Photos: © John Gatta
Graphic design: Konstanze Winkler
There are a few international dance stars, who have never before been to Germany. The thought of this alone makes you feel sad. One of these first class artists is Tribal Fusion Icon Mira Betz. But now she is coming to us, to be precise, she will be joining 19th Oriental Festival of Leyla Jouvana and Roland. We have every reason to be exited about it. Please read below, what Mira has to say in advance to this event.
TRIBAL FUSION IS A FREEDOM
Interview with Mira Betz
by Marcel Bieger
You are known today as one of the most famous and influential Tribal Fusion dancers, but also have a background training in Salsa, Modern, Jazz and Flamenco. How do these last four influence your Tribal Fusion?
Dance is dance; it grabs us, infects us, inhabits our bodies and then influences our response to music both consciously and unconsciously.
The question then becomes how have they not influenced me? Everything I do, see, smell, everything I experience influences my creative process, these experiences form who I am and therefore how I express myself through dance. “Tribal Fusion” to me is not a “style” it is a freedom of expression that allows us as dancers of an “oriental” dance background (a dance we have both appropriated and helped shape over the last 100 years) to finally be ourselves. This raises the question of authenticity. Are we dancing authentically Egyptian or authentically Turkish or are we being authentically ourselves, expressing who and what we are as human beings living in a multi-cultural
When you're working on a new piece, how do you proceed, what comes first and what does it take to put it all together?
I rarely work the same way each time. If it is a solo piece the dancing will be improvisation so in the beginning I might begin with a character or a circumstance I want to explore, or a piece of music I know I want to use. Sometimes everything stems from a piece of embroidery or jewellery that I build a whole costume around, the costume then influences the mood or flavor of the piece and then I find music to suit. I work organically and intuitionally. If the piece is designed for a group I tend to work theatrically. An idea, an emotion, a concept inspires me and I will build the work around that. In small group work I really love collaboration so I may bring an exercise to the group, an idea, establish some rapport and then begin to choreograph together; or we do a music pot where we all turn in 2 or 3 songs for suggestion, brainstorm ideas and then I mix the music we choose together, sometimes as many as 4 songs in a 3 min piece. In choreography I work the whole piece at once sometimes working backwards filling in gaps where needed. I prefer not to start at the beginning and work my way through it linearly; I tend to fall into old patterns that way.
To put it all together it takes a degree of letting go, sometimes a piece needs to change
from your original idea, let it take its own shape. It also takes humor, remember to have fun. Most importantly at then end it takes hard work refining and polishing the piece before it is shown.
You have danced in troupes, and you performed solo, after a career of 20 years, what is better, or is it best to switch between both?
I think it is a personal thing for most dancers. Knowing why you are in it and what you want to get out of it. Personally I like both; I get something different and vital out of each one. Traveling as much as I do makes troupe work difficult right now, but I have learned to work around that by collaborating with artists I respect whenever I have the chance.
It is not always what you should train in as much as how you should train that is essential. If I can pass anything down to the next generation of “Tribal Fusion” dancers it would be a deep respect for your teachers (not just your inspirations), a dedication to train hard so that the dance we perform is of a higher calibre thus changing the way the world sees our dance, and a lasting reverence for the cultures we are taking from to “fuse”. Fusion is a delicate business. Fusion is not just taking moves or gestures from another dance style and collaging it into another. They must be integrated without seams; the dance must live a life of its own, echoing its parents but forging its own path.
Is it your first time in Germany, what would you like to see, what do you expect?
This is my first time in Germany for dance. I have been here as a tourist and I have strong German heritage in my family so there are many things I love about German culture and life. But I am especially excited to see the dance world. Germany has a strong history in the Middle Eastern Dance scene, producing many respected dance artists and schools. I look forward to meeting the dancers, seeing the shows, and feel very honored to be a part of such a renowned event.
The workshops are not exclusively for dancers interested in Tribal Fusion. I will be teaching some technique-focused workshops where we will clean, drill, and explore layering of moves that can be used in any style of bellydance. I will teach a few workshops that include combos as a vehicle to learn important concepts in dance, such as timing, dynamics, and stage presence. In the workshop Movement Through Intention I will introduce exercises that allow a dancer to express more than just moves, we will explore what it is to breathe life and dynamic focus into our dance, building a bridge between learned technique and fluid expression. I encourage all styles and levels to join my classes.
Will you present and sell your jewelry and other goods in Germany?
I will do my best, but Germany is the last stop on a 6 week tour so I am not sure how much merch I will have left. The jewellery I make is all handmade one-of-a-kind, many pieces taking hours or days to assemble. I do hope I will have some left over to share!
19. Oriental Festival of Europe
November 18th. - 28th. 2011 in Duisburg
era of integration and the borderless internet. As much as I feel it is important to sustain both, to have those dancers that keep tradition alive and sustain our history, it is also important to continue to evolve and find new avenues of expression. I answered this calling in myself before there were labels. People put me in the Tribal Fusion category mostly because nobody knows how to label what I do. I dance. I am influenced by my training, I am influenced by nature, by music, sculpture and art. I am an artist and I need to dance.
You have a long training in Middle Eastern dances, and you have even been to Morocco to study the native dances, would you advise young dancers who want to become Tribal or Tribal Fusion dancers, to do the same. How broad should a Tribal Fusion training be?
Like I said before Tribal Fusion, for me, is about finding your own path to expression through dance. Yes, at the base we share the language of Middle Eastern dances with an emphasis on clean articulate technique and isolation, beyond that it becomes shaped by who you are, your interests, values, and passions. Most importantly I encourage dancers of any style to know your art, study classical Middle Eastern dance styles, study Tribal, study Tribal Fusion, then study whatever dance you want. I say, train hard and be yourself.
What will we see at your performances, what will we learn at your workshops?
My performances will be improvisation and at this time I am not 100% decided on what I will be dancing to. I am currently working on a new costume and I hope it will be finished in time to come with me. At the 19th Oriental Festival of Europe I will be teaching 8 workshops totalling 17 hours. For those people who have never studied with me, my workshops are unique in many ways. My philosophy in teaching is to empower each student with the tools and understanding to create their own unique voice as artists.