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Interview with
DJEYNEE BODSON
by Mareike Beiersdorf
Photos © Djeynee Bodson, if not named otherwise
Tell us some hard facts about Tribal Umrah: e.g. How much attendees, teachers, dancers have come so far?

Tribal UMRAH festival is a weeklong festival, usually happening around July 14th. It started last year in Biarritz. We’ve hosted more than 100 attendees. We brought the 5 UNMATA girls for the very first time in Europe. Amy Sigil (Director of Unmata) is the Godmother of this festival. Around this amazing troupe, we also hosted other American Masters such as Fréderique, Suhaila Salimpour, Ariellah, Gypsy Fire Dance Cie, Kami Liddle. We’ve supported x famous European dancers such as The Uzumé (Netherlands) and French tribal belly dancers such as Deborah, Hazel, Julie de St Blanquat, Elodie.

The main show, located on the amazing stage of the Biarritz Casino front to the Atlantic Ocean, hosted more than 50 dancers for a 4 hour long outdoor show.
This year, Tribal UMRAH festival was held in Nîmes. Most of the last year attendees came back with their friends and students! We’ve hosted more than 150 attendees total. Amy Sigil was there again, of course. This time, we asked both Unmata and Verbatim (Amy’s second troupe) to join the festival. As American Masters, we’ve hosted also Jill Parker, Colleena Shakti, Sherri Wheatley, Sera Solstice. Our European guests were Saada Tribal Group, The Makosh Corporation and Morgana (all from Spain!!). And our French teachers were Linda, Nadyka, Marie Ezyrah, Shirel (who taught free entrance "intro level class" together with myself).
Unmata, Verbatim and Octopus (Djeynees tribe) togehter in Nimes 2010 (Photo © Patou)
Why do you organise Tribal Umrah? What´s the aim and the philosophy behind it? How did it start and evolve this year?

Tribal Fest is the very beginning of Tribal UMRAH. Kajira Djoumahna and her husband, Chuck the DJ, host the most famous tribal event in the world: Tribal Fest in Sebastopol, USA! During several years, it made me cry to read adds about it without being able to join! So I asked Chuck to come to Europe and make one Tribal Fest here for us. But how could he bring that many teachers in Europe? No way! Then, at least, I could join Tribal Fest 8 and 9. Incredible, amazing, beautiful! My conviction was: Europeans should also have the chance to live such an event! So I started planning a festival. I shared this idea with Amy and of course, she encouraged me to do it.

Djeynee and Kajira, the organizer of Tribal Fest in Sebastopol/California (USA) in 2009
The main aim of Tribal UMRAH is to create an European Tribal Community. This is why it lasts one week, this is why we always organize a day of touring and sight seeing for our sisters, and this is why teachers and attendees are treated the same way. This is also why it includes a lot of "free entrance" events such as classes, shows, and parties. I wanted this festival to be the cheapest and longest Tribal event in Europe. Also the Tribal UMRAH main show has to happen outdoors: I want people to walk around and then stop, for an instant or for hours, and enjoy the show. This is the best way, according to me, to spread Tribal Belly dance in the heart of people. And I may also say that I'm sometimes upset about how expensive art expression can be. Art belongs to everybody. Nowadays a hyperconsumist society excludes so many people from "regular life". Art is beauty, art is a concept. Give it but don't deal it!
A festival, according to me, is a popular event. That means that everybody should be able to afford it that means that it lasts long enough so people can connect.

The philosophy is Tribal Belly dance! We are a community made with human beings who share the same love for dance. As human beings we can cry, laugh, suffer, hate, eat, drink, whether we are famous or not. As dancers we are dedicated to learning, to teaching and to spreading the love of tribal belly dance.

Tribal UMRAH is the place where you can meet your masters as well as other talented teachers and dancers. It is the place where you can begin new friendships even if you live in different countries or areas. It is the place where you will certainly discover beautiful European spots and people that will host you for a week.

What`s the meaning of the word Umrah, and why did you chose this name?

“Umrah” is Arabic. Our dance started with Jamila Salimpour, Middle Eastern dance teacher and performer. So I’m really happy to include this root in our festival’s name. “Umrah” means “pilgrimage”. The tribal belly dance is a “lively dance”. It evolves further every day, and it’s so different from one dancer to another. Tribal depends on each dancer’s inspiration and life. Tribal belly dancers usually travel a lot over the world to learn and perform. I want Tribal UMRAH to be just a stop on their own way to their own tribal belly dance, I wish it inspires them.
Unmata and Verbatim members are watching the show (Photo © Patou)
stage and audience
What are your plans for the future Tribal Umrah Festivals?

Tribal UMRAH is a “gypsy” festival. Move! Change! And get inspired!
Changing of location: that makes people open their own mind.
Changing of teachers: Don’t get used to one style only.
Never get bored!

I'm the owner of the concept and the guardian of its philosophy but I wish to share it with partners as long as they share my views.

Tribal UMRAH will take place in Barcelona, Spain next year. This city is amazing. Art everywhere! Spanish people deserve my respect: they are hard workers, but they built a very friendly and modern country. I love the Spanish way of life!

Then, I hope I can organize it in Brittany (2012). Brittany is the land of King Arthur, Avalon, the Brocéliande forest, spirits, fairies and Celts. Tribal UMRAH will happen in Barcelona next year.

The Makosh Corporation from Barcelona, organizers of TRIBAL UMRAH 2011 (Photo © Ai Ume)
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