Promoting a multicultural Oriental Dance Festival in Germany - Interview with Fatima Serin

  by Isis Zahara

"A day I don't dance is a day I don't live."
Anonymous Tunisian dancer, quoted in Serpent of the Nile, page 196 (1989)

Fatima Serin is a renowned Oriental dance  performer, choreographer and Instructor based in Saarbrucken, Germany. Originally from Turkey Fatima began her dance life in Turkish folklore group and continued her studies in Oriental dance with international choreographers as Mahmoud Reda and Raqia Hassan. Since 2008 she has being teaching in the biggest Oriental Dance Festival "Ahlan Wa Sahlan" in Egypt. She can also be seen dancing and as guest instructor in other international Festivals as Amani`s Orient Festival in Lebanon. 

For the last 14 years Fatima Serin has being the organizer  of her own  Festival: "Merhaba Dance Festival" in Germany. The Festival is based in an idea to celebrate the multicultural styles of Oriental Dance. Experience the rhythms, music and dance of various cultures through multiples performances and courses.

This is why she named her festival, "Merhaba" is an word which means "welcome" in Arabic, Turkish, Kurdish and Persian. You can read more about Fatima and find more information about the next Merhaba Dance Festival 2012 in the website: 

IZ – You are internationally renowned performer and choreographer. How did you start dancing?
FS - I have been passionate about music and dancing ever since I was a little child. I am originally from Turkey and dancing is deeply rooted in the Middle Eastern culture. As a young girl I used to perform in folklore groups and I remember that I really enjoyed that experience. Years later after my family had settled over to Germany I saw a belly dancer perform at an event that my family had been invited to. I must have been around 14 or 15 at the time - but I instantly knew that this is what I want to learn as well. As soon as I could manage I started taking lessons. At first just for the fun of it. I wasn't expecting that it would become a life-long profession - it's not that easy for a Mideastern woman to make such a decision - even if you live in Germany, but I knew that it certainly would become a life-long passion already then! 

"The first name that almost instantly pops up
 in my head is of course Mahmoud Reda. 
He deserves most respect and merit for 
bringing the popular oriental dance
 from the streets onto stage."

Thanks to a few circumstances in my life I was able to make my dream come true and turn my passion into my profession. I am very grateful that life has presented to me the opportunity to do so and I have never regretted that step.

IZ - You have a special personal style: beautiful, elegant and versatile, in terms you can dance different other styles. When you are creating a performance, is it harder to be surprising and to surprise yourself?
FS - 
I think a certain kind of versatility is required in the market these days. You just have to have a broader spectrum than maybe 20 years ago. Belly dance has really evolved and changed over the past years - there are lots of different influences to be found and lots of different styles - to me it makes sense to be open and attentive with regards to what's going on around me. I do enjoy the inspiration and like challenging myself, always trying to implement something new - there is certainly a lot of fun in looking for surprising elements.
At the same time I value being recognized for my  own style and I think that this requires a certain kind of consistency too. Therefore there will always remain repetitive elements which could be referred to as typical Fatima Serin in my choreographies and performances!

IZ – You have a Turkish heritage. But your dance instruction is based on the Egyptian style. Why? Is a personal preference or the Egyptian style has something special?
FS - Oh well, I might as well admit it: I am in love with Egyptian style! I just really like its laid-backness and the "simple but ‘to the pointnes’s" that is so very typical for it. To me that's ultimately feminine.  I was deeply influenced by many great Egyptian teachers over the years and I am very grateful for what I have learned from them.

I would like to point out though that there are a number of Turkish dancers that I really admire and whose style inspired me a lot as well! Tulay Karaca for example is one of my favorite dancers of all times. I also really love Reyhan Tuzsuz – she is known for her Roman Hawasi – the Turkish Gypsy dance I love so much. If you haven't heard of them, I highly recommend checking them out, there are a number of videos around that are very worth while watching.

IZ - Can you pick one choreographer and describe how She/He is inspirational, what you admire about Her/Him?
FS - Well, the first name that almost instantly pops up in my head is of course Mahmoud Reda. He deserves most respect and merit for bringing the popular oriental dance from the streets into stage.He was the teacher for so many famous dancers and choreographers such as Raqia Hassan. 

Raquia's choreographies are very creative and inspirational. She combines elements most innovatively and simply has a fantastic ear for music. As head of the Ahlan wa Sahlan- Festival she has given belly dance one of the most important events in the scene. It`s been in honour for me to teach and perform there during the past 5 years.
And not to forget to mention Dina; she is been giving continously innovative aspects in style of fancy costumes and dancing.

IZ - What’s it being for you, as the creator of a big Festival as the Merhaba?

FS - I have been doing this festival for a long time now and it's really been a blessing to watch it grow slowly from a rather small event to the nice set-up that we have reached by now. I am grateful for being given the opportunity to present so many high-level dancers to an audience in South West Germany. The festival did also help me become more established in the scene. It was an important step in my career when I started it.
But - in all honesty - it is also a lot of work and a great responsibility for me. I don't want to "slack" - quality is important to me and that requires that I invest a lot of time and work into it. There are days, when I am really not sure if I can muster the energy - but then again, there is that famous moment, when we're all on stage, right after the show, happy that it went well, with applause still ringing in our ears and that always makes me think that it's worth it all , again!
Apart from organizing my own festival I want to mention that it always has been a great pleasure for me to be part of other  festivals. This year I am looking forward to participating in Amani`s Orient Festival in Lebanon.

IZ – Fatima, tell us what projects you have in the next Merhaba Dance Festival in 2012.
FS - Well, I am currently scheduling the line-up for the next Merhaba Dance Festival which will take place November 24/25th. I am always eager to put a diverse show with skilled dancers, including performers from all around the world, life music and of course performances from my groups as well.  The festival is always accompanied by a workshop program and a little bazaar, so there is everything the belly dance heart desires.

The final line-up isn't completed yet but I can promise that I will make it my top priority to present good artists to the audience. As soon as the lineup is official I will post about it in my facebook page and on my website:

If you are looking for a reason to travel to Germany - you are warmly welcome to visit us this fall for the occasion!  


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