Devi Mamak

Devi Mamak

Artistic Director, founder, principal teacher, troupe member

Devi Mamak is troupe member and artistic director of the award winning Ghawazi Caravan, based in the Blue Mountains, NSW, since 2000. She is considered one of Australia’s premier Tribal Bellydance and American Tribal Style (ATS)® dancers, teachers and choreographers, having trained many of the top dancers in the genre. Devi has earned a reputation as a patient and thorough teacher. As a performer she is renowned for her strong stage presence and innovative, colourful choreographies.

Highly sought after as a teacher and performer, Devi regularly teaches around Australia and NZ, Asia, Europe and the U.S.A.

Devi has also studied a variety of Middle Eastern dance styles herself for well over a decade as well as Flamenco, Classical Indian and Ballet. Devi has travelled to San Francisco several times to study with the masters of Tribal Bellydance and has dedicated herself to ATS® since 1999. U.S.A teachers include FCBD®, Gypsy Caravan, Jill Parker, as well as ‘Bellydance Superstars’, Rachel Brice and Kaeshi Chai.

Devi has also attended workshops and/or classes with Karen Gehrman, Jessie Gauld, Colette Hunter, Megha Gavin, Suhalia Salimpour, Kajira Djoumahna, Tribal Feat, Rachel Lazurus Soto, Paulette Rees Denis. Classes/workshops with local teachers include Jrisi Jusakos, Terezka Drinzik, Ruth Brent, Sarah Hamilton, Susan Brown, Diane Dupont, Mel Rogers, Gintarus, Belyssa and of course her first teacher, Kaiya Seaton.

Devi has also completed two teacher development courses with renowned Australian dancers, Belyssa and Terezka.

Devi is the first person in Australia to be accepted into Carolena Nericcio’s intensive Teacher Training Course. Devi has now received her teaching accreditation in the highly regarded Fat Chance Belly Dance (FCBD)® format, with several of Ghawazi Caravan movements being accepted into the format, featured, as are Ghawazi Caravan, on DVD Volume 9: Anatomy of a Step. Devi has been invited to perform and co-teach the General Skills test with Carolena both in Australia and Taiwan.

She has also collaborated with well known dancers such as Deb Rubin and was invited to be part of Belly dance Evolution by Director Jillina Carlando where she got the opportunity to work alongside Jillina, Kaeshi Chai, Sharon Kiharaand other great artists.

Devi regularly performs at functions ranging from community events, festivals, as well as private and corporate functions. Devi has been invited to be a part of major funded productions such as Unmasked and The Firebird where she had the opportunity to work collaboratively with dancers and musicians of various styles including Mory Trarore, Emily Cooper, Colin Berryman, Pandit Ramchandra Suman, John May, Miriam Leiberman, Elizabeth Cameron Dalman and Keith Kempis.

Other artistis Devi has worked with include Jrisi Jusakos, Karen Gehrman, Tarek Sawires, Andy Bussutil, Skorba, Sekhyl and Hyde, Solace, Jeff Rees, Bobbi Singh, Al Maha, Karen Wray, Lester Iyves, Waiting for Guiness, Paulette Rees Denis, Belyssa Radzivanas, Achusla, Amera Eid and Hilary Cinis.

In 2009, Devi and Ghawazi Caravan received funding from The Cultural Partnerships program to produce Intertwine which was a uniquely diverse show which drew together dancers, musicians and artists of varied disciplines and styles, braiding their talents together into a compelling and cohesive whole, intertwining cultural traditions and an ebullient creative spirit, presenting the result in a theatre style environment. Intertwine was a huge success which included 3 sell out shows. The latest installment of Intertwine was picked up by the Sydney Fringe Festival for September 2010.

Devi holds weekly classes in ATS for all levels and ages in the Blue Mountains and is regularly invited to teach workshops interstate and internationally. She is  the Artistic Director of student troupes, Ghaziya and Ghawazi Girls.

Devi regularly sponsors major proponents of ATS® from the U.S.A. and in 2006 hosted the first Australian Tribal and Trance Festival which was a huge success with participants attending from all over Australia, N.Z and the U.S. Devi is also a classically trained, conservatorium accredited piano teacher with 34 years teaching experience (having begun teaching at age 14) and is a mother of two.

Devi Mamak Interview

What is your date of birth and where did you grow up?
17th July, 1967. I was born in San Francisco and spent some time there as well as Los Angeles. I have also lived in Hawaii, Fiji and various parts of Sydney. I have been living in the Blue Mountains since 1991.

What do you do for a living?
I am a Conservatorium Accredited piano teacher with an ATCL and LTCL in classical piano. I have been teaching piano since 1981. I have been teaching ATS belly dance since 2000. The classes have grown from 1 to several classes per week. I am often asked to give regular private and group classes and workshops for students in and around Sydney as well as interstate, N.Z, Europe, Asia & the U.S.A. I am also a mother of two.

What about your personal life?
I have a partner Anthony. We have been together since 1986. We have a boy Kalon and a girl Diamanda.

How long have you been dancing?
Since 1996.

What other dance styles have you done?
My first belly dance teacher (and in my eyes always my teacher) Kaiya Seaton taught a variety of different styles including classical and modern Egyptian, Baladi, Sha’abi, Pharonic, and Zaar. I studied Ballet as a child and have dabbled with Flamenco and classical Indian (Odissi style) which I loved. Very structured and challenging!

Learning other belly dance styles before ATS has really helped as a teacher & as a dancer/choreographer & performer.

I also enjoy using weights and yoga which I believe help with my ability as a dancer. Using weights has really helped me to execute strong arm movements and the yoga has helped me with my flexibility and suppleness all of which are important aspects of ATS.

How long have you been doing ATS(r)?
Since 1999. I went to San Francisco for several months and took as many classes as I could with Carolena Nerricio and the team at FCBD. I’ve been hooked ever since!

What appeals to you about ATS(r)?
Everything! The “oneness” in particular. I love how everyone has the same opportunity to lead and follow, to show their strong points and to also know that your fellow dancers will help hide your bad points! I love how it suits all ages and body types. I love the posture and the strong arms presentation. I love the improvising, the zilling and of course the costumes!

Any other dance passions?
For sure! I am inspired by many different styles & have taken classes in a variety of styles. All of our choreographies will have an ATS(r) base but likewise many will be influenced by Flamenco or Classical Indian [my personal favs!] but may also include Classical Egyptian, contemporary or even Ballet! I really feel that for us having a strong ATS(r) base has helped us create beautiful lines in out body & movement not matter what we are playing with.

I have also been having fun with teaching the new “Pot Luck Specialty Class” where students will get to experience & play with some of these different ideas

What are your hobbies?
Music. I love classical, jazz, funk, gospel. Some of my favourites are War, Chopin, Sly and the Family Stone, Tom Waits, Aretha Franklin, Taj Mahal, The stones, Bowie, Nick Cave, Beethoven, Amy Winehouse, Betty Davis. (the list is so huge I think I better stop!). I love going out dancing (actually I think you can learn a lot this way!) although I don’t have much time these days. I love sitting down one on one with friends and philosophising .I also love interior design. (I really am a home body!)

What dancers inspire you?
The belly dance list is too long so I’m going to go with Michael Jackson, John Travolta and of course Fred Astaire.

Where do you see yourself and Ghawazi Caravan in the future?
I would love to continue working with everyone in Ghawazi Caravan as I think I am the luckiest teacher around to have such a talented, dedicated & nice bunch of gals to work with. Each & everyone of them inspire me. I would also like to work with other musicians & dancers & creating & growing together. I guess I still want to see how far I can take it but determined to have a damm good time while doing it!