We're on the way to Shimmy Shake Festival in Rotterdam! It's our first time ever in the Netherlands and we're excited to see a new country, as well as experience a new festival. We've met Gail Pilgrim, the organizer of the Shimmy Shake Festival, at the Tribal Festival Hannover earlier this year, and although we only had short chats about her vision of the dance and the festival, we were intrigued to find out more!
We arrived already on Thursday, and planned in some time to see Rotterdam. First night we met Frederik, who graciously hosted us and over beer and chinese food educated us about Netherlands' rap music. We might have found our new favourite tracks for warm-ups and drills!
Friday saw us walking around the city, taking tons of photos and admiring the architectural variety, from repurposed factories to pencil tower and unusual houses that look like cubist forest built on the shore. We went on art binge to the Boijmans Van Beuningen Museum and came out after two hours dizzy with colors and impressions from unexpected treasures. Picasso! Van Gogh! Monet! Dali! Bonsai shadow face!
The weather turned from warm-ish sunny day to windy rainy afternoon and we half-ran to the Maas Podium theater, where vendors were already setting up their tempting tables and first dancers were gathering for the workshops and evening show. Shimmy Shake Festival was starting!
Shimmy Shake includes much more than a festival, it is mainly a talent development program for young dancers who want to get performance experience, and who aim to improve their skills and get input from professionals. The program runs the whole year, consists of Factor Cross Over auditions for everybody in spring, the Next Level for advanced dancers in autumn, and culminates in performance opportunities - Shimmy Shake Talent Show where the chosen acts perform on a big stage, and Shimmy Shake Festival where they join an international line-up and have a chance to present their work to wider audience. The team also works on educating the general public about urban tribal bellydance, through the festival, flashmobs and they plan a Knowledge Fair for next spring to present different kinds of dance styles. As you can see, the whole organisation around Shimmy Shake is quite different than other festivals, with Gail herself being not a dancer, but a professional organizer with years of experience and a reliable team on her side, applying for and receiving funds from the city and several cultural foundations, helping them to achieve their goals.
The festival location is the wonderful Maas Podium theater by the sea, with its warm atmosphere and full glass front, very nice bartenders and very nice performance spaces which doubled as workshop studios. The foyer belonged to the bazar and the crowd of dancers from all over the world meeting inbetween workshops and before the shows. After the shows, there were, of course, the rocking afterparties with impromptu dance battles and tribal improvisations to the badass music by festival DJs! A three-day ride full of dance, learning and inspiration all wrapped up in lots of fun!
|Maaspodium by Jean van Lingen|
|Afterparty by Jean van Lingen|
We always enjoy the festivals with a family feeling, and Shimmy Shake is one of those! A European dance family reunion was happening in Rotterdam, with performers, instructors and dear friends that we’ve known for a while now, or even hosted at our own festival, or met often at other festivals. The neighboring Belgium and North of Germany were highly represented! We were happy to see Tjarda van Straten, Mareike, Eliana, Kari, Joyce, Renate and Naina again and very excited to meet Haza, Moona, Piny, Leo, Vleer, the Holy Pie ladies and many more - new friendships were made and collaborations were planned! A mutual appreciation of dance style and philosophy with Obélixx and his crew, first time in workshops by the Orchids and having a blast and sore muscles in weird places, meeting dancers from around the Netherlands and seeing their work on stage, then talking about the creative process and ideas behind the pieces that stayed with us long after the show.
Gail and her awesome professional team was always present and ready to help, and thanks to them the whole festival ran smoothly and everyone felt so well cared for and welcome. Shout out to Olga, Yuen and Danielle - thank you ladies!!
|Team Shimmy Shake by Jean van Lingen|
What brought Gail to organize a Tribal Bellydance festival? She says herself, that she is not a dancer, but an organizer, and we asked her more about her journey and motivation that led her to organize Shimmy Shake.
|Gail Pilgrim & Nakari by Jean van Lingen|
How did you first find out about Tribal Bellydance?
I am often asked how I got involved in this. As initiator and programmer of the LiteSideFestival I was exploring the influence of oriental traditions on contemporary and street culture, to discover which new artistic language was developing to express the reality of new times in big cities. Having become an Egyptophile I am there at least once a year and am aware of how important bellydance is at any occasion in the Turkish or Arab world. No celebration without a dancer! But the question was: what is the interpretation of this age-old tradition when it crosses over to the Western culture?
Therefore I started up a competition called Shimmy Shake, to see who was creating a new dance language with the basics of this dance. In 2007 the first Shimmy Shake cross-over Bellydance Competition took place and was a big hit. This new dance form is a true expression of the urban society we live in, diverse and pluri-cultural. The response to the first event was overwhelming, prompting me to turn the Shimmy Shake cross-over Bellydance Competition into an annual event for amateurs and professionals. As the interest has continued to grow so has the concept, developing into a yearlong multi-layered Dance Development Program including coaching at all levels, workshops, master classes and the production of shows and tours. In reaction to the continuing enthusiasm, we organized a small pilot event to test the waters for a festival and it became very clear that it was the next thing we needed to do. Now in 2014 the first big international festival is here!!
How did you come up with the idea for Shimmy Shake?
As I said, I was curious to know if this cross-over style of dancing existed in the Netherlands. So I announced the first Shimmy Shake event in 2007 to see who would come.
The DJ MPS Pilot told me about Tjarda van Straten who was sometimes dancing with him at concerts. He sent me a clip of her and I thought – that is great! It is contemporary, hip, beautiful to look at and combines East with West.
I loved it! A new style in the dance world. At the competition Tjarda and Renate Bakker won the group prize. They told me about Rachel Brice and company which I also checked out and I was hooked.
What are your personal highlights of the first and the second edition?
Personal highlights 1st edition – for sure the performance of Anasma in a duet where she combined bellydance with yoga! Superb! And the performance of Piny and Her Orchidacae company. Obelixx was also good, and as always Tjarda van Straten.
2nd edition – Piny's amazing solo and Leo's too for that matter – so the Orchidacae team again, Haza was a delightful discovery for me this time. And your duet ladies was also a highlight!
What is in store for the next year's Shimmy Shake Festival?
Next year we will invite Kami Liddle! And Illan Riviere who danced for us in 2012 and was fabulous. Tjarda as always, with new work, and a few hot surprises we are working on now. Lots of workshops, great shows, the network meeting which after speaking to you ladies will most probably be an international one! Next year we will do more practical workshops to do with costumes and other related items.
About Gail Pilgrim:
Known for her vision, enthusiasm and energy Gail Pilgrim, the initiator and Director of the LiteSide Foundation has started up many festivals and events during her career including the LiteSide Festival, Shimmy Shake Dance Development Program, Hammam Verhalen, Power to the Streets and LiteSide Schrijft! She was also initiator and director of the Culture Coalition Foundation where amongst other projects she started up the first breakdance competition – Spin off, now a national landmark in the hip hop world and produced “Rapido! –Shakespeare Goes Hip Hop” with Helmert Woudenberg en Felix de Rooy.
|Gail Pilgrim by Jean van Lingen|
One of the festival’s objectives was also to educate and to connect. Piny’s and Leo’s presentation about the history of urban fusion dance had everyone sit down and hear a bit of insider insights about how the different urban styles got mixed into tribal. We had to miss this program point as we were in a workshop at the same time.
|Urban Fusion Bellydance Presentation, Photo from ShimmyShake Facebook Page|
Creation of a connected network of tribal and urban fusion dancers in the Netherlands was the aim of The Pitch – the second national meeting of this kind - and we are very grateful to Gail and all the dancers for holding the meeting in English so we could follow! We love to learn about the dance scenes in other countries, we do our best to connect Europe through Tribal News, and motivate the Austrian tribal scene for active creative collaboration. It was very interesting and inspiring to see how the Dutch network works and what they are planning in the future.
We can’t tell you about all workshops, as we couldn’t catch all of them, but we will give you a peek into the ones that we attended!
“The Space of Displacement” with Piny Orchidaceae was a well-designed blend between tribal fusion and contemporary dance. The workshop was built more like a contemporary dance class than a usual tribal workshop with the result of bringing us a lot more through the room than usual – using cross-the-floors, slides, spins, jumps and intricate footwork layered with fusion isolations. Loads of material to work on back at home!
Obélixx and Vleer’s “Soul and Movement Design” workshop flourished from a partnership between two passionate dancers, moving with curiosity and confidence through various dance fusions and collaborations. They started with the physical and technical breakdown of several urban dance movements like popping, strobing, layering with footwork and integrating them into tribal fusion. We gradually moved into emotional territory and the power of intention in dance. Vleer led us through several exercises that focused on the importance of ‘dancing with the soul’ and communicating emotion and intent through movement, where often less is more if the intent is clear. The message of the workshop was carried by each dancer – have faith in your dance and in yourself, dance with conviction and ‘Believe in the wave!’
Kari’s “Dis and Dats riiiiiight!” Unmata Style workshop was a continuous flow of movement that gradually intensified and got more challenging and exciting as we built up the parts into a combination sequence. Never stop dancing was the motto, and drilling was the key! As the moves got familiar and the connections were built, the music sped up and still everybody was able to enjoy themselves! The signature Unmata energy and badass attitude, as well as cool combinations and contagious passion for dance were the takeaway from this workshop!
“Footwork” with Leo Orchidacae was a revelation – it wasn’t the first time we did hip hop or house techniques, but definitely the first time we could feel our abs days later from only working with our feet. Leo’s fluid demonstrations of the steps and possible layering left us salivating for more, and her engaging way of teaching made the theoretical aspect of the material very clear and accessible.
Urban Tribes Night Show
The Urban Tribes Night show belonged to the new talents of Urban Fusion and Tribal Bellydancers and dance schools from the Netherlands, among them selected talents of this year’s Shimmy Shake Factor CO.
The show opened with an earthy trio of Renate Bakker aka Maya Acid’s students, using simple but powerful movements and setting the mood for the night.
Aziza Bu Simbel lit the room with her dramatic LED Isis Wings as she floated and spinned in whirls of colorful lights.
|Aziza Bu Simbel by Jean van Lingen|
Joyce Benschop represented the north of the country and in her touching solo told her personal story of motherhood with its unexpected turns, changing moods and overlaying happiness. It was a wonderful comeback to the stage after her baby leave.
Relaxed and expressive Stefanie Van der Zwaal from Amsterdam danced a modern-inspired solo.
The oriental duo of Nargis Dance Lab from Rotterdam brought smiles to our faces with their very sweet veil routine and their drum duo got us in the mood for doing a drum piece ourselves.
Playing with rapid formation changes and contrast between chorus and solo group, Banat Laklak troupe from Den Hague explored the whole stage with their ATS-choreography play.
|Banat Laklak by Jean van Lingen|
Tigerhawk took us on a trip to rave and techno fusion using rapid mood changes and contagious joy.
Sarah of The Dance Movement based in Den Haag brought a breath of fresh of air with her playful afro-bellydance fusion inspired by her Lebanese roots and passion for African dances. Her gorgeous expression swept the whole audience along.
|Sarah by Jean van Lingen|
The Improvisational Tribal Style group Moiren Tribal, coached by Sulayca Soyo opened the second half of the show with a mysterious Indian inspired choreography, evoking a mystic ritual, followed by a joyful skirt improvisation.
Jenny Kaplan from Rotterdam gave all her secrets away in her modern pop solo using powerful gestures and clean technique.
|Jenny Kaplan by Jean van Lingen|
For the next group piece, Joyce brought together her old and new students, each woman with her own personal story and all together performing a powerful mesmerizing dance. Familiar ATS moves combined with surprising elements created a hypnotic mood.
|Joyce & Students by Jean van Lingen|
Janneke Staat from Hengelo translated a harsh dubstep song into a dynamic fusion solo.
From the Dansschool Pretima Ke Dewashrie based in Den Haag comes a candle dance trio playing with the clichés of oriental dance transporting us into an opium dream of an early colonial times traveler.
As a fitting answer to the previous piece the ladies of Annè Nammu from Nijmegen commanded the stage in an intimidating performance. Set in the Victorian era, they took a stand for oppressed women under the evaluating gaze of a hypocritical society.
|Anné Nammu by Jean van Lingen|
The final piece of Urban Tribes Night came from Tjarda van Straten and her students in an exciting contemporary fusion piece. With minimalistic costumes, but maximising the use of space and dynamic contrast, individual dancers explore the stage and the music, but always return back to the safety of the group.
|Urban Tribes Night Line-Up by Jean van Lingen|
Urban Fusion Dance Gala Show
Urban Fusion Dance Gala Show was the highlight of the festival beginning with participants of the Shimmy Shake Next Level program followed by an international line up of dancers and teachers.
Here we'd like to quote part of Gail Pilgrim's brilliant opening speech:
“What brings me to this genre? What is Urban Tribal Fusion Bellydance? A simple answer is that this dance form is to today’s women, what breakdance is to young men. The dance expresses their identity, their roots, and their vision of femininity for these times: sensuality and strength. Dance styles such as flamenco, street dance, hip hip, modern dance, Bollywood are layered onto the basic moves of oriental dance. The dancers are interpreting an old tradition and making cutting edge choreographies that are utterly contemporary and relevant to these times. We are speaking here of a new city tribe. The diversity of fusion styles reflects the richness and fantasy of the women making them. There are women dancing this style – not only throughout America, the UK, Scandinavia and Europe but also China, Russia, Korea, Japan, Brazil, Ukraine and in every corner of the world. You can dance Fusion Belly dance regardless of your age. The participants come from very different backgrounds and mix together as the most normal thing in the world, just women together. For every kind of woman it is a form of empowerment.”
A strong start came from the Trio Asrais with a medley of music and dance stiles, utilizing the full extent of their props. Starting with the swan quartet, they changed stiles as quickly as their costumes, from Singing in the Rain, Run Boy Run, All the Single Ladies to Strike a Pose.
Ascarya took us on a dark emotional journey, taking off her mask and fighting her demons, finding a silver lining after all.
The duett of The Macadamias reminded us of a pair of pendulums influencing each other even though they started far apart, slowly finding their way together.
Sharena combined her two passions archery and tribal fusion in a mesmerizing solo evocating a forest spirit with invisible wings.
A brilliant culmination of the Next Level part of the show was Tjarda’s Amano Project with the piece “Mind your Head”. This was our personal highlight of all performances. We are also big fans of contemporary dance as well as tribal fusion and found this a seamless union of these two styles. Fascinating and disturbing at the same time the six dancers went full circle through all stages of progress and relapse.
|Amano Project by Jean van Lingen|
After a short break Leo Orchidaceae from Portugal continued to blow our heads with her floating, sliding and gliding self, following a clear path across the stage.
|Leo Orchidaceae by Jean van Lingen|
Nargis Bellydance with her classical oriental routine brought us back to the bellydance path with zill entrance, qanun taksim and drum solo.
|Nargis Bellydance by Jean van Lingen|
ATS blended into fusion in a solo by Mareike from Germany. Strong posture and confident movements to experimental jazz sounds created a unique atmosphere.
|Mareike by Jean van Lingen|
Kari of Unmata from the USA brought international ITS on stage with her friends Moona from France and Naina from Germany. A very powerful and fast piece, typical for this newest language development of synchronized group improvisation. Set to energetic music, it had us bouncing in our seats to Muse!
|Kari, Moona & Naina by by Jean van Lingen|
A colourful urban fusion piece came from the Belgian crew Obellyciouz, directed by Obélixx. Taking advantage of the dancers’ individual strengths in various styles like bellydance, hip hop, african dance, contortion, breakdance, and many more - this urban tribe took the stage by storm.
|Obellyciouz by Jean van Lingen|
After a break to settle the impressions Haza from France brought us back to the show with a modern fusion, utilizing her precise technique, her engaging energy and her sweet personality.
|Haza by Jean van Lingen|
With an indian bellydance fusion complete with ankle bells and bedlah set, Nargis Bellydance returns to the stage.
Eliana from Germany made our heads spin and our hearts beat faster with her steamy, sexy, tasteful burlesque performance. Her dance was highlighted by her gorgeous fluffy dress - we vote for wearing as often as possible!
|Eliana by Jean van Lingen|
A different kind of steamy with a dangerous undertone was the solo of Piny Orchidaceae from Portugal. Her masterful fusion performance showed her versatility in different styles and set a statement to the song “Black Erotica”.
|Piny Orchidaceae by Jean van Lingen|
Maya Acid Performance Troupe, lead by Renate Bakker presented a group of strong women dancing together, combining tribal improvisation with choreographed sections while rocking their beautiful costumes.
|Maya Acid Performance Troupe by Jean van Lingen|
The last performance of the evening came from Kari of Unmata together with Tjarda van Straten in a fast-paced duet set to freaky music in Kari’s signature style.
Magnificent Mash-Up Show
Sunday evening concluded the festival with the Magnificent Mash-Up show. As the name already reveals, amateurs and professionals, locals and international guests shared the stage and their passion for fusion bellydance.
|Nadiya's Students by Jean van Lingen|
We were honored to perform our news “Swamp Gods” piece in the first part of the show ourselves, which unfortunately meant that we couldn’t see any of the other performers. We are sad to have missed Kitti Torda, Annelies, Suzanne le Comte, Janneke Staat and Nadiya’s students from the Netherlands and Fusion Flow Duo from Belgium.
|Nakari by Jean van Lingen|
After the break Frouke Tichelaar danced a personal solo in a recycled costume of washing machine parts, clothes and related items which resulted in a surprisingly elegant impression.
|Frouke by Jean van Lingen|
Obélixx from Belgium and Vleer from the Netherlands found a common ground in a collaborative duet. Beautifully combining their urban styles to form a united statement.
|Obélixx & Vleer by Jean van Lingen|
After two group pieces and a duet, Tjarda van Straten danced a contemporary fusion solo in her unique style to a light pop song with a deeper message.
|Tjarda van Straten by Jean van Lingen|
A joyful irish dance fused with bellydance, supported by a perfect music and costume choice was presented by Dschinny from Germany.
|Dschinny by Jean van Lingen|
Another guest from Germany was Diana Horn, performing fantasy bellydance build on beautiful flowing movements, spins and a surprising appearance of a ribbon wand.
|Diana Horn by Jean van Lingen|
Holy Pie!!! These ladies had loads of fun on stage, utilizing bellydance, dancehall, twerking, african and what not to rouse the audience and close the festival in high spirits.
|Holy Pie by Jean van Lingen|
|Magnificent Mash Up Line-Up by Jean van Lingen|
A huge THANK YOU to Gail, you and your team did an amazing job, and we are grateful for the opportunity to be a part of it! The Dutch dancers are lucky to have you creating a space where they can focus on creative artistic work and not think about any of the organizational aspects, because you have everything running smoothly. Once again, thank you! :)
|Gail, Olga & Nakari by Jean van Lingen|