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Interview with Russian Belly Dance Star Nadia Nikishenko

by Marcel Bieger
What a nice name, why don’t you just call yourself Nadia?

There are a lot of Nadias around in Russia, it’s a typical Russian name, so I can’t just call myself (or my You Tube account) Nadia. On You Tube I can have 6 different names (laughs), for example, Nadejda, Nadya, Nadine, they are just variations of the same name. To define myself I always add my surname.

Is belly dance a big thing in Russia? And how about Tribal Fusion?

Trible Fusion is only starting to spread around Russia, but classical Raqs Sharqi has been taught for a long time already. We have very beautiful and professional Raqs Sharqi dancers, thousands of bellydance studios & schools all around Russia. My generation was lucky to have free dance education in the Soviet times, that’s why most dancers are very good at bellydance & Oriental fusion choreography. It’s easier to master new dance styles when you have a strong dance background.

In socialism the government gave you free dance education?

Yes, yes. But nowadays we still have the results of it. It was good when everything was for free, but today most educational things are to be paid for.

My father was a serious academic pianist, my mother was a pianist at a sports school. I grew up with classical music.

We had a piano at home, and my dad played the piano every day. So I was living with classical music, my body felt completely permeated by it. When my father played, I started dancing, I couldn’t stop myself. He didn’t teach me playing the piano, because I didn’t want to, I only wanted to dance-dance-dance ... My parents saw, how much I loved dance. When my mother started to work at the sports school – artistic gymnastics - she took me with her, and so I became a sports’ girl. I was very good at sports too. Those were my happiest years!

But when I was 12 or 13, something changed in me, life changed around me, my interests shifted, and I moved to foreign languages. I entered the Lyceum of foreign languages, where English was my first language, and German my second. But I never stopped dancing. At that period of time I only danced in front of the mirror, dreaming about future full of unexpected surprises that will bring me back on the stage!
How did you like the show here in Duisburg?

Sährr gutt (she answers in German and laughs) Very good. Every performance showed the special personality of the dancer. I am happy I was there!

Who writes your choreographies?

Me and nobody else, but mostly I improvise. For example the Khaleegy piece today was totally improvised, only the start was choreographed. My personal principle is to improvise as much as possible. And that is good, because the energy of your dance is different at every performance. When you create something on spot the audience feels it. People take part in your creation, in your story. You live in this story together!
Who makes your wonderful costumes?

My mother. Everything is made by my mother. They are beautiful, and difficult to design as well. There she goes, knitting and sewing, and she has it all in her mind. We do most things together. When there is a new character to develop, my mother and me sit together and take a good look at what we have in stock, like “aha, we have this and this and this, so we need that and that and that. This we could do this way, and that that way.” As soon as she has finished a part of the costume, I put it on and I say: “No, mom, come on, that won’t work, it’s uncomfortable,” and my poor mom has to remake it several times. So, some costumes take three months, until everything is perfect. And it’s all handwork, no sewing machines in it.

This is awesome …

(laughs) I’ll tell my mom that a German journalist said that he is “obaldel”  from your work (she has to write that down for me, and I decide on the spot that this will be the headline of this interview), which means in English “he was carried away”.

What are your future plans?

I want to teach and dance. In a couple of years I would like to have a child. But in the nearer future I want to settle down in Moscow. I’ve just bought an apartment in the Moscow region, so I need some time to get used to this huge city, to make new contacts and build new life there! I have a lot ahead of me!

Do you see yourself as a part of the Russian belly dance community?

Yes, definitely, why not? I would even say, I’m not the smallest part of it (laughs). In Russia I’m sort of a star of show belly dance. We don’t call it fusion Oriental, we call it Show belly dance. The name is different, but it’s the same, basically. Every time we have a contest, the category in question is not fusion but show belly dance – that is, when you put together something Oriental and something else – anything you like.

Do you have any idols or role models in dancing?
No, I don’t like idols. I never did.

Please explain a little more, what you call fusion in Russia. It could be confusing for our readers, because here we know fusion only in combination with tribal – Tribal Fusion.

We also use the word “fusion” in connection with Tribal, but now it’s also becoming popular to make Oriental fusions, mixing Oriental with other dance styles. Tribal fusion remains to be a separate style.

Did you have a belly dance training?In Russia we don’t have a special or not special belly dance education, ballet base is given in any kind of dance education – so sports students will also have a good choreography education. Then, if you go further and want to do belly dance, you have to choose your teachers according to your preference of belly dance style.

When you go to gymnastics, you go there at the age of 4 or 7 (if you are older, they won’t take you anymore), and you are sure to get good choreography training. My mom worked at a sports school, and when I went there with her, I saw how she played the piano to accompany the process of training the girls, and I was taken away, I wanted to be trained as a sports’ girl too. Artistic gymnastics is unbelievable!
What will you teach in your workshops there

I will teach Oriental Burlesque for advanced level and Khaleegy for beginners.

How come, you and Aisa Lafour met.

I haven’t met Aisa personally. She saw me in Duisburg and invited me to her festival via internet.

We will see you also in November at Leyla’s.

Yes, I plan to be in Duisburg this year too, but not for the contest, but as a star guest. I believe I need time to become famous in Europe.

Nadias homepage:
Nadia on
June, 10th -12th - "Orientalicious", Amsterdam (NL)
November, 18th - 28th - 19. Orient. Festival Europas
It's not unusual to discover a new talent at any given show. But it is very rare to see an artist, which you never heard of before, who dances several pieces which all take your breath away. One of these rare occasions is Nadia Nikishenko, a huge star in her home country Russia, but near unknown in Western Europe. But this will change rapidly. After seeing Nadia at Leyla Jouvana's "Oriental Festival" we couldn't resist asking her for an interview. At our first talk we laughed an awful lot, because she really is a nice and positive person.

This coming weekend Nadia can be seen in Amsterdam, NL (promoter Aisa Lafour also saw Nadia at Leyla's and was impressed enough, to invite Nadia to her festival and ask her to dance the same set of pieces as at Leyla's)
    End of the year, Nadia can be seen  at Leyla's,again, because an artist like this Russian superstar you won't let slip away. - Note from Hagalla: The illustrations of this article show Nadia in the costumes and with the dances she will show in Amsterdam ...
What will you show us at Aisa’s show?

Aisa asked me to perform the same dances as in Duisburg, sorry to say. Well, maybe it’s good, because one time was hardly enough to put these dances to the back burner. Let people enjoy them once again. So I will perform “Ancient Egypt fantasy”, “Evil Brahmin”, and Khaleegy to live orchestra.