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An interview with
by Marcel Bieger
One of the most famous Greek belly dancers is Nelly. Although living also in Austria, she is still based in Greece and has more than one word to say in the community there. Nelly is also a member of Jillina’s European BDE support ensemble, and this all together is more than enough reason for us to have a word or two with her. Here are the results:
Is the Greek belly dance community a big one?

The Greek dance community is a big one and has grown over many years, because of our culture with its traditional folklore dances.

What kinds of belly dances are popular in Greece?

American belly dance, cabaret and belly dance fusion. And since last year (2009) tribal, also.

Please tell us something about Tsifteteli.

Tsifteteli is the name for a certain Greek oriental dance, which is influenced by the Egyptian and Persian style of oriental dance, and this was, as everybody knows, developed some thousand years ago.

Turkish and Greek Tsifteteli are from the same roots but nowadays they are being danced differently. Today the Greek people dance Tsifteteli at fiestas, bouzoukia (a special form of Greek night clubs in which they play and sing traditional Greek music and songs), weddings etc. This dance for us Greeks is an expression of our soul.

Does Tribal play a big role?

Yes, in the last years we had very good dancers and teachers for tribal style. It is an upcoming style that is creating a lot of fun in Greece. We already had the opportunity to have Morgana, Tempest, Heather Shoopman and Rachel Brice in Athens!

What great shows, festivals, haflas do you have in Greece?

I was the first one that opened the way for great shows in Greece. Beginning with Jillina’s show and Rachel Brice’s show in last July. After that many super stars of belly dance like Raquia Hassan, Ansuya, Khaled Mahmoud, Leila of Cairo etc came to Greece.

Big events were the Oriental Passion in Athens with Khaled Mahmoud and Lubna Emam on Sep 17th, Cairo by Night 2 with Raquia Hassan, Aziza of Cairo and Yael on Oct 8th and Baladi Fire with Ousama and Nasra Emam on Dec 10th. We will have Haflas also between the festivals so everybody can enjoy dancing.
Do Tribal and fusion divide the dance community
(as is true for many countries, even USA)?

I can’t say that our belly dance community is divided because the community is still united. Many belly dancers are dancing both styles.

Do Greek dancers know any German dancers?

Yes of course! We know each other from the oriental festivals around the world. Well known teachers are Leyla and Roland Jouvana. The Cifuentes and Asmahan el Zein, who organizes great festivals in Germany.

Does the Greek belly dance community has a different evolution because of the long Turkish occupation?

Yes of course, because when we were under the Turkish occupation our development was stronger, and more creative because we wanted to keep our culture alive. And we succeded. From the ancient times until today we keep dancing Syrtaki and Tsifteteli.

How long does the Greek belly dance scene exist?

If we consider we are dancing our own style of Belly dance, then from the ancient times, but if we are talking of the present I would say, there is a belly dance scene since the 1960s. Since then belly dancers are to be seen in films, and many famous teachers came from abroad.

If we speak for the Greek belly dance scene that organizes festivals, work shops, it is very young, but in the last three years it has developed very fast. Also, we have a Greek labour organization of oriental dancers and the Association of Arab art and letters.

Nellys Homepage:
Prince Kayammer
Maria Aya
Elena Dahabeya
Stella Zahir
Nikos Malek
Do you have Tribal Fusion?

We have a more special Greek Fusion style that some belly dancers are dancing in clubs. It is a mix of Belly dance, Tsifteteli, Latin and freestyle.