My First bellydance Convention/Competition - Experience/Review/Thoughts
*WARNING! VERY LONG lol!*
So recently I attended my first major bellydance convention and participated in my first bellydance/raks sharki competition. I thought I would share my review of both the convention and the competition.
First of all, it was the Miami Bellydance Convention (MBC). Aside from some hiccups in reference to the competition that have left me with my knickers in a knot so to speak I enjoyed my trip to Miami. The conference had a fantastic location in Downtown Miami ( Miami Intercontinental Hotel -MIH) with nice rooms, reasonable rates, and great facilities for a dance convention (IMO anyway lol). The stage for the competition and gala performances was really quite nice (minus some squeaky noise issues) for a temporary stage. The rooms were a nice size for the workshops. The staff of both the MBC and the MIH were both super friendly, helpful etc. My only complaint about the venue was that the air seemed stale, I would have like more fresh air/ventilation but I suspect this would be a problem at any hotel/large venue that is indoors.
There were a large number of instructors for a variety of different workshops which started on Saturday and ran until late Monday afternoon. Unfortunately the Friday night an hour before the Opening Gala started I walked into the corner of a door while ranting and almost knocked myself out cold. I got a lovely golf ball sized bump just above my left brow bone and a notable concussion. I had to deal with dizzy spells, nausea, light headedness and fatigue all weekend THis resulted in me having to sit down in a couple of the workshops I was talking or leave the room because I thought I would be sick which was saddening because there were some great instructors and I really really wanted to take in as much as I could. The main reason I decided on this event/convention to be my first because one of my all time favourite dancers, Saida was performing and teaching there. She is based out of Argentina which is a 10 hour or so flight from Ontario so I thought Miami was an excellent compromise. I went to both of her workshops and just loved this woman. She is a lovely instructor, and incredibly sweet and humble. I was amazed at just how modest and humble she is considering her dance accomplishments which made her even more inspiring. She is also 6 months pregnant and still danced amazingly!!!!! just WOW! Her husband (Yamil Annum) also taught 2 workshops and I attended both of those. He is an incredibly talented dancer with extensive training in a variety of styles and a fun instructor (even if he hardly speaks any english lol). Getting the chance to see them perform live and learn from them really was one of the highlights of the trip for me.
And the ultimate high point of the experience was when I got on stage to do my Caribbean Fusion Solo in the Opening Night Gala My mom actually didn't think it was a good idea for me to perform considering the large bump on my head that I had been icing pretty much up until 20 minutes before I got on stage and had a hard time walking in a straight line. BUT I did not come all the way to Miami to NOT use my opportunity to perform a Caribbean Fusion solo LOL. I figured if I fainted mid dance it was well worth the attempt. Thanks to Adrenaline the performance went really well and I got wonderful feedback about the performance all throughout the weekend. And the best part when I got onstage and my eyes adjusted to the light who was there in the front row, Saida and Yamil. I never thought I would get to perform and see Saida in the front row. It was such a thrill/rush to see someone who was one of the first dancers you fell in love with and who is such an inspiration right up there. I remember thinking "Wow it's Saida.... Don't fall" LOL. The next day in Yamil's workshop he spotted me and asked "Flowers?" and I was like "yes that was me in the flowers" And despite not knowing much english he then said " Fantastic dancer, very original" and then did a little butt shake/umi and smiled (I can only hope that that is in fact what he meant to say LOL). It was so nice to hear that! I also happened to run into Saida in the coffee shop on Sunday morning in the hotel and got a chance to tell her face to face what an inspiration she has been and how beautiful her performance was only to find that she recognized me as "flowers" also. She thanked me graciously for my kind words and gave me a big hug and kiss and then said I was a good dancer also and welcome in Argentina any time. *sniffle.. tears of joy... happy dance*
In other workshop news I also went to one of Aubre Hill's workshops and wow that woman is phenomenal as an instructor and performer. Highly recommended. I went to her workshop since I knew she was a very different style from myself, very glute based in her dancing but quite different from Suhaila Salimpour who is also Glutes based. It was super challenging for me at parts but she really is a great instructor in addition to being a great performer. Very glad I got the chance to learn from her, even if it was only 1 workshop.
I also took a workshop with Nathalie (of Dreams Bellydance in Miami and the organizer/founder/powerhouse behind the MBC) and really enjoyed it. She is really fun, explains things well, and just has a great energy about her. I didn't get to talk to her much over the weekend as she was super busy but what I did get to experience I liked. I have a lot of respect for the effort she makes and the hard work that goes into running such an event and I think she did an awesome job.
In total I went to 7 workshops, I would have gone to a couple more but unfortunately my concussion had slowed me down The 6th workshop was a seminar titled "The business of bellydance" which had 4 different speakers who lectured about how to become a professional and be successful. The speakers were Nathalie ), a business lecturer and web designer who's name I can't think of at the moment, Nourhan Sharif of Sharif Wear and Tamalynn Dallal (side note, really loved her performance). Sadly this workshop resulted in a very negative experience at MBC and ties into my experience in the competition.
I think actually I will let this be the first post and post the competition review in the second post.
In summary, overall had a great time, I met some lovely other dancers who I hope to keep in contact with. Had some fun. Learned a lot, was humbled, was enlightened, was challenged, and was inspired.
If you get the chance to ever learn from Aubre, Saida, Yamil, or Nathalie I would recommend them all. Saida was my favourite but that is also because I just love her style
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It sounds like an amazing convention, and good for you getting up and dancing, I know you would have wow'd them all! What costume did you wear? Also what is this about a bump on your head? - sure hope that has left no 'after affects'
Dance is like glitter, it not only colours your life, it makes you sparkle, you find it everywhere and in everything and it's near impossible to get rid of. (unknown)
It sounds like you have a lot to "chew on" for a while and work with. I'm sure it will contribute greatly to your (already wonderful) dance.
I appreciate your wanting to keep on-point about MBC, but I am curious what made you rant so much you ran into a door, and what negative experience you had at that 6th workshop. Will be watching for your second post.
Thanks for writing about this. I am always wondering if I should consider an intensive, and getting other people's experiences helps.
Just realised you wrote that you ran into a door ... teach me to read things properly. Those darn doors they have a bad habit of jumping out at people at the most inappropriate times
Dance is like glitter, it not only colours your life, it makes you sparkle, you find it everywhere and in everything and it's near impossible to get rid of. (unknown)
Yah it was a big experience
My competition review is long... lol
The short version of why I was ranting was because the judges who gave me my two lowest scores didn't offer me anything to improve on in the comment section besides the fact that I wore the wrong colour costume. I was okay with getting a low score so long as I understood why it was low and had something to go home and think about/work on and was challenged to improve, know what I mean. But I didn't get any feedback like that.
Now... The competition. Perhaps I went with too high of expectations. I showed competitively at local/Provincial and National levels with my horse so I come form a competition background and was probably subconsciously expecting or hoping this to be run like a national level horse show with its level of clear rules, regulations, expectations etc. Well... it wasn't. I didn't think I was going to come and do amazingly, I didn't think I would win but I was hoping and expecting to get some beneficial constructive criticism and feedback. I don't feel I danced my best and when my mom asked me how I felt I did (and before I had seen my score sheets) I responded to her with "It wasn't my best, 7 out of 10 I would say). So what you're reading isn't "sour grapes" because I didn't get a prize.. blah blah blah.
So first of all to save space and time here is the link to the webpage with the info about the competition. Rules etc etc.
Competition ? Miami Bellydance Convention
I entered the professional category despite having only been dancing for 3 years since I get paid to teach and perform, even though it's not how I make my living. So there were no spectators allowed to watch the first round/preliminaries. This was a red flag to me as I had never been to a competition of any kind before that wasn't open to the public, especially events that have a finals portion. Allowing spectators to the first round helps to build excitement and anticipation for the finals in my experience anyway. It was only open to other competitors and the judges. No photography was allowed and no video. This really bothered me as several of us had traveled a fair distance (myself from Canada, another girl from Mexico, Brazil, California, Ohio, Tennessee. etc) and had at least one friend or family member with us that had come all that way as well and they weren't allowed to watch. In all of my horse show experience that has NEVER once been the case. Also none of us have any video reference of our performance to see where we needed improvement and what to work on etc. That is just bad competition etiquette to me and served absolutely no purpose. All it did was make it seem less legitimate of a competition.
Our music had not been tech'ed and did not seem organized. I was second to go and despite having emailed my music weeks in advance they did not have it. It was lucky that I had also brought my music on CD. I had personally tested both of my cds (I brought 2 just in case) on several CD players prior to make that they worked. Two minutes into my song my music just stopped. That was the first time that had happened to me and it did unnerve me. I was actually surprised at how much it rattled me. Every competitor was nervous, even me, little miss never gets nervous lol. So to be 2 minutes in then just stop, leave stage and wait 10 minutes while they try to figure out what went wrong and then go again made it that much harder. I don't feel I was dancing as well in my second attempt as my first. Afterwards though while I was bummed out I wasn't overly upset about it. These things happens. I've been at horse shows where a hard gust of wind knocks a jump over and the horse freaks out and you have to start over. Sometimes sh*t just happens lol despite of the best of planning.
There were 4 judges, Saida, Yamil Annum, Valerick Molinary, Nourhan Sharif. tI thought it was odd that last year's winner was a judge. In the horse world winning a competition does not make you qualified to judge it by any means. You have to attend judging clinics, log a certain amount of training hours and have sufficient experience to be qualified to judge certain levels. You have to become certified. While I figured it would be different in dance competitions I still don't see how winning it h makes you qualified to judge it...maybe that is just my opinion though. She is a very talented and beautiful dancer by all means.
The judges were seated all at one table and allowed to speak with one another while scoring.... tsk tsk. Not allowed at horse shows. Not a fan of that. Of course I know this isn't a horse show and I shouldn't expect it to be just like one however I think there are and should be standards of judging in all forms of performance art competition from hunter to dressage to figure skating, gymnastics etc and there are. And yes I know despite such standards there is ALWAYS controversy and yes judges make mistakes, can be biased, can miss something etc.
Finally I am at my MAJOR issue with the competition.. the scoring/score sheets.
Total score was out of 100 and broken down into 5 categories
(As seen on the sheet) - judges were instructed to *Please circle one* in regards to which numeric value. Also note that only the judges sheets said "Execution (Layering)" If you look at the MBC website breakdown it just says "execution". I am mystified as to how we were supposed to know that 'execution=layering......UGH!
Technique 5 - 10 - 15 - 20
Choreography 5 - 10 - 15 - 20
Execution (Layering) 5 - 10 - 15 - 20
Stage Presence & Costuming 5 - 10 - 15 - 20
Music Selection 5 - 10 - 15 - 20
I don't like the above numeric breakdown as it means in each category you can only score 25%, 50%, 75% and 100%....................seriously? Maybe it is just me but that is far to ambiguous and rigid a grading scale. Surely 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 would have been more practical or 1 through to 10 would have been ideal.
I agree with technique being a major component but music selection? I think Music selection/musicality would have been better. Also there was no breakdown of what was expected in each category. Since bellydance competitions are still fairly new and not overly popular I think that would have been helpful to both spectators (at the finals) and competitors.
Then on the back of the score sheet is an area for judges comments and also the reason I ended up ranting resulting in my smoking my head off of the corner of a door. Saida and Yamil's comments are in Spanish so I am unable to read them. I have however sent them to friends of my boyfriend who are fluent in reading and writing spanish and eagerly await their translation. I am really hoping that their is constructive feedback on them so I have some direction in what to work on.
My scores were
Saida - 75/100
Yamil - 60/100
Nourhan - 50/100
Valerick - 45/100 ( AHHH I failed LOL)
I HAVE NO IDEA HOW YOU CAN HAVE SUCH A WIDE RANGE IN SCORES. I personally have never seen such a difference. A 30 point different??? Really!!!
Resulting in an average of 57.5%.... I did better in University level Calculus and no one paid me to perform calculus lol. Hmmmm....
My biggest problem is that the two lowest scores offered me nothing constructive
Direct Quotes of comments:
"Colour of costume does not suit dancer, too puffy. Very happy, upbeat, nice smile."
Scored me 10/20 on costuming and stage presence.
"Very nice movements, you have a natural grace. The colour of your costume is not good for your colour skin. I really enjoy your performance you have a big future!!! Keep training, you're a natural dancer".
Scored me 5/20 on costuming and stage presence.
Meanwhile I received 15/20 in that category from both Saida and Yamil. *confused* lol
*continued from first post
Costuming is subjective, colour perception is subjective. Surely we all see it differently and will have different opinions and we're all entitled to them. I have friends with costumes I don't like and would never wear myself but they love them, look good in them, and still dance well in them so hey all the power to them. I agree that costuming should be part of the judging process in a professional dance competition because after all it is part of the whole package. However I thought it would mean we were judged on does the costume fit the dancer properly (ie not too big or too small), is it culturally appropriate and is she able to dance well in it. It would be hard to compare modern Cairo costuming and trends to golden era costumes. They are so different!!!! And costuming is so personal and part of the expression of the dancer. Costuming is very important to me because I make my own with the help of family. I design them. They are very personal and truly come from my heart. How can you judge whether or not you as a judge like the costume or think that colour suits the dancer? I was upset to be left thinking because of the lack of comments on my technique etc "Did I score so low because I wore the wrong colour? Wait a minute I thought this wasa DANCE competition.. not a fashion show".
Now yes I am very pale and for those of you wondering, My costume that I wore was Ivory and light yellow.
See image below. Naturally I finished it especially for Miami. My song choice was "Wahashtini" (I Miss you). I thought that the ivory flowers and softness of the costume suited the song. I also like this costume for Laylet Hobb... anyway I am digressing lol.
Does this mean I shouldn't get married in a white or ivory dress because it is the wrong colour for my complexion? I can't help that I am pale and DON'T want a tan!!
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So fine. I wore the wrong colour of costume, it is now Saturday and I am out to go to workshops, learn something and have some fun and am having a great time.. until the Business of Bellydance Seminar that is. Sitting there, in the front row, about 7 feet away and directly in front of Nourhan Sharif while she is talking about behaving professionally she mentions the importance of a dancer wearing the right colour and that not enough dancers wear the right colour. She then proceeds to mention "a dancer" from the competition the day before who wore a white costume and it was "Horrendous" and she had a lovely smile and would have looked beautiful in Turquoise. All the girls there from the competition knew who she was talking about since I was the only dancer in white/ivory. She then went on to mention that Asians also always like to wear white and that they should wear red....I won't even bother pointing out all the things that are wrong with that statement.
My heart sank in my chest, my face flushed and it took ALL of my self control not to say something! How can she lecture on professionalism and then say that with me sitting RIGHT in front of her!!! I don't care that she didn't like my costume on me, she is entitled to her opinion but what she did was IMO INCREDIBLY unprofessional. Obviously she didn't recognize me or she didn't care. I didn't say anything because I wanted to be professional and not make a scene. But there I sat having to hear her publicly in a room full of dancers call my costume horrendous (or that is looked horrendous on me, she could have meant either or both).
After the workshop a couple of girls who were in the competition came over and were all "I can't believe she said that, you looked beautiful etc etc". It sucked balls to be the one centered out like that when NO ONE should have been. I thne found out that 2 other dancers who came over to me had had issues. One who wore a lovely classic blue bedlah with blue turkish style skirt received a comment from her that her costume was "too traditional" and that she needed to wear more makeup! Another got the comment that she too wore the wrong colour (her costume was black with some multiclour beading on the bra and belt with 2 cute bows) she should have worn burgundy and that the bows on her costume were tacky.....
SUre I can accept costuming critiques but not hearing it called horrendous in a room full of dancers and not without recieving any feedback on how to/where to improve my ACTUAL DANCING!!!
And finally I lost my cookies when the gala show was opening on saturday night and they announced that SHARIFWEAR was a main sponsor of MBC. Sharifwear was also vending there and is owned by Nourhan Sharif...WTF!!!! I almost screamed. Sponsors can't be judges!! That is just common sense!!!!!!! Especially if said sponsor is also a costume vendor, no wonder so many of us failed in the costuming department. It is a CONFLICT OF INTEREST!!! At horse shows sponsors may not compete, judge or have family members competing or judging. If I had of known all of this before hand I certainly wouldn't have entered the competition.
Publicly called out like that and money wasted for inappropriate judging. I would not go back It was incredibly hard to hear something that you spent HOURS AND HOURS working on called publicly horrendous. It was also hard to not take it personally. Or why anyone needed to be made an example of. My mom was furious when I came back to the room and sat down and cried. Apparently because I am pale no white/ivory for me....
Sorry this review is so long but based on my other post about what are judges looking for at competitions and the feedback it got I really wanted to offer competition insight to other dancers considering it.
I would try a dance competition again for sure, but I will be asking a lot more questions this time prior to entering and making sure it lives up to a certain level of competition etiquette in regards to the organization, judging, spectating, expectations etc.
Wow, I'd say you have the right to be upset. "Horrendous" is harsh even for a costume that truly is bad, and your costume is lovely. Fashion issues can be very subjective and based on so many elements such as personal taste and cultural relevance.
An $80 entry fee, I think, entitles you to more constructive judging that hating on your costume choice. Or praising it even, if that were the case. They should focus on your dancing.
Thank you for sharing your experience. I'm sure that many of us will tuck it into our hip belts and use it as a cautionary tale in the future.
I hope your head is better!
I've been thinking on how someone could think that cossie was "horrendous," and it occurred to me that maybe it wasn't the costume but the stage lighting. Pale girls (like myself) can easily go wraith-like under stage lights. Maybe there was that kind of effect when you were on the stage.
Glad your head is better. Ouch. But yeah, you were entitled to be walking into doors. I am so sorry this happened and spoiled the experience.
From where I'm sitting what she said looks unnecessary (we all get the concept that some colours suit us and some don't - duh, it's not rocket science), stunningly unthinking (you, or friends and fellow competitors would very likely be there) or just plain mean. It leaves a very nasty taste indeed.
And totally unprofessional - IMO judges feedback to competitors should either be private, or said to their faces in public at the time if that's how the competition works. Not a subject for public dissection the next day.
IMO you can easily get such a wide range of marks if you have a panel who are looking for different things and a competition that doesn't specify styles. There's a lot to be said for a simple variation on the old "technical content" and "artistic impression". I think if you try to pin it all down with lots of sub-criteria in the interests of making it "fairer" and less subjective you can easily end up with a scheme that gives you the wrong answer, especially if you don't weight your all criteria right.
Wrong colour, hah! it's all subjective, lighting and make up make a huge difference, real life is different again. I understand judges commenting if they think someone's costume is unflattering, but to start telling people what they SHOULD wear is a bit too prescriptive for me.
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