped popularize some forms of fusion and what I hope is to keep inspiring people and desire to be and remain truthful in my research.

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Layout: Konstanze Winkler
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© Photos: 1 Scott Schuster, 2 Joe Marquez, 3 David Djiang, 4 Brian Lin
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