Belly dancing community comes together for a good cause

Belly dancing community comes together for a good cause

The Eighth International Oriental Dance Festival will be taking place from Thursday to Sunday, October 24 to 27 at various spots in the Mother City. This charity event in aid of the Saartjie Baartman Centre for Women and Children in Athlone has been organised by Ajsa Samia and Oriental Dance Theatre Palace of the Winds and will kick off with an Opening Gala Evening at the Mega VU Theatre at Ratanga Junction on the Thursday at 8pm, where audiences will be able to enjoy performances by professional international and South African Oriental dancers. (Tickets are available at Computicket for R150.)

On October 25 and 26 there will be workshops where interested parties can learn from some of the world’s best oriental dance teachers. (Visit for more information.)
The Fringe Programme will take place at the V&A Waterfront on October 26 and 27 and will feature performances by hundreds of belly dancers from all over the world, from beginner’s to master level. (Performances commence at 10.30am and finish at 6pm on both days.)

PETER TROMP chatted to organiser AJSA SAMIA about the event.

This is the eighth year of the International Oriental Dance Festival. You must be proud that your baby is still going strong.
Yes, I am very proud that my baby is still strong and growing every year. I think the miracle for continual growth and strength is to feed my baby with the right food. My baby has been fed with lots of passion, care and love. But I am no longer alone in caring for my baby. During the years my baby got a family. There are a few gold mothers and several aunts and uncles looking after our child. Oriental Dance Theatre Palace of the Winds became a warm home for the Festival.

With the extensive line-up on offer, how much planning goes into the event?
The event has become very popular with and attractive to the South African belly dance community, as well as for international performers. We are hosting approximately 600 dancers, from 60 studios coming from all over South Africa and internationally. It requires real team work and a seemingly endless amount of time to organise it. The festival is usually planned a whole year in advance. An ongoing challenge is that we work with very little financial funding, but yet somehow we pull off this major project.
The Palace of the Winds members and I am very passionate about Oriental dance in all its forms. This passion gives us great energy to work hard and to overcome all the obstacles. The great challenge every year is to come up with really great ideas that will inspire people to say, “I want to be part of this Cape Town festival”. It is not an easy job.

What are some of the attractions on this year’s programme that you’re most excited about?
This is not easy to answer, because I am excited about every dancer that participates at the Festival. The main attraction is that you get to see a large number of dancers from different cultures and varying ages and backgrounds having fun dancing together and sharing knowledge and love for Oriental Dance. I cannot push one to the sky and the other one down. (sic) All performers, local and international, has put in such an effort to come to Cape Town, practicing for months and making costumes to show their best.
For the South African belly dancing community it is very important to meet other local studios, but a very special thing is to get the opportunity to learn, see and make friends with the international dancers. This year we have the pleasure of hosting Nicole McLaren from the USA, Naheda from Turkey, Gitza from Mexico and Latifa Saadi with her group from Reunion Island. Unfortunately Nritto Rong Dance Company from Bangladesh had a visa problem, so we will miss them this year.

The event is in aid of the Saartjie Baartman Centre for Women and Children. Tell us a little about this charity, and why the International Oriental Dance Festival has become so firmly entrenched with it.
My opinion is that if we, as South Africans, don’t take care of our people who are in need, who will? The Saartjie Baartman Centre is a NGO/NPO for women and children who are survivors of abuse.
We support this centre especially because we agree with their vision, which is to create a safe society, founded on principles of human rights, in which women and children are empowered to exercise their rights optimally.
I would like to invite people to come to the Gala Evening at Ratanga Junction on Thursday October 24, the proceeds of which will be donated to the Centre.