In the West bellydance grew immensely popular after ‘hips don’t lie’ singer Shakira incorporated bellydance moves into her performance routine. Bellydance (or oriental dance) originates from the Middle East. It knows many different styles depending on the country or region it is from. This intricate and sensual dance form is a torso-driven dance and consists of several types of movements like hip drops, shimmies and flowing/fluid movements. It is either a social dance enjoyed by families and friends at parties or a performance art, performed by professional dancers on stage.
Anusch Alawerdian is an Armenian oriental dance performer, instructor and choreographer. She has been interested in dance ever since she was little, taking up several dance courses like ballet, folk dance and jazz. At the age of seventeen Anusch fell in love with the oriental dance style and traveled the world in search of the best dance instructors to teach her the art of bellydance. She opened her own oriental dance school ‘Arevik’ in the Netherlands in 2002 and set up her own show group named ‘Mirage’ soon after. She is now based in the United Arab Emirates and performs all over the world; the Middle East, North Africa, Europe, Asia and the USA. Anusch masters different styles of oriental dance and is a very talented performer. She enchants her crowds with skillful choreography, charm and her dashing beauty. Since 2011 she also organizes a yearly dance festival. The International Summer Bellydance Festival will have its 3th edition this year. I got to ask this oriental dance sensation a few questions about costumes and performance wear.
What aspects are important for you as a dancer when it comes to selecting costumes for your performances?
First of all, the costume has to fit me perfectly and it must be very comfortable to move in. Then it has to match with my music, the atmosphere of my choreography and it has to make me feel sexy, so I can have more confidence on stage.
What purpose does the costume you wear for oriental dance performances fulfill?
Specific function it doesn’t have, but some dances have their special traditional costumes. For example if I would dance a baladi, which is more folklore, I would choose a baladi costume. For a classical oriental dance, I will wear an elegant costume. I choose a costume in which I am comfortable with my moves. My choreography has to match with my costume, even the color.
Where do you get your costumes from, are they custom made?
I get my costumes from different countries, such as Lebanon, Egypt, Brazil, Argentina and even India. Two years ago, I discovered a fantastic designer, Cristiano Ferreira from Brazil, who has designed costumes especially for me. I just give him an idea, which color I wish, which style and he makes it for me.
Do you design any of your outfits yourself?
Yes, very often I design my costumes myself, Sometimes I even make them by hand.
Do you go shopping for new performance items in the different countries you visit?
Yes. My veils are mostly from Dubai. My dancing sticks and some dance accessories are coming from Cairo, while most of my jewellery is from India. I do not travel especially to these countries to buy these items, but I am trying to buy them when I am on a dancing tour.
You perform in many different countries and work with many talented dancers, do you see a difference in costumes between countries?
Yes for sure. These days, us dancers can recognize from afar which costume is from which country. Even if a dancer is performing on stage, we can tell from which designer the costume is. The designers have their trademark. It’s just like, when people can see if a dress is from H&M or from Armani.
There are different styles of oriental dance, could you give us an example of two different oriental dancing styles and the style of dress that goes with it?
For a Latin oriental dance, I would choose worm colors, maybe a shorter skirt and a bolero, but still all of this with an oriental touch. For a fusion oriental dance, which is a combination of many dancing styles but with an oriental touch, I would choose a costume with a more fantasy look, such like feathers and maybe a skirt instead of pants.
Could you describe your favorite costume?
My favorite costume is my first costume that my mom made for me 10 years ago. We designed the costume together and after 2 months the costume was finally ready and exactly the way we both wanted it to be. I felt like a princess in that costume and I have done maybe hundreds of shows with that in a couple of years and it is still in a very good condition, only I grew up a bit.
Are there any tips for finding the perfect costume for oriental dance that you would still like to share with us?
Yes, never see a costume from a distance and buy it, or never see a costume which another bellydancer is wearing and think ‘oh I love it, so I will get that’. Always try it on first, because it might not fit on your own body shape, or you might not dance in it comfortably.
Could you tell us a bit about the projects you are working on right now?
Well at the moment I am preparing my Asia tour for June and at the same time I am working on the International Summer Bellydance Festival production, which takes part yearly in August in The Netherlands. This project is so big that I always take my laptop with me wile I am abroad and work on it throughout the entire year.
For more information about Anusch Alawerdian visit: anusch.nl
The International Summer Bellydance Festival: summerbellydancefestival.com