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The first times she stroke our attention only indirectly; we didn’t see her but her students, who traveled to Leyla Jouvana’s competition “Bellydancer of the World” on a regular basis and on a similar regular basis won many prizes there. One day we decided to write to Mahasti, the women behind these students and got to know a charming, but bustling artist, who is one of the belly dance big rollers in her home country Hungary. This year she will come to the festival personally and this was reason enough for us to do a big interview with her. Check out, what she has to say, and when you see her at Leyla’s festival don’t be shy, but approach her, she speaks a very well English …

Photos © KatlynArt, Rakonczai László, Csercsik Judit, SkracyFoto, Jene Sándor, JJ Pu and Vadász Péter

Interview with Mahasti

by Marcel Bieger
Graphics/Web Design: Konstanze Winkler
Tell us something about your dance career? Did you start with bellydance, if not, what led you to it?

I’ve been dancing since I was 3 years old. I have tried many dance styles (ballet, jazz-ballet, break dance, African dance and others), and other sports such as yoga, Thai Chi, athletics etc. I’ve always loved to see folk dances and every dance style which is exotic or special for some reasons.

When I was a student in the university I saw an ad for belly dance classes (it was the only one course in Budapest at that time) and I went to the course and sealed my fate… This happened more than 19 years ago. Since that time belly dancing became one of the main parts of my life, a kind of „lifestyle”, a part of my immortal soul. I’m sure this all happened because it should have happened. Maybe it’s called „predestination”.

When I was a child I always wanted to be a „harem girl”, I wore „harem girl” clothes on masquerades… Maybe it’s from previous lives, I don’t know, but I think it’s not very important from where this idea came from. The main thing for me is that my dream became true.

You have your own dance studio in Hungary's capital Budapest, which is very famous throughout the country. How did this all start and what is the secret of its success?

It all started in Poland, Krakow, where I went to study Polonistics with other girls from different countries. And I lived together with Swedish girls, who asked me to teach them belly dancing. In the end of the 4-week course we learned not only Polish but belly dance as well. The girls from Sweden made up my mind that I love teaching… And I began to teach in Budapest… than somehow it happened and I opened my own school in 2001. That year also my first son was born and I realised that it’s too much: I can’t be a linguist and a translator and a mum and an entrepreneur and a belly dancer at the same time. It was a very painful turning point in my life, but I have decided to let go the comparative linguistics from my life.  But I knew that I had to make this decision.  Linguistics are good, but there’s nothing better for me than to teach belly dance

I don’t know exactly, what is the secret of my school, my students. Maybe the big amount of energy, which I lay into my school and my teaching. Or my open minded personality.

I love „original faces”, original dancers. I don’t want to make of them „small Mahastis”, little copies of me… I don’t know how I do it but I feel their own energies, their own best of themselves… And it’s not my success, I think it’s the biggest present of mine, which I got from God.

I’m just a channel for that. And somehow all these women, who need my help, find me at the right time at the right place. Or we are sent to each other, I would rather say. And as they find their ways, their own happiness as I have found mine, this is the real success for me.

With happy people you can make happy work and they can radiate it… It’s also a big success for them and for me, too. Maybe this happy co-working is the secret, who knows…?

Mostly I make group choreographies. I hardly ever make solo choreographies - group choreographies are more interesting for me. It’s not only a good challenge, but I love it that I can create all the parts of the dance especially for the personality and individuality of the particular dancer. So this is what I try to teach to my students: to be themselves all the time (not only in dance) and never to be little copies of me or a great dancer or anybody.
You are known for your competiton "Daughters of the Moonlight" (which is the English translation of the name of your group „Mahasti és a Holdfény Lányai”, if I'm not mistaken). It specializes on groups - from duets to real big ones -, why are you doing this? Please enlighten us on the history of this competition.

Our competition is only for duets or small or big groups in the categories junior, beginners, pre-advanced and advanced. It has a very simple reason: I mostly make group choreographies and I think I’m better in it than making solos. I love the way of making a group choreography, the process of giving birth to an art form, and I love to see the result, the group of happy dancers creating something special.

So why not to see special group choreographies all day if you are able to? The solo dances can be seen presented on all the other festivals and competitions, in restaurants and in different places.

The first competition was held in 2005 and there were 150 competitors, 39 groups from different towns of Hungary. Since then we have had more and more competitors, more and more groups. This year we had 60 groups and duets mostly from Hungary and from Slovakia, and a new category - „professionals”. Next year we also will open a new category for “Divas” – women above 50.  

In 2016 we will have an anniversary, the 10th „Daughters of the Moonlight” International Belly Dance Competition for duets and groups will be held. We try to make this anniversary special, make the event really outstanding and prominent. We are planning some new things, more surprises and more special prizes.

In Hungary we have many competitions for solo or for group dancers, for different belly dance styles, and we have big festivals with competition and workshops with teachers from Egypt or European countries and the USA. And we have festivals, gala shows on special themes e.g. tribal style, gothic dance, raqs sharqi, and so on.

During our "Moonlight Daughters" competition we don’t have workshops, traditionally we concentrate only on the competition.  Our competition is international so you can nominate from any country. In the jury we have many judges to ensure the purity of the competition - at least 16 members in every year, sometimes more than 20. They are all well known Hungarian belly dancers from different towns and I'm very proud and happy that they keep coming back year for year and we have so good working connections. And of course our main sponsors have been also in the jury from the beginning.

All the categories are „open”, which means that groups can divide themselves for every oriental dance style e.g. folk dances, ATS®, modern fusions etc. Our competition is special with the open categories and that makes it more interesting, multicoloured, diverse. Every year in every category we can see fantasy-fusion dances, tribal fusion, classical raqs sharqi, folk dances (e.g. Nubian, shaabi, saidi), belly rock and so on. My favourite style – oriental dance theatre – is also presented every year. 

In 2016 we also will have categories juniors, beginners, pre-advanced, advanced students and professionals in duets, small groups and formations.
Many of your students have already been to Germany, mainly at the competition "Bellydancer of the World" at Leyla and Roland Jouvana's festival "Oriental Festival Europe" in Duisburg, Germany. Why do they like coming over here? 

Yes, they love to go there and they have fantastic results. Stúber Gyöngyi became the runner-up in classical solo category twice, one duet – Márton Alexandra and Eszter Rembeczki – became 1st winners in fusion category for duets in 2011, and my Moonlight Daughters became 1st winners in classical/drum solo category with a drum solo dance in 2013.

They like Leyla’s personality, they appreciate the high level of the competition and the whole festival. To see other dancers from all over the world is very important, useful and we can dive into belly dance and enjoy it during the whole festival.
Will you be coming alone or with a big entourage (means, your students), and what will we see from you on stage?

We are coming as the small group of the Daughters of the Moonlight: Farkas Viktória, Rembeczki Eszter, Pereczes Marta and me. We will dance group choreographies in two different categories: fantasy-fusion and folklore. With Eszter we will dance a duet drum solo and she will also dance some solo dances. It is a great honour for me that Leyla invited me to dance at the gala show. I will dance to Sayed Balaha’s music, I love his pieces.
So I think in the future I will have more possibilities to spread the information about Hungarian belly dance and belly dance in whole.

Also to continue to write my blog on different belly dance (and family life) topics. And in some years I want to put more energy in healing (what, actually, I do even now, we just call it „belly dance”). But in the last years I have got to know some other techniques of healing and I would like to continue it and use them more actively in my life. And to remain a happy, satisfied person. This the most important of all. And to help others to become also happy and satisfied.


That I endeavour to find the best sides of my students and to help them to show it, to grow it… I can help them to feel themselves a real woman, to find in themselves the real woman energy, the woman power or so… But it’s not a miracle, every belly dance teacher does the same.
How is the bellydance situation in Hungary today?

I think Hungarian bellydance has reached a very high level. Our dancers have fantastic success at big festivals, famous international competitions abroad (e.g. in Egypt or different Eastern and Western European countries). So students here can choose for themselves from the best dancers, or even world famous teachers in very different dance styles. And the level of our dancing community and the teaching gets higher and higher. I’m very proud of our Hungarian dancers.
You will join Leyla’s festival this year for the first time, what took you so long? And what do you expect from Germany?

Pregnancies, children, a growing family… My children are 14, 4 and 2.5 years old. My last few years were mostly about breastfeeding, nursing them… and surviving all of this, this situation in my family life and my carrier and my belly dance art.

But for now I have returned into life - in September I have opened my own studio again, I teach new courses and – in the end – I was allowed by my family to travel to belly dance festivals after having a some-years break in it.  I know that Leyla’s festival and competition is the biggest, the best, the strongest… I have to make up my mind, my soul… We have rehearsals with my Moonlight Daughters and we are sooooo excited…  I’m happy that I can go, I can participate in it, I’m happy to meet you and to meet Leyla again.
You are cooperating with Leyla and Roland since several years, what did you do together?

Leyla and Roland have been to Hungary at my invitation with great success (for workshops and shows) for some times. When I invited them for the last time I organized for her some workshops, and organized a great show called "Hungarian All Stars Belly Dance Super Gala”.

The greatest Hungarian dancers and the biggest schools were present on the show and Leyla and Roland were the guest stars. Everybody loved them for their original dance style, humour, for their nice personality and kindness.

We all appreciate Leyla’s original teaching style, her technique, her knowledge about rhythms, styles, shimmies. This year she will perform in the Super Gala Show with Roland and her group, and they will teach some workshops again.  We can’t wait to meet them in Budapest!
What are your future plans?

Getting back to belly dance, more active teaching and reanimate my studio as a „center for women” again: with special courses for women (dance, yoga, pilates and other courses) and the „womens’ library” with books for women. I have a lot to do with my new studio, of course.

Mostly I would like to do the same what I do now: loving my family, loving my students, loving belly dance. I’m sure I will organise a lot of competitions, a lot of events, and I will take part in special belly dance projects.
I hope to continue teaching belly dance in Russian language in Budapest, to make a lot of films for MahastiTv (most of them you can see on my YouTube chanel Mahasti10) and so on. This year I was asked to work for a brand new high quality journal called "Movement" as a member of the "edition commitee" in the belly dance field.