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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
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You belong to the very rare cases that are perfect as an organiser and as a dancer. And you are also excellent in your choreographies. How do you manage that all together?

(laughs) I don’t have the slightest idea. I still try to invent new things, because I still have my creativity, thank God. I’m very thankful for that, because our audience won’t come for less, and we are always striving to give the people, what they expect. I think my love for dancing helps me a great deal, but of course you only grow with your tasks
Every new task is a new challenge, and if you master it you get one step further. Many things unfold on your way, and the more you learn the better you adapt to them. We always saw one of our main aims in never standing still but go on and develop ourselves further. Thanks to touring abroad you get new inspirations and insights. If you are true to yourself you always find something worth making better, making nicer or making different. Talent for dance was with me from the beginning, delight in dance also, and these are the best premises. When I started dancing 21 years ago, it didn’t take long, until I started teaching. Some colleagues then sniffed at that and said: “How can anybody so young start teaching already?” My repertory I have today wasn’t at my hand then, of course, but even with this smaller repertory I gave my very best, to teach the students right. Thanks to my own lessons and the work with the students I advanced too.

Working with students helps you to engross and reinforce the dance moves you already master. They not only become your second nature, you also learn to vary them and discover new possibilities. This could work with that, this could be combined with that. Quite a few things you will see me perform on stage origin in the lessons I gave. Today I know it was the best thing I could do, starting to teach students at a so early point of my career.
Let’s speak some more of your festivals. Do you still remember who was your first foreign guest on stage?

Sure, Majodi & Lilla from Paris, France. They had invited us to Paris, and we immediately got along very well. I liked their style very much, and they were real nice people. So we reinvited them without a moment’s doubt.
You must have had them all. Everybody who has made him- or herself a name in business in the past years, was on your festivals.

Yes, that’s true. Everybody was here, whom we wanted to have on our stage. When somebody couldn’t come, we invited him or her again next year. If some Oriental artist’s financial expectations differed too much from our budget, we said to ourselves, other countries also have very good artists. Or audience appreciates this, acknowledges fine dance no matter where it comes from and doesn’t accept only original Middle Eastern artists.

Did you ever have trouble with say friends of Egyptian belly dance, when you presented something more contemporary or even Tribal on stage?

A lot of people who have seen the shows at our festivals write letters or e-mails to us, and most of them are friendly and positive.

Double sword dance at the 17th. Oriental Festival in Duisburg, 2009
But once there was a woman, who didn’t like the more modern belly dance styles and complained about it. Why can’t people be more tolerant? When we put together our programme, we give our best to satisfy as many different tastes as possible. You can’t present an evening with nothing else than classical Egyptian belly dance. Because the ones who’s favourite is not Egyptian belly dance would be bored after a while. But if you run a very varied programme you always have the situation that some people in the audience like a certain number and others don’t. But in a three and a half hour show there should be something in it for all gustos. And if a tribal piece is not quite the taste of an Egyptian fan, well there are enough other styles in our programme he or she should find delightful. You don’t get that everywhere, a 3.5 hours show. Most people know what they can await in such a long time, and to be honest, we only rarely get complaints.
We noticed the large number of Eastern European artists at your shows, especially at the contest. Not to mention Guo Wei from China. Did you see a new trend or was this pure coincidence?

Thanks to our performances in Eastern Europe and China the people there hear of our festival and contest. The artists over there all dance very good and are very ambitious. If a dancer from a country in Eastern Europe wins in a contest category, in the next year five or six dancers of this country enrol for the contest. This was the case with the Czech Republic. In one year we only had one Czech dancer, Warda from Prague, who made first place. Next year six or seven groups and solo dancers, registered for the contest. You see, competition is good for business (laughs). We had the same with Slovenia. First there was only one, who became first place, and in the following year we had five dancers from Slovenia.
Guo Wei and his ensemble dancers at last year's gala show
Dance is government-funded in Eastern Europe, especially folklore. Also in everyday life there is much dancing. Wherever families in Eastern Europe come together to celebrate, there will be singing and dancing. I’m from the former Yugoslavia and was born in Belgrade in nowadays Serbia. I my childhood I danced the traditional dances and sung the traditional dances in the Yugoslavian club. My parents moved to Germany, because here they could find work, and so I came to Germany, when I was five years old. My parents were so called “Guest workers”, an expression which only a few people seem to remember these days.
And look at what has become of you. You are a role model for successful integration. And if I may say so, you speak an excellent German.

(laughs) I also speak Serbo Croat, can read and write Cyrillic, because In Germany I also went to a Yugoslavian school. But my high school diploma I made at a German school. After that I became an examined foreign language correspondent and speak English, Spanish and French …

I bet, you were the top of your class …

(laughs) In German I was a very good student. I didn’t want people to think, oh she’s from abroad, she can’t speak this language proper. My ambition helped me a lot. The above mentioned languages are of great help at our tours and work shops, of course.

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Photos: 1 and 2 © China Championdance 2009/2010, 3, 4 and 5 © André Elbing