Graphic and layout: Konstanze Winkler
„If you are true to yourself you always find something worth making better, making nicer or making different“
Interview with LEYLA JOUVANA
by Marcel Bieger
One of the prominent promoters in Germany, one of our finest dancers, a choreographer of high degree and a patron of national and international dance talents. "Hagalla" is a still a young magazine, but already we ask ourselves, why didn't we interview Leyla Jouvana earlier? That she has many things to say and that she has worked hard all her life this and much more you can read on the following pages.
Leyla, people know you and Roland for many things, as a dancer and a drummer, as performers with an international reputation, and as somebody who knows virtually everybody around the (dance) world. But the first thing that springs into mind, when your names are mentioned, must be your Oriental Festivals. You already held 17 of them and this year your celebrated the 18th.
Yes, since 18 years we are organising the Oriental Dance Festival of Europe in Duisburg, Germany always at the end of November till beginning of December. In the beginning it lasted only one weekend, but today it spreads over eleven days. In this time you get 7 shows, 50 work shops with international teachers, a huge fair and since four years the contest “Bellydancer of the World”. In addition we organise our studio parties
(in “Hagalla” there will be a feature soon, titled “Seasons at Leyla's”).
We started the festival to bring belly dance to the people in Germany, so they got to know it and recognise the art in it. In those years there existed some prejudices against Middle Eastern dance art; but we did our best to push them aside. Nowadays our festival attracts people from all over the world.
Leyla and Roland Jouvana, performing at one of their studio shows
But didn’t the feminist movement at that time discover belly dance for itself and propagate it for women as one way of liberating themselves?
Sure, but that was only one faction of the movement, another one saw belly dance as something anti women, even sexist. These women didn’t inform themselves neither about this form of art nor about its positive effects on the female soul and psyche. For me true woman’s liberation is, when a woman can be a woman, when she can live her femininity without becoming a cheap copy of a man. The true liberated women have come to grips with this und know that belly dance gives women the liberty, to be a woman proper.
How did everything start with your festival?
As we had everything finished for our first festival and opened the doors, a thousand people wanted to come in.
We had to send many of them back home. For the second festival we planned one day more, and even then more people as we had expected came. And this way it went all the time. From year to year more audience and artists showed up, und meanwhile our festival is held over a period of eleven days. In the first years of the 1990s you didn’t get too many belly dance shows. At that time only few people had internet, and usually as a promoter you hadn’t to do more than to advertise in the leading (and at that time only) German belly dance magazine “Halima”, to get your house full. But then and now it was true that people only come again next year if they liked what they saw this year. If they didn’t like the show they wouldn’t return. So we had to concentrate on a varied show for every new festival. There had to be something in it for everybody.
Leyla Jouvana opens the festival gala show 2009
And apparently we did make a few things right, otherwise we wouldn’t have had 18 festivals in a row (laughs). Thanks to internet and globalization (and our tours also helped a lot) our festival has become bigger and more international with every year.
The internationality of your artists indeed is remarkable. Have you met them all at your tours and then invited them?
Yes, we met them all at shows or other international festivals. We engage those artists for our festivals, who dance exceptionally well and are nice people. Of course we can’t hire everybody we meet; unfortunately we can’t even invite all the people, who have engaged us. Since we are on tour nearly every weekend, we meet so many people that we can’t re-invite them all, otherwise we would have to make a festival every month. For this reason we can only choose between them. We select those, whom we think are best and also nice people. While we are on tour we plug our festival, of course, on all the shows and work shops. That way ever more people get to know of our event, and so they are coming from all over the world and bring with them new artists. The delighted and enthusiastic spectators, the happy artists
Tour impressions, here from Poland 2010
and last not least the content vendors tend to plug our festival at their home places, and also the media boost our shows. And it is time to say thank you to all the people, who help every year behind the scenes to get the festival well along.
Leyla and Roland in China 2009
How do you accommodate festival organisation, world tour and dance studio?
We go on tour on weekends so that we can teach in our studio on weekdays. This is very important for us, otherwise the students would be frustrated. Of course that can be arduous at times but we do our best to keep it all going. As soon as we should register it’s getting to strenuous, we would slow our pace and delegate work to others. But we’ll think about that as it arrives. For now we are still full of energy. As long as our health is okay and we still dance and drum passionately, why slow down …
Do you have a whole show to perform when you are on tour?
That depends. When somebody engages us for a whole evening, we perform with our ensemble our evening long programme. But when we are booked for one or two dance gigs only, we show only snippets from our programme. It all depends on what the promoter wishes from us.
Photos: 1, 5, 6 © China Championdance 2009/2010, 2 © Konstanze WInkler, 3 © André Elbing, 4 © Adam Welnik
What's the secret of your success
If we would spill that, it woud be no secret any more (laughs) Okay, serious: We concentrate on the positive and good sides of our lifes. We work hard and we work a lot, because no input, no output and nothing ventured, nothing gained. But not everybody thinks or acts that way. Success doesn't fall from heaven, you gain real success only through patience and diligence, and it has to be founded on all the experiences you make in many years. Life is what you make it. We work on ourselves and we try all the time to improve ourselves. We also believe in the laws of life, like cause and effect, and that something positive generates more positive things. So we always look ahead, try to give our best and treat all people positive and fair.