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Interview with Latifa Nejim

by Marcel Bieger

When reading about you one cannot miss the fact that dance played and plays an enormous important part in your life. When did you start dancing and what made you become a dancer?

Well. I started to dance, when I was child. The first time I saw some movements from a dance at the kindergarten. And I just repeated, what our teacher was showing us. I liked it so much and the teacher saw my big desire to dance so she always put me on the first line. I liked that attention. I always could remember all the movements very fast. Later I liked to listen to any pop music and danced to just everything that I could find. I was a big fan of the video clips of Britney Spears and Michael Jeckson! (Hehehe)  I always was interested in everything that was connected to a dance, everything about how our body can move in another way. I think all the children are interested in something, some like to singing, some to do sport, and so on. This comes from the God. Important is to find from a child her/his desires to develop and support them.

You were introduced to belly dance by a Russian teacher. That this dance and you fell in love with each other at first sight is obvious. But what exactly made you stick to it?

First of all, I was struck by the fact that these were completely new movements for me. I was amazed how beautifully and also isolated in a new way our body can move. Even more I was pleased with the fact that belly dancing can be danced not only in the group, but also solo! So, as before I danced with Ukrainian folklore dance groups, sometimes I wanted to go further, but it always depended on a whole group or from partners, like in ballroom dancing, for example. I liked to be independent and to  have the possibility to develop myself as good I can.

Your hard work payed of many times, the IDO declared you European Champion twice. How often do you train, how often do you teach, and how often do you perform in a week?

Step by step.

First, I am an European Champion (1 time), also I got The World Cup and became the World Champion everything step by step during 6 months! After that I stopped the competitions in IDO (it was in 2007/2008)! After that I became an official judge till now.

TEACHING. I have classes 5 days per week but in my days off I do private classes with my students, creating for them the choreographies, and working on the dance technique. So very often I do not have “free” free days.

TRAINING. My work with the students fills my trainings on myself because I conduct classes almost always in full force. So, every day I train myself. Of course, when I need to, besides the lessons in my dance studio, I start to train extra at home, when I need to come up with a new choreography for my performances or workshops! It is hard work, but very interesting and beloved!

PERFORMANCES. In Moscow there are a lot of places for dancers they could perform every day. After I became the official judge I stopped working at these places. It is a different system than the work in Egypt. Because in Egypt there is only one dancer during one evening not 2-3-4 on the same time like it is normal and possible in Moscow. I prefer to perform at private invitations like weddings, parties, and so on. And of course my big “drug” is a stage! People can see me at the Gala Shows.

You went to Egypt to perform, to teach, and to learn. What are the differences between belly dance in Egypt and in Russia?

Well. This is a good question. I will start with the belly dance in Russia. Russian belly dancers are very strong dancers I think everybody knows and can see it in the internet. We have very good ballet schools. Everybody know the famous Bolshoi Theater, for instance. And people over here used to dance very elegantly with rich belly dance costumes. But the biggest problem what we have is that sometimes people are confused and start to put too much ballet in Oriental dance – that is a big mistake! I teach all my students to follow the Egyptian style of dance! It is the real Oriental dance! In the last years many famous Egyptian belly dancers started to visit Russia and Russian belly dancers, who do not have the possibility to go to Egypt, can go to the classes in their cities and that makes them able to see the difference between the Russian dance and the Egyptian.
Belly dance in Egypt is much softer and full of feelings. This is very important! It is not a sport dance. Real belly dance is when you can catch the audience from the beginning to the end of your performance. When with you and your mood the audience can enjoy a dance with you and “fly after you”! It is not just the movements of our body, not just machine technique. So, in Russia the dancers are strong. Sometimes it helps in certan things in Oriental dance but sometimes it causes harm to the dance. Important is to know the limit in everything!
Would you please be so kind and tell us more about your studio "MorAnDo".

MorAnDo” is the name of my own modern dance school, which I had in Ukraine. After I finished school at the age of 17 I started work. I had 3 work places on the same time. 1st one it was my work as a teacher/choreographer at a gymnasium with a choreographic slant (pupils from the 1st to 7th grade). The 2nd working place was as a teacher-choreographer at the “Central House of Culture”, where I was teaching the Ukrainian folklore dance, which I got as the leader of the dance folklore troupe “Dnistrove Grono”. And the 3rd one was in the “Central House of Pioneers”, where all the children could come and try themselves in different kind of things like drawing, vocals and also dance. I was invited there as a teacher for modern dance. I had the possibility to do anything I wanted and felt that I was free in my Art.

So, I created my studio “MorAnDo”, where I had 3 different categories of children (very young, middle, and my age). It was a very interesting work. That time I call the brilliant time of the first part of my life!

Nowadays you are working for the ARDO, what exactly do you do there? Please tell us more about the ARDO, which is not very well known over here.

ARDO is the All Russian Dance Organization – the biggest dance organization in Russia, which is aimed mainly at the competitive process. There are competitions in different categories of dance: jazz, modern, flamenco, Indian dance, street dance, and many-many more including Oriental dance. In the department of Oriental dance I am an official judge with highest category as I already said before. Also from 2011 I became to be a judge at the IDO (International Dance Organization). So my work in both of the organizations is to judge the competitors at the official including the Russian, European and World Championships, as you already know in which I took part myself before.

You are trained in many dance genres and you mix these styles in your dance art. Please enlighten us, how this happens.

I am a teacher-choreographer by education. I was learning modern dance and folklore dance from all over the world. In oriental dance for to have your own style it is very important what else you can do except the basic steps from belly dance. Our body has a muscular memory. For example, if you were engaged in ballroom dances before you will know how to turn fast, when you had classes of ballet you will know how to make your arms look more elegant and so on. What I do is to collect all my knowledge from different kinds of dance and use them in Oriental dance. For example, from modern or jazz dance I know very well, where I should be more relaxed and where and how I should be more strong in the movements, what I need in a certain moment…  The more experience you have the more people your dance will reach! That is what I do and that is what I am teaching my students! An Oriental dance needs to have a personality! By your dance the other people can see into you many things. It is like a roentgen.

Balady. First of all, we will talk about the what is it balady in general. Then I will introduce the students about the technique of how to dance balady ro balady music. We will learn the choreography, also.

Oriental "mejance/entry". Of course first of all I will explain what are “mejance”  and “entry” in Oriental dance. But then we will learn also technique and the choreography .

Technique & combinations in Egyptian style. Here we will learn the the Egyptian style technique proper (because all the choreographies I do are in Egyptian style, including my own experience and knowledge from the other dance styles, what basically makes my own style), how to make the combinations with the music. We will listen and learn the combinations from different kind of music one by one: combination from classical, modern song, balady, or drum solo. We will learn the basic technique from different kinds of music for to know and to feel the difference during a dance!

What are your future plans?

Nice question. If you are talking about my art. In the future I want to continue to develop of my own dance school, to have more and more students. Share the experience and knowledge with them. Maintain the Oriental dance together as an art. I love my job. I like to watch my students growing up in dance. I love to see their faces smile after a successful performance. It makes me happy!

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Workshops with Latifah Nejim:

Thu. 30.11., 15:30 – 17:30 h
Latifa - Egyptian Style & Musicality
Latifa´s worldwide celebrated technique & combinations in Egyptian style. In this WS you can learn more deeply the Egyptian Dance technique and how to create your own combinations according to the different kind of music (classical, modern and traditional songs, and/or drum solo). A Must!

Fri. 1.12., 17:15 – 19:15 h
Latifa Nejim -Modern Oriental Song
Technique & Choreography. Discover the difference how to dance to modern songs comparing with classical songs. Different Music need different and special technique! A dance training of modern classical dance with strong expressions.

Sat. 2.12., 09:00 - 11:00 h
Latifa - Oriental "Mejance" & Veil Entrance
Oriental technique in Egyptian style and THE choreography. In this WS you will practice how to dance your personal unforgettable entrance on stage, we explore the dynamics of the entrance & stage presence. How can you make your entrance elegant, captivating and innovative? Various combinations of travelsteps, to make the entrance less predictable so that you capture the attention of the audience as soon as you enter the stage. After this workshop you will have the tools necessary to keep all eyes on YOU! Please bring your veil. Level: Intermediate and up.

Sun. 3.12., 09:15 -11:15 h
Latifa Nejim – Legendary Egyptian Song
Powerful technique & combinations put together into a full of emotions-Choreo to an famous legendary classical Egyptian Music. Discover Latifa´s unique and international celebrated style to one of the best oriental songs from the 20th Century. Express your emotions, feel the music, become the music.

Latifa Nejim is guest at

Leyla and Roland Jouvana's 25th Oriental Festival of Europe
November 28th - December 3rd 2017 in Duisburg

Infos and application here:

Please go a little bit more into detail about your workshops.

This time I will do 4 workshops:
Tarab (old classical orientalist song). Where we will speak about what “‘tarab song” means and how to dance it. We will learn the technique & choreography with one of the best Oriental songs from the 20th century.

Photos ©: M. Joudi, Serge Shestihin
Graphics/WebDesign: Konstanze Winkler
Latifa Nejim was born and raised in the Ukraine, but lives and works in Russia since many years. After a thorough training in modern, ballroom dance, and folklore, she met the Oriental dance, which she studied proper, also. Meanwhile she performs at the Ahlan Wa Sahlan festival in Cairo, Egypt. At the Moscow State University she graduated as a teacher for choreograhy. So, you could call her – without exaggeration – one of the really big stars in belly dance … but even better is, she is coming to us, at last!
What will we see from you on stage at Leyla's?

I will try to prepare for you something interesting, where I will able to show you my personality on the stage! Hope you will enjoy my dance with me!