Tribal Happenings & Samantha Emmanuel Interview

Tribal Corner
Tribal happenings plus an interview with Samantha Emmanuel

Bellydance Oasis Issue 45. 2012


Hello to all you Tribal enthusiasts out there! In this issue I talk to the lovely & talented Samantha Emmanuel. I had the pleasure of meeting her & taking her workshops while I was at Tribalfest California this past May. Her workshops as many of you can imagine were not only informative but also a hell of a lot of fun. She has a lovely down to earth way about her as well as having a wealth of knowledge & a lot of talent. Of course all of this makes up to be a great way of learning, retaining the information & having fun all at the same time.

I thought that now would be a good time to chat to Samantha as all of us Aussie dancers are lucky enough to be having her as a very special guest at this years Tribal & Trance Festival held in Sydney this October. More on that later but to fill you in on the last few months first.

In early June Cristie Fuller {Ghawazi Caravan troupe member} & I flew to the Sunshine Coast in QLD hosted by the lovely Melanie Fitzgibbon of Tribal Essence to conduct Drills & individual Critique. This is a fairly new programme that I am running & focuses on everything ATS & then some. The difference here is that we limit the numbers so it feels more like a group private session; we totally pull apart every step & really look at how to get the most of every step. Cristie was constantly up the front drilling & I was constantly giving pointers & feedback to participants. After it is all finished I type up all the pointers, feedback as well as constructive criticism & email them out to each participant privately. I feel very passionate about this course at the moment as it is something that I had always wanted as I was starting to learn & I know that there are others out there that feel the same way. All the ladies who came to the Sunshine Coast completed both levels 1 & 2 & were thrilled on how much they had learnt & also surprised to learn that it was not nearly as scary as they had thought! Here is what one participant had to say about it.

Over the last few years I’ve been a self-trained dancer. I’ve been relying on instructional DVDs and filming myself in order to self-critique and keep my dance practice moving forward. I had become desperate for professional feedback and a review of my skills by a dance teacher within the bellydance genre whose opinion I respected.

Devi has always been (as a teacher, dancer and person) someone I’ve respected enormously, so when the opportunity to receive personalized critique and feedback came along I was thrilled. Having my skills scrutinized by someone I admired so much was initially daunting. I was worried I might have nerves similar to performing but as soon as the group was together I felt immediately at ease. Devi’s warm and laid-back personality created a safe and welcoming space for us all to dance and learn without the feeling of judgment or comparison.

Her instruction was clear and she broke the moves down perfectly. The attention to detail and explanation of the nuances of how the moves should feel, as well as look, was invaluable insight.

At the end of July I headed off to teach a day of workshops in Morroolbark Melbourne, hosted again by the lovely Red Earth Ghawazee ladies. It was a full on day but lots of fun. {love the Melbourne gals!} & then it was off to perform at OMEDA’S Winter concert. This was a lot of fun & was set in the beautiful Thornbury Theater which was just gorgeous. There was a huge variety of bellydance on show which always makes things interesting.

There are lots of things up & coming as we all start to think of end of year shows & concerts. The next big thing for us Tribal enthusiast of course is Australia’s own Tribal & Trance Fest held here in Sydney on the 11th to 14th October. This is a biannual event that has been running since 2006 when I hosted the first one in The Blue Mountains. This has since been taken over by Debra Napier & is now held in Parammatta Sydney which is a great location as there are many restaurants & accommodation available. For more info including all workshops as well as Samantha’s workshops, Red Carpet performance, markets & the all day Soiree please check

November is also shaping up to be a huge month. I will be spending the first 2 weeks in Norway, Germany & Belgium & will then be preparing for the Jillina show. Yes I know Jillina [of the BDSS} is hardly Tribal but what self respecting belly dancer of any genre would miss the opportunity to learn from her or to see her perform?! She will be here in Sydney from Nov 30th to Dec 5th, contact Jrisi: & Adelaide on Dec 7th to 10th, contact Keke:

On Saturday 24th November I will be co hosting the lovely Yamina from Perth to share with us some Belly Samba which should be lots of fun so if you live in the Blue Mountains or close by please come on by & check it out. We may even have some live music with King Parrot Samba!

Saturday December 1st {yes the same weekend that Jillina will be here!}, Ghawazi Caravan & I will be producing the next installment of Intertwine. Intertwine is a stage show that I directed in 2009/2010 that brings together various forms of dance & music from all over the globe. We use only live musicians of course & Intertwine “Birds of Paradise” has a totally new & exciting line up of musicians. The audience will be taken on a journey from Africa, Egypt, Turkey, Spain, Israel, Brazil, Japan & beyond. Every member of the show has a wealth of talent & knowledge in their field & I feel very honored to be able to work with them all. Keep watching this space for more info in the coming months.

I am also working on sponsoring Deb Rubin in the Blue Mountains on the weekend of the 9th & 10th of February 2013. Deb is an amazing artist with a wealth of knowledge not only in dance but also on body therapeutics. She is a must for all dancers. If you are interested in registering for her workshops please contact me. . Deb will also be special guest at The Belly Dance Evolution Festival held in Newcastle, N.S.W. This great event will take place from the 15th to the 17th of February. For more info check out .

Now for my chat with Samantha. Hopefully many of you will get to see for yourselves what a great dancer she is at Tribal & Trance Fest Sydney. I hope to see you all there. I will be selling my new DVD at our Ghawazi Caravan stall this year { as well as handmade goodies by April & Cristie} so come & say hi. Till next time. XXX


1} Why & when did you start belly dancing?

My Mother brought me to dance originally. I was 15 with zero self esteem, and I think she hoped it would help me with confidence in myself. It was a local Oriental Belly Dance class here in the UK and I attended a few sessions but as I was quite the tom boy the style didn’t grab me and I didn’t return to Belly Dance until 2005 when I saw Carolena Nericcio on video. Finally I found an aesthetic and strong/proud form of Belly Dance that suited my personality…I never looked back. So I would say I really started dance practice at 25 years old, teaching myself from videos, then DVDs, and then finally headed to San Francisco to take classes.

2} Who were your first teachers/inspirations?

After the initial self taught by DVD years, my first actual real life teacher of ATS was the wonderful Wendy Marlatt. She was and continues to be a huge inspiration to me.  When I landed in San Francisco I trained with every teacher I could until the funds ran out. Mainly Suhaila Salimpour and Carolena Nericcio. I also kept in touch with Rachel Brice as I had met her in the UK in 2005 when I attended my first workshop, taught by Rachel. We got talking after the class and stayed in touch. I never thought I would dance professionally, until Rachel planted a seed, saying she believed I had potential.

3} So tell us a little more about Wendy.

Wendy is from San Francisco but she moved to Dublin Ireland for a few years. I heard she was teaching ATS there as she had trained at the FCBD studio so I headed to Dublin to study with her. She was my first real teacher, the first person I could actually get corrections from as before that I had only VHS video. She’s a sweetheart and one of my favorite dancers to watch. She is real when she dances. It’s beautiful. She’s back in San Fran now. Through Wendy I met Kathleen Crowley. Kathleen is the most talented seamstress’s I know. She is responsible for many of the costumes you will have seen on stages all over the world. Those two ladies hold a special place in my heart. Talented & awesome! I’m lucky I met them when I did. My journey started with them. We also performed together.

4} I heard that you have taken your General Skills certificate with Carolena. How important do you think it is for dancers interested in Fusion to study ATS & the more traditional styles?
I attended the first ever General skills certification with Carolena, yes.

I think it’s extremely important to know ATS as you need to know where your roots are. To fuse anything you need an understanding of the art form in my opinion. I still take ATS classes whenever I can while in the road. I also believe in cross training my dance study. I take as many workshops as I can while teaching at festivals and events, in any style of belly dance, it’s important for me to get out of my comfort zone… That’s where growth happens.

Whenever I can, I try classes in contemporary, ballet, martial arts, tango…anything!! That’s where new ideas come from. I also cross train in terms of fitness. Jogging, yoga, Pilates, swimming, hiking… Whatever I can squeeze in to maintain a level of strength, to avoid injury. These long flights can really take their toll physically so when I’m home I am keen to cross train in preparation for the next journey.
5} I have been to your workshops before & have found you to be a very approachable & fun teacher. What do you love about teaching?

Glad to hear you feel that way! I work better if I am having fun, and so I try my best to teach that way. I also feel humbled that any one would wish to invest their time and money in training with me and so of course I am approachable, I am your employee and there to give whatever I can in terms of teaching. Without the student, there is no workshop!  I prefer to work with other people than alone in my studio and so I guess that comes out in my workshops.

I love working through my personal thought process/approach to practice with other people and seeing how they respond to it, sharing what I have discovered, what has worked for me and then seeing the results in the workshops. It’s really encouraging and enriching.

6} Can you tell us a little about the dance scene in the UK & perhaps even broader within Europe?

To be honest I am traveling so much I am a little out of touch regarding the UK scene but I do know there is a strong core of very talented and hard working dancers there producing really interesting collaborations and quality theatre shows. It’s an exciting time in the UK right now. Across Europe the Tribal scene is exploding. Every country offers a soloist or troupe that is raising the bar higher every year with amazing choreography and clean technique. I am really lucky to be based in Europe now as it’s a short flight or train ride to get to see a new wave of Tribal Fusion pioneers. Look out world!
7} How did a dancer from the UK score herself a gig with the BDSS & what was it like?

Luck, Rachel Brice and a lot of hard work got me into BDSS.  It was crazy. It was not something I planned. I just wanted to dance but never believed in myself enough to dare consider it a career. It took Rachel seeing potential in me for me to take the risk, face the fear and fly to LA to audition in front of Miles Copeland.

It was really hard work for me coming into the troupe with no dance background. I really struggled with choreography but the group was so supportive and patient I got through it… I stayed up all night in hotel rooms watching the rehearsal videos. I had to learn to sew on the road as we all (Tribal) made our own costumes. It was a full on experience but worth every moment. I learned a lot and I learned it fast as there was no other way!

8} How do you find traveling the world teaching & performing? What are some of your favorite places to go?

I love travel. I always have. I have lived in trucks and caravans since I left home as a teenager so travel is in me. I never forget how lucky I am to get to travel and perform. My favorite place to be is in theatres. I love the buzz backstage. I love being on stage, so to get to do this professionally is crazy lucky!

My favorite places to go? I have so many…. I think the countries I have actually spent time in would be favorite as I have been able to experience the place rather than fly in and out over a weekend and only see the inside of a hotel. Mexico, Japan, Eastern Europe, West coast of the States and Canada… Too many to list!
9} Can you tell us a little about your day to day life? What are you interested other than dance of course!

Right now my day to day life is based around building a house with my husband. Its our first ever place and we are self building so all my time is focused on that project. It’s a timber frame with Hemp walls and Solar heating system. It will be nice to get out of the caravan!

Interest wise, if I have time in between work and building I like to jog with my dog and read. Sewing my own costumes and trawling antique markets for vintage fabric and trinkets. I am really into cooking and juicing and making my own raw chocolate based desserts.

10} what are your plans for the future?

My dance plans for the future? Much the same as they have always been, simply to be the best dancer I can be, to work hard and continue to share my work. To find a better balance between work life and private life. Find balance. Be present.