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Photos: 1 and 7 © Polstar Photography, 2,3 and 4 © James Hedley, 5 © Maani, 6 and 8 with kindly permission of Hilde Cannoodt
Graphic design: Konstanze Winkler

Interview with Hilde Cannoodt

by Marcel Bieger

Hilde Cannoodt
It was in spring when we first saw Hilde Cannoodt on stage –
at Tjarda van Straaten’s „Beyond Bellydance 3“ show. Our first impressions then were confirmed later, when we hat the chance to talk with her after the show: This woman is one hell of a ball of energy. Not only does she dance wonderful she also gives you a good impression what is going on in the British scene.  And she is a extraordinary organisation wizard. Should you ever plan to do something on the other side of the Channel, don’t miss to contact her..
You seem to be a very active and energetic person, could you tell us what you are doing in the British dance scene?

Yes I do like to keep busy. I teach workshops, weekly classes, I direct two different dance troupes, I perform solo and with a live band and I host events.

Partly because I have so many interests and I like to get involved with every process. I just graduated from Laban School of Dance in London and now that I am settled back into my home in Brighton, I am preparing for our upcoming show in September. I mainly teach weekly classes in Brighton, but tend to travel a lot to London and other cities in the UK to teach workshops and perform.

I am currently directing 2 dance troupes, my student troupe and my dance troupe Masmoudi. It is so great working with the girls, as they are all wonderful dancers and wonderful people, so we always have a blast in rehearsals.

I am often collaborating with other professional dancers in the UK and abroad. Currently I am working on a project with Donna Mejia (MA, US), Sarah Locke (NY, US) and Ela Rogers (MA, US) as we are choreographing a piece together which we will tour around the US and in Europe, so I am very excited about that.

I am also collaborating with different musicians in Brighton. We started up a live band, Chaos Carousel, where we play a mixture of Turkish, Eastern European and Greek music, all written by the fantastic Merlin Shepherd, who plays the clarinet in our band. I dance and play finger cymbals and we perform together and teach workshops together with live music, which is a lot of fun.
You came from Belgium to England, what made you stay?

I actually moved to England because of my love for Brighton, a lovely city by the sea in the South-East of England. The first time I went there, I knew it was my home. It’s a very arty town, with a great music scene and just an overall great vibe. The moment I moved there I knew I wasn’t going to leave. But I went there to pursue my dream to start dancing full time.

You invite teachers/instructors from all over the world, how do you get in touch with them and what were your biggest successes and what funny stories can you tell about it?

I usually invite teachers that I have met before.
I often approach them after taking one of their workshops. When I organise an event with international teachers I have two things in mind: I of course want some amazing teachers but also, I want students to have a bloody good time! I am from the ‘work hard and play hard’ principle, so after a great work out I tend to organise an evening out where we all go for dinner or look for a show with a great Balkan live band we can all go to …  So I tend to invite teachers that are up for that kind of thing. I had some fantastic weekends with Amy Sigil from Unmata, Donna Mejia, Mira Betz, Tjarda from the Uzume, Samantha Emanuel, Olivia from Zafira, Suhaila Salimpour …

Over the years I did collect some great stories: After the Donna Mejia show for example, in January 2011, we all went to an after party where a live funk band was playing. We arrived there at 10pm with all our bags, after performing, and the venue was totally empty at this point. The bartenders probably didn’t know what hit them when we walked in with about 50 – 60 belly dancers, so that was a lot of fun. Same thing happens when we go for dinner, we always have a whole restaurant filled up with about 40 dancers that all worked hard in the workshops that day. It’s just a great example on how most Brightonians are completely oblivious to our dance community, until they have us all zaghareeting in a restaurant, after the teacher’s speech. I remember a funny one after dinner, where we all drew moustaches on each other and walked around Brighton like that. Those are just classic moments.

I also had a blast when I took Amy Sigil kayaking on the sea in
Brighton in March 2009, after the workshops were finished. I don’t think anyone else apart from Amy could look cool in a wetsuit and lifejacket. That was pretty priceless!
The fantastic Donna Mejia, one of my favourite teachers, will be in Brighton in March. I am currently working with her on a project in the US. We are choreographing together, and we will perform our work in the show in March. She will be teaching a 2 day intensive on the 24th and 25th March.

The next event will be 1st – 4th June 2012, where I am inviting Sharon Kihara and Susan Frankovich to teach and perform with us in Brighton. Details will be up very shortly on my website.

There are a few other great artists planned in 2012, but these are not confirmed yet, but please check my website for further info at

Hilde and her live band "Chaos Carousel"
I studied at the Brighton University and graduated from their BA program in Dance and Visual Arts in 2007. While studying at Brighton University, I started up weekly classes and built up a community very quickly, as tribal fusion was totally new to Brighton, but the aesthetics of the dance form just really appealed to the Brighton crowd. I always saw Brighton as my home base and from there I could travel and teach in different cities and countries so with that luxury I never felt the need to move again. I miss Belgium though, so I often re-visit and teach workshops there in combination of visiting my family.
I LOVE what European dancers are doing! It’s very fresh and different. Because of this I started inviting European dancers more and more to teach at my events, as we have some great talent in the continent. It’s also great to see people evolve. I travel often to Eastern Europe to teach and have returned to Poland three times now, so I know the girls well and it’s so great to see their progress. And yes, Burlesque and Steampunk are very big in places like London and Brighton, and I would say that aesthetically I am drawn to their costuming.  I have been told that my performance often reminds my audience of cabaret shows. I often perform in variety shows, where performers use characters in their performance so there’s definitely an influence there.
You are coming around a lot in Europe, would you agree that the "old" continent is on the raise, especially the Eastern and the Centre part of it? Steampunk, Burlesque are quite big in Great Britain, but seem to have never made it to the Continent, really.
So what are your upcoming events?

Our next event in September is with the wonderful Amy Sigil from Unmata and the amazing Samantha Emanuel. The workshops have been sold out for a few months now, but there are still tickets available for our show on the 23rd of September. I will also be performing with my live band Chaos Carousel at the after party, and Phil Meadley will be DJ’ing that night.