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Philippa Moirai, one of the most famous ATS® dancers of our times, will be one of the star guests of the “Caravanseray Vienna” festival in August. If you want to know more about her dancing career, what she all did in her life, and what she has in store for Vienne, please check out the following interview …
Photos ©: 1 and 4 Kristine Adams, 2, 3, 5 and 6 Maani Vadgama
Graphics/WebDesign: Konstanze Winkler

Interview with PHILIPPA MOIRAI

by Marcel Bieger

You started at toddler age as a ballet dancer and today you are one of world's most famous ATS® stars. What bridged the gap from ballet to ATS®? Or to put it simpler, how did you meet belly dance and what made you stick to it?

I studied ballet for 12 years, dabbling in several other dance forms and drama in High School, then stepping into the wonderful world of Circus Arts when I moved to London. I began performing at festivals and clubs and it was through this scene that I discovered belly dance. I tried several belly dance classes before starting Egyptian belly dance with Josephine Wise in 2004.

Jo's classes were fabulously fun and informative, with a warm and supportive atmosphere which made me want to continue studying regularly with her. Like many others my first experience of Tribal was through Rachel Brice and the Indigo who I saw performing at a BellyDanceSuperStars show. I loved their aesthetic, their music, and slow serpentine movements, and was left wanting to know more!

No one was teaching Tribal belly dance in or near London at the time, so I travelled to workshops around the UK trying out as many styles as I could, I bought DVDs to learn from, and connected with other Tribal enthusiasts on

I was totally hooked! Jo Wise ran a bi-annual festival, which exposed me to various fusion formats including my first Tribal improv workshop, which was Gypsy Caravan with Deirdre Macdonald. I became part of a Tribal study group which eventually evolved into my first belly dance troupe: Luma, and I was fortunate to get the chance to study with several members of FatChanceBellyDance® in both Europe and America. In 2006 Hannah Mi Anis and Lily Tsai started the first Tribal Fusion classes in London which I readily joined. It was through their encouragement of dancers to discover the roots of Tribal that my total immersion in ATS® began. I met Jesse Stanbridge and Laura through in these classes and went on to create Moirai Tribal with them.
How did you meet Carolena, what attracted you to ATS(R) and how did you fare with FCBD®?

I met Carolena and Megha for the first time at an event in Finland. I had been religiously studying the FCBD® DVDs and had been attending ATS® workshops with Wendy Marlatt, who was living in Ireland at the time. I loved the posture and aesthetic of ATS®, the connection with other dancers, and the overall artistry of this dance form made total sense to me. The festival was quite intimate with a very small show. I still remember the feeling I had watching Carolena and Megha perform right in front of me, and not wanting to leave at the end of the weekend. It was definitely a pivotal point in my dance journey.  

I kept in touch with Carolena and was very lucky to be invited to attend the first General Skills Intensive in the UK in 2007. This was quite an amazing experience as there were only 3 of us with Carolena! The following year I took my Teacher Training, became a certified ATS® instructor and a FCBD® Sister Studio. 

How did you or still do make use of your ballet training and other non-belly dance styles in you ATS(R) work.

I thoroughly enjoy trying different dance forms and am a firm believer that you can learn something from every experience. I love looking at things from both a student and teachers point of view. I'm constantly inspired by other teachers whenever I do take a dance class. I have continued to study Tribal Fusion over the years in addition to fire dance and Performance Arts. I have been performing professionally in this field for way over a decade and although I keep it quite separate from ATS® it has definitely helped me hone my performance skills, and learn how to work with different groups on choreographies and shows.

I recently started Ballet again and still love it! It's an extremely disciplined dance form which definitely instilled the importance of consistent training in me from an early age. I'm sure it fostered my love of performing, has helped with my posture, and taught me a lot about elegance and grace.

Other key teachers and inspirational influences in my belly dance career in addition to those already mentioned are: Colleena Shakti, Olivia Kissel, Jill Parker, Mira Betz, and Devi Mamak

ATS® is prospering these days, or so it seems, it truly has become a worldwide movement proper. Would you say a next Golden Age is ahead?

I hope so! I think it's very exciting to be a part of this movement, to see it spread around the world and to still have the opportunity to learn from Carolena. It's extremely special.

Can you enlighten us as to the "FireWater Collective"?

The FireWater Collective stemmed from the desire for an avenue in London to showcase Tribal, nurture the Tribal community and let our dance vision grow. It was started in 2006 by Hannah Mi Anis, Jesse Stanbridge and myself, with many other people collectively involved in it since then. We host workshops and events in London, create professional stage shows, organise the Tribal Tea Party (our student night which raises funds for charities that are close to our hearts) and we often perform together, too.

We love working with other artists, and have been fortunate enough to collaborate with many wonderful musicians and performers so far. You can read more about it here:

We believe that this is your first time on a big event in Austria. What do you expect and what kept you so long?

I’m so excited to be part of this year’s Caravanseray! Knowing Doro and Michaela, the organisers, and the other teachers who are part of this year's event, I expect it's going to be an amazing experience filled with fantastic workshops, highly skilled shows, many magic moments and lots of fun too.

The only thing which has kept me from this event so far is time!

What will you show us on stage in Vienna?

I will be performing an improvisational choreography with two other Sister Studios in true American Tribal Style®! Expect flying skirts, uplifted arms, and zills! Do come along to the show to find out more!!!

Please introduce your workshops to us.

I am teaching 3 workshops at the Caravanseray. The first is a formations workshop which will cover both basic and more advanced formations, with plenty of drill time and nuggets of info for all levels of dancers to learn.

The second workshop I am teaching is a collaborative workshop with Samantha Emmanuel. Like the formations workshops, this one is also going to be a lot of fun! We originally created this workshop for TribalArt Festival in 2015 and we are both really looking forward to teaching it again. In it we will teach an ATS® and a Tribal Fusion combo, play games, and give students the tools to create their own combos in groups.

The focus of my last workshop is on slow movements from the FCBD® repertoire and musicality, looking at how to transition seamlessly between moves and ways in which to enhance your slow dance.

I'm really looking forward to being at this year’s festival, and working with everyone, who attends my workshops. There are still a few spaces available if you haven't yet booked! Do come along and join us. It's going to be a fantastic event!


Fabulous Formations
Thu. 25.8., 16:45 – 18:45 Level: IM

A Radicle Dance Lab
Samantha Emanuel & Philippa Moirai
Sat. 27.8. 11:00- 13:00 Level: Open
Philippa on facebook ...
Moirai Tribal
Moirai Tribal - Jesse & Philippa
FireWater Collective
FireWater Collective