Happy New Year, everyone!
This blogpost is slightly overdue, but I hope it’s never too late to write about something good!
Last year I had the opportunity to emcee two belly dance competitions, both held at HELP CAT (Creative Art & Technology) University, both with amazing organising teams, both with fantastic dancers and performers!
I will start with the first one I was involved in.
6TH ORIENTAL XPRESSION 2016
Organised by Annie Ong of Arabesque Belly Dance Centre, she has been organizing the belly dance extravaganza since 2011, which includes belly dance workshops, a belly dance costume bazaar, a belly dance competition, and a belly dance gala show.
I was introduced to Annie Ong by my own dance sifu Bronya Bishorek, who is also a well-known emcee especially in the ballroom and latin dance competition arena. Annie had initially planned to hire Bronya as her emcee, but due to a clash with another competition that Bronya was already engaged in, Bronya suggested me as her replacement. The reason I dared to take up the job was because I already had experience emceeing a dance competition the year before.
Annie is a lovely, warm lady with excellent organisational skills. She had planned the three-day festival with precision, making sure that the events went on smoothly, and the judges and dancers were taken care of. Annie has been learning belly dance for several years now, and is passionate about the dance so much so that she constantly travels for workshops to improve her technique and skills. She is well-known locally as a teacher, choreographer, and performer, on top of her portfolio as an event organiser.
I emceed the belly dance competition and the gala which were on two separate nights, during both of which Alvin Lee was assigned to assist me as the backstage marshal – i.e. checking on the readiness of the dancers due on stage, as well as to assist the judges whenever necessary. Alvin himself is an accomplished dancer and teacher, and not just in belly dance – he has been involved in many different genres of dance including latin and line dance. He is the first male dancer to pick up belly dance publicly in Malaysia, making it accessible to all other male dancers.
Also, because I can’t read or speak Mandarin fluently, Alvin was on hand to help me read out the names of the dancers from Taiwan and China that were written in Mandarin. I didn’t want to mispronounce anyone’s name and unintentionally offend them!
The three-day festival consisted of workshops by the invited dance masters (who were also the judges for the competition and the star performers for the gala) in the day time over Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, while the competition and gala were held on Friday and Saturday night respectively.
There were official videos and photos taken during the competition and gala. The DVDs can be purchased from Arabesque Belly Dance Centre, whereas the photos can be purchased directly from the official photographer Idolhunter LC Kuang.
BELLY DANCE COMPETITION
The competition which ran on the first night (4 November 2016) had many categories to encourage participation of dancers. There were categories for different age groups and different levels of abilities.
Run in true style of belly dance competitions, every dancer/troupe performed individually on stage with their own choice of music, and the option to start on or off stage. I have seen competitions where one standard song was chosen for that category, and all the participants have to share the floor space at the same time – exactly as how latin and ballroom dance competitions are run. That method works for latin and ballroom, but it is not so effective for belly dance, as belly dance competitors usually travel around the floor and some of them use props such as veils, canes, and swords. Allowing each dancer his/her own time on stage allows them to be noticed especially since belly dance choreography can be quite intricate to match the nuances in the music.
The quality of dancing that night was simply amazing! The competition saw participation from all over South East Asia, including China, Hong Kong, and Singapore; and of course, including our very own Malaysians. The level of belly dancing in this region is incredible, and some are starting from as young as tiny tots. I must admit, I was simply blown away by the competitors.
The prizes offered to the winners are also simply amazing. There were cash prizes and trophies or medals (depending on the placing and category); and the top three winners of the solo adult categories (Professional Queen, Oriental Queen, and Oriental Star) obtained workshop passes to various belly dance festivals all over the world, sponsored generously by the organisers themselves! These workshops include the Cairo Festival 2017 in Budapest, Hungary (organised by Mercedes Nieto), Tarabesque Festival 2017 in Barcelona (organised by Salima), Mabrouk 2017 in Korea (organised by Muse Belly Dance Company), Tito Sief Live 2017 in Hong Kong (organised by Maggie Jerome), Golden Fatkulla Workshop 2017 in Singapore (organised by Joey Bay), and of course the 7th Oriental Xpression 2017!
Here are the official results of the 6th Oriental Xpression 2016:
PROFESSIONAL QUEEN SOLO
1st Place : Sora June, China
2nd Place : 吉洁, China
3rd Place : 玛利亚, China
4th Place : Carmanie Gigi Ng, Hong Kong
5th Place : Elain Chan Seok Chean, Malaysia
ORIENTAL QUEEN SOLO
1st Place : 程小燕, China
2nd Place : Wendy, Singapore
3rd Place : Teong Mee Chen, Singapore
4th Place : Ng Mun Yee, Singapore
5th Place : Miranda Lo Sau Wai, Hong Kong
CONSOLATION: Chamila Liyanage / Vivian Iao / Mandy Yeo / Katz / Christy Hui Wing Sze / Sonia Wong
1st Place : Wildlicious Dance Troupe, Malaysia
2nd Place : Trio Group, China
3rd Place : Duet, China
ORIENTAL STAR SOLO
1st Place : Karyn Chan, Malaysia
2nd Place : Tan Guan Kheng, Singapore
3rd Place : Grace Heng Song Yang Malaysia
4th Place : Roxanne Tan Xinyi, Malaysia
5th Place : 蒋江莉,China
CONSOLATION : Yuyu Choo / Jacqueline Tan / Chong Pooi Yan / Phi Yen / Cheryl McCallum
1st Place : Goh Zi Tong
2nd Place : Sherlyn Wong Xing Ning
3rd Place : Congying Tang
CONSOLATION : Quincy Gan / Teng Sukee / Tan Jia Ning / Chew Jing Yee / Daphne Tang Si Jie / Tee Han Siang
1st Place : Sparkling Star
2nd Place : Belly Angels
3rd Place : Little Lucky Kids
The gala, which was held the following night on 5 November 2016, was a performance extravaganza featuring dancers from all over the world, invited to grace our humble stage. It kicked off the champions of the adult categories from the competition the night before: Sora June (Professional Queen Solo), 程小燕 (Oriental Queen Solo), Karyn Chan (Orential Star Solo), and the Wildlicous Dance Troupe (Adult Troupe).
The gala saw many talented guest dancers from Hong Kong, Singapore and of course Malaysia; and of course the featured performers were the beautiful ladies who were also the judges for the competition the night before! The judges included Emily Mah from Malaysia, Joey Bay from Singapore, Maggie Jerome from Hong Kong, Sofia from China, Kevy Leow (with her mother Chew Foong) from Malaysia, and Sherlyn Koh from Malaysia; and the highlights were the judges and master teachers who conducted the workshops: Kaouther Ben Amor from Tunisia, Salima from Barcelona, and Virginia Mendez from USA.
It was a fantabulous experience, and I am really blessed and humbled to have been able to be part of this festival. Thank you to Annie Ong for the opportunity, and congratulations to all the dancers and performers!
Here are more photos and selfies to prove that I was actually there. I was fortunate enough to be able to get a selfie with some of the lovely accomplished performers and master trainers! Couldn’t photo with everyone though because some had to leave early, and some were too busy with photos (who could blame them? Everyone wants a photo!!!).
If you missed the 6th Oriental Xpression 2016, be sure not to miss the next one. You can join the festival as a workshop participant, a competitor, or a performer on the Open Stage. The Open Stage was held just before the Gala Night at 5:30pm, which is open to any dancer who may wish to perform but is not part of the Gala Night – the perfect opportunity to show your peers your performing skills without the pressure of being part of the spectacular gala.
For more information, please contact Annie Ong of Arabesque Belly Dance Centre.
See you at the 7th Oriental Xpression 2017!