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Anna Borisova
is guest at
Leyla Jouvana & Roland's 22nd Oriental Festival Europe
gives workshops and performs on both evening galas
on 30th November and 1st December 2014
Photos © M. Joudi

Interview with Anna Borisova

- by Marcel Bieger

Egyptian belly dance is worldwide known as the most emotional and elegant variant of the Middle Eastern dances; but it is not reserved for Egyptians only. Quite a few Europeans and Americans can be found amongst the cream of the Egyptian belly dancers, and even from Eastern Europe come some of the very best.
Leyla Jouvana, who will open her 22nd Oriental Festival of Europe this year, emphasizes the internationality of her festival and introduced us a few years ago to the Russian talent Nadia Nikishenko, since then a top class star in West Europe also. This year Leyla will present to us her newest “find”, Anna Borisova from Tatarstan, an artist of Egyptian dance, whom even the Egyptians see as one of their own brand. We are most exited to see her perform especially after we have read, what she has to say about the Egyptian belly dance.
What did you do, before belly dance met you? Do you have a training in other dance styles, do you have a regular day job? And how did belly dance find you?

Since I was a child, I had a very strong wish to dance, as I felt some kind of burning desire which was growing inside of me. I did not know which kind of dance exactly for me it was just an indescribable attraction to be on the stage and to have people looking at me. But unfortunately, my parents didn't have opportunity nor time to take me to the dance classes because it was too far. So with the time this desire didn't die in me, although so many years had passed. Each time I saw someone dancing or performing on the stage - I felt my heart jumping out and tears coming from my eyes, because I wanted to be there as well and to be able to dance as attractively as they did. But I thought it was too late, because I was a grown up lady.

I was 18 years old, the 1st year student in the University, when occasionally I was at the ballroom dance concert and there was the part with Oriental dance in that show. That was the first time I saw it in my life. It impressed me so much, I was almost paralysed from the shock I felt at those moments - I fell in deep love with Oriental dance immediately and had no hesitation that this was the dance style I wanted to learn.

I was a very shy person and I didn't know if I had the ability to learn it, I absolutely had no idea if I would do it for a short or long period of time, whether I would dance just for myself or would ever perform on the stage on an amateur or professional - for me it was absolutely unreal!

During my 5 years at the University with my major  “teacher of English" I was going on training in Oriental and successfully taking part in a huge amount of workshops and competitions. On the 4th year of studies I realised that Bellydance is a part of me, it's my heart and I can never give it up and work in some other profession.

As a consequence, after I graduated, I have never worked at any normal job also I have opened my own school and was proceeding Bellydance on a professional level.

So before Bellydance I have never trained in any other kinds of dance like ballet, ballroom dance, etc., and was never interested in them, because I was having an extreme focus on Bellydance. And in my opinion, you don't need other kinds of dance for the REAL BELLYDANCE. Because the real Oriental and Egyptian dance does not necessarily require this, its essence is in another thing. You need other styles only if you dance the stylization of Bellydance. Of course basic ballet skills are desirable on the stage to make you look more elegant, spectacular and powerful, but it's not the most important factor.
Where do you live, how is the belly dance situation there, and how does belly dance flourish in Russia?

I live in a small city in the Oriental republic (state) of Tatarstan (it berlongs to the Russian Federation). In general the Bellydance situation in Russia is very good and it's on a very high level, especially in the big cities. But in my city there were no professional teachers when I started my career that's why I had to travel to Moscow and to Egypt to attend workshops and get the knowledge from professionals. Nowadays in my republic I am the only one who reached an international level. Also the students of my school, especially the teenagers, have become the Champions of Russia and took the European and World Cup in the IDO organisation.

At present times Bellydance is developing in Russia very rapidly and intensively as many organisers started to invite teachers from abroad and make big festivals of their own that's why the students nowadays have the opportunity to study as often and as much as they want.

If you had to describe your personal style, what would you answer? What are your personal favourites and is there any style you are not very fond of?

My style is based on the knowledge, which I got from the Egyptian teachers at the workshops which I attended (and continue attending) when I was studying hard to understand Oriental dance and become a professional. It took me some time to make these feelings, expression and manner come through my mind and consciousness, to understand the culture, to go deep inside and understand the specific features of Oriental dance, because it's so much different from any other kinds of dance. And also it took time to add my own personality and charisma to all this mixture and create my own style.

So I would describe my style as strong, energetic, powerful, technical, expressive, but at the same time touching and sincere, full of true feelings.

My strongest, biggest and greatest inspiration is the Egyptian dancer Randa Kamel. Since the first second I saw her in Egypt in 2009 she has hit my heart like crazy. I'm connected to her spiritually in a way, which cannot be described by words (which is a real gift from above). I admire her as a dancer and as a person, I feel blessed to have met her in my life as my love and inspiration.

As far as other styles are concerned, I cannot say that I'm not fond of them. I'm so focused on my development as a performer, my style, Egyptian style and everything that is connected with Egypt and its culture that I simply never concentrate on other styles.

What fascinates you about the Egyptian belly dance in particular and why do Egyptian artists say that you have an "Egyptian soul"?

In 2009 I first visited Egypt and got acquainted with the Egyptian performers, atmosphere, live band, performing to the live music and "the smell" of Egypt. Since this time everything has turned upside down in my head about Bellydance. Again for the second time in my life something hit me to my heart deep inside. I felt  "This is how I feel and imagine the dance inside my heart". I felt how much it's different from the styles which other countries represent. I felt it was much more complicated and deep than I thought before. And I had a burning desire to understand how to interpret the music correctly and to express the feelings in a harmony with the music and culture. In Egypt I felt that this was the TRUE Bellydance, the authentic one. I felt love for the performing to the live music with Egyptian band, it made me unbelievably happy and content. Everything found a deep consonance with my soul - it fitted me so well, I can say I found what I had been looking for a couple of years and couldn't find it anywhere with any teachers. But it's just the individual matter. It's just my personal inner perception and feelings, it's my personal experience and it doesn't mean that for all people it seems the same. Everyone is very different and some people don't feel the same way (I have met many of those).
So why Egyptian teachers say I have an "Egyptian soul" ... At first of course I didn't understand why they tell me this, but then I realised: because I feel the music from inside as they do, I express my feelings and emotions the way Egyptians do, I show myself completely open on the stage, I do not pretend. I'm natural and earthy. I do not pretend to be who I am not, I do not pretend to feel what I don't feel, I am completely true and sincere,  natural, with a lot of warmth, pain, happiness, sorrow, playfulness and being widely open and genuine while performing, which are the essence of Oriental dance. Also expressing the meaning of the songs with gestures, face expression, emotions, not being cold and static. The teachers say this, because I am on the same wavelength with them, I feel the dance and the spirit of the dance. It's hard to explain in words, because it's something beyond the words.
In your biography we learn that you are quite familiar with dancing to live music. What is your secret as a brilliant live music dancer, we know that not everybody can do it; and what advice would you give a young dancer concerning dancing to live music?

My hugest love and affection is to dance to the live music, to communicate with the musicians, to feel the energy of each other while being on the stage and to enjoy the live sound, which is going through all of your body and touches the heart. What I love most about performing with the band is the unexpectedness of each moment and being right here and right now, trying to become a single whole with the music and to create the masterpiece without any prepared extracts. This is the essence of Oriental dance – to feel the music at the spur of the moment, to be plunged into it completely, not having the ready choreography and remembering each of the steps and being like a robot who is making the certain necessary elements.
Dancing with the live band – is the true and fresh dance, created at this very moment from what your heart is telling you to do, it’s not of the mind, but it’s coming from the soul, when you just let everything go and you totally disappear in the music.

What helps me to dance with the orchestra – is feeling the music by nature! That’s why I said I’m on the same length wave with Egyptians. They know and feel how to dance with the live music since they were born, they don’t learn it, they are just the way they are, this is their culture. I didn’t learn it, I just feel it from inside, of course I developed this skills, because to interpret the Egyptian music correctly, not to look stupid, to put the right pauses, to be followed by the drummer, not to miss the accents, to open up completely and show your emotions and genuine feelings – is a great job to be done.

For the dancers I would give the advice to learn the rhythms, to learn all the famous songs by heart – Oum Kolthoum, Mohammed Abdel Wahab, Abdel Halim Hafez, etc. It’s the necessary action to know these songs  otherwise you will not know the melody, the pauses, the meaning of the words, in this case it’s not possible to dance decently. Also it’s very helpful to listen to the live band playing in front of you or watching it playing in You Tube, for example, in order to make your ears get used to it. They must try to perform with the live band as many times as possible – it’s a very helpful training. My advice as well is preparing some combinations for the performances, while they are learning, and of course attending the workshops of the teachers who can help to understand this subject.

Honestly I love designing costumes and training uniforms, because there I can use my creative mind and reveal what is inside of me, because as you know, the outer is always the consequence of the inner. So whatever you see of my production it’s the result of my inner perception and my inner world which is so vast. I love all kinds of creativity and I don’t have any borders or restrictions, my spirit is very free, that’s why I can create anything unexpected.
Anna Borisowa on facebook:
Graphics/WebDesign: Konstanze Winkler
Where did you learn to design these wonderful costumes you perform in?

Actually I didn’t learn to design the costumes anywhere. I just developed this skill by trying to improve in this sphere step by step, and I made my dressmaker to help me put my ideas into life. I just have a very creative mind, and wherever I put and direct my creativity – whether it’s a choreography making, costume design or something else – it turns out to be very specific and unusual according to my vision and inner world.
What will we see from you on stage at Leyla's?

In the show of the festival the audience will be able to see my entrance (mejanse), I think tarab or some strong song, also shaaby and drum solo. This is what I think of, but maybe something will change. I will be very happy to share my energy and love for the dance with the German public.
What will we learn at your workshops?

At my workshops we shall learn the choreographies on the topics, which are presented. There will be a lot of explanation not only of the technique, but of the manner of performing this or that combination and its emotional consistence. Because bellydance is more than only the technique and learning the choreographies by heart. My main concept is to transfer the energy and spirit of each choreography and style, to make people feel it, not only understand it, to make them pass the emotions through themselves and to give the feelings out in an individual way. I will explain the specific technique of mine and focus on how to train yourself and improve your skills day by day, not to stay at the same level year by year.
I can watch them and of course enjoy the greatest performers in other styles, when I get a chance.