Thursday, June 28, 2012

Survival: Your First BellyDance Festival

The Library of Congress

There are many bellydance festivals out there: Tribal Fest, Rakksah East and West, Tribal Revolution....the list goes on. My personal favorite, though, is Long Beach, California's Cairo Caravan, taking place every year on the first weekend of June. Three days of dancing and shopping on the Queen Mary--what could be better?

This June was my third Cairo Caravan. I first found out about it just a few months before attending, as my troupe was preparing to perform, and I definitely wasn't prepared for the festival and probably missed out on a lot. So, in preparation for your first festival, or even your hundreth, here's a few tips from my years of attendance.

How long are you planning to be there? The whole time? Just a day, a few hours? If you're going to be there more than a day or two, my advice is to get a hotel room near the festival. You'll save yourself a lot of hassle. Even if you're local to the festival, as I am with Cairo Caravan, getting a hotel room means you spend less time going back and forth to pick up costumes, drop off shopping, get dance gear, and you won't have to worry about traffic or parking. It's much less stressful to not have to worry about getting to and from the festival each day, and if you are performing, getting ready in a hotel room is much nicer than getting ready backstage with a dozen or more dancers.

What to do
If you've never been to this festival before, look up as many photos as you can. Even though I was told about Cairo Caravan before attending (lots of shopping!) I still couldn't fathom how big the event would be until I actually saw the space for myself. Ask your fellow dancers what to expect as well, though remember that their perception of the festival might be different from yours. Check out the website, too, to see if there are any special events: shows, workshops, free lectures and demonstrations, or parties. Then, knowing how long you have to spend there, lay out a loose schedule for yourself. It doesn't have to be a strict one, though if you're performing or taking workshops at a certain time, you'll want to stick to those, but make sure that if there's something you don't want to miss, you make an effort to schedule in.

With any great festival comes great workshops. But you don't want to overload yourself so you have no time to enjoy everything else--the shopping, for instance, or the performances. If it's your first or second festival, look at the list of workshops and pick 1 or 2 must-haves, then a couple of backups in case one is full or you have more time. It's good to go with something you really want to learn more about, but try to find something completely new and different to expose yourself to.

If you're performing, chances are, you don't get much say in where and when. But if you are just going to a festival to watch performances, then the sky's the limit! Figure out if there's must-see performers--for instance, is there anyone famous performing that you don't want to miss? A friend who got a slot this year and you want to support her? Find out when they perform as soon as possible so you can be sure to get a good seat, especially if it's a famous dancer. If you just want to see some dancing, watching performances is a great way to rest and recuperate, especially if you've been running around like crazy trying to fit everything in!

So those are the key things to remember for any bellydance festival. However, don't forget to have fun! Bellydance festivals are great places to meet new dance friends and learn new things, so make sure you make that the first item of your to-do at your next festival.

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