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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
The Contestants at your festivals dance at a high level.
How do you screen the candidates,
and when is application deadline?

It closes, when the list is full (laughs). Since we do long time planning proper, you have to apply early. The festival is end of November, so you pay an reduced attendance fee till October 15th, after that it will become a little bit more costly. But this doesn’t mean that you are on the list automatically, if you are on schedule. If the list of contest participants is full already in June, we can’t take anymore dancers in. And more contestants than you have on this list would overtax the jury as well as the audience.

I do have a waiting list, and those, who are on that one, will have better chances for future contests. The winner gets the title of a “Belly Dancer of the World”, and to be the world’s best you have to dance on a certain level, otherwise you wouldn’t be worth the title. Those who have already qualified for  a title at other contests, can hope for getting on the actual list of contestants, as long as that one is not yet full. I like getting applications early, but unfortunately even the early birds are not in it automatically. For instance we have the above mentioned waiting lists, and we try to get the right mixture of national and international stars. So if there are to many applications from one country, then you could have bad luck. Troupes and tribes don’t have to worry too much, because traditionally much more solo dancers apply than groups.
The last year's contest winners of the category "classic oriental dance"
The contest was conducted for the fourth time in a row in 2010. What induced you to install it into the festival?

Our many tours have showed us that dancers all over the world like to know how good they are, where they stand in comparison to others. That’s why dancers in so many countries wish for a contest. This is not a question of rivalry or competition. Rather the dancers would love to become better, to make new experiences, and some of them don’t even hope for a title, just to be present is enough. It is most important for them to perform in front of a qualified international jury, which we assemble from all over the world. The contestants want to hear, what the jurors have to say, want to get their feedback
Exactly for these dancers we conduct our contest. Because these artists have understood, what a contest for the “Belly Dancer of the World” really means. And for these people we have the highest respect. They write to me and are thankful for the evaluation they get, because that helps them to develop themselves further. Such people please us, because they have understood what this contest is all about. Occasionally we have “bad loosers”, but they are an exception rather, and mostly they are only sore because they didn’t win (both laugh). If they would only take a look at the contest DVDs, so they can see for themselves, why it wasn’t good enough, what they performed. And why the other contestants were better. All seven jurors independently of each other give notes in figures, which we add afterwards and this way find a just ranking. Some dancers, which have made fourth or fifth place in one year, try again in the following year, and it is not unheard of that they fare better then before, even become winner or second best.
It is a real masterstroke of you to connect the contest with the gala, by inviting contest winners to perform in the galas.

And why not, these dancers have already proven themselves at the contest. The contest winners not only perform at the galas, they usually get offers from other countries to dance there, and we offer them to teach at our next festival. The title “Belly Dancer of the World” generally means a big shift to the career of a dancer.

Henneth Annun, one of Germany's above average dancers is one good example: She started with second place in one year and made it to the top next year.

Our aim is to make everybody happy, including the vendors. Good business, is not only good for them but also for us. We don’t want to pass all costs on the vendors. We know that we have the most favourable stand rental rates. As long as the rent for the festival house won’t rise to high, we don’t intend to change that. Of course we have to pay rent for the front hall, where the fair is held, and this is the reason, why we take admission for the fare. It’s not very much, and we don’t get rich from it. But on the other side, it would be of no use, if we would have to operate in the red because of it. The vendors shall get every chance to make good business at our festival, because they are making a living from it. But on the other side, it would be of no use, if we would have to operate in the red because of it.

The vendors shall get every chance to make good business at our festival, because they are making a living from it. It would be of no use to deploy twice or thrice as much stalls, because the vendors won’t sell twice or thrice as much goods. And the customers shall not feel confined or cramped and leave feeling frustrated, because they couldn’t get through and reach the things they wanted to buy. That is why we try hard every year to arrange a great and unforgettable festival for all the artists, vendors, spectators, students and staff members. And every November we are looking forward to say hello to many old and new friends of the Oriental festival of Europe.
Your festival has a huge trade fair, which is not overstuffed, but is openly arranged
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Photos: 1 © China Championdance 2009/2010, 2 and 3 © André Elbing, 4 © Konstanze Winkler