I have to say that when you are speaking with Amel, you get this feeling that you are talking to a really exceptional human being. She has a longing to express her sincerity towards others. She has ideas she wants to be understood but she is also patient and she listens. She has a such a wealth of knowledge, speaking several languages and having travelled extensively sharing her love of dance.
This interview is going to read a little differently than the rest because I did phone interview with Amel.
I took notes on her responses but did not write word for word, so I am recounting our conversation as best I can.
How did you first encounter belly dance?
I am Arabic. I did not encounter it, I grew up with the dance and seeing Egyptian movies.
Do you have a specialty?
Maghreb dance is my specialty- the dances from the 5 North African countries... not including Egypt, Egypt belongs to "the Middle East".
I never danced in restaurants.
I dance on stage. I am part of a culture. I am not a copy of an "Algerian dancer"; its me on stage.
Where are you from originally?
Algeria- I learned from my grandmother.
I now live in the US, Oregon but I did live in Germany, France, and England.
How long have you been teaching?
What kinds of things do you teach?
Frame drum, dancing, and singing. I give workshops on this, bring it back as one, not separate.
I give lectures and teach costuming. I would like to offer more workshops on costuming to teach people what they can do with a piece of fabric without sewing it.
Who are your inspirations or mentors?
My grandmother and the women of my tribe- we are Berbers.
My culture: Algerian women.
What is the most usual experience you have had bellydancing?
When you are an instructor, you go to places when you are teaching and you sometimes encounter people who forget you are a person. It has surprised me sometimes how people forget to extend hospitality. They love the dance but forget to learn the culture: the culture is very much about Hospitality. People double book themselves, they don't take time to be a person and you don't feel respected. Things are not organized properly, you are sleeping badly and then you are expected to work. I find it sad. Dancers should respect each other and honor each other. This dance is about honoring each other. If you show each other respect & hospitality you can all go home happy.
What advice do you have for dancers?
It is important to me: the spiritual side; opening the heart of women.
I do breathing and Sufi.
Sometimes in a workshop the women there are not connected with each other, they just see the back of each other; losing the call. The call is to enjoy- you can learn easier if you are relaxed - it's about the heart. If they could just feel the movement and silence; they will dance differently.
I give time to notice every dancer who is there.
I dance with each one of them.
I want to touch their heart... and usually it happens.
That is my work.
So they can be connected to their call.
Each dancer has something very special.
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Can you share what Hospitality means to you?