How did you catch up with bellydance?
It was in 1979, during a trip through Africa which started in Egypt. I slept in the girls dormitory of the Cairo youth hostel. One evening the girls took some chairs to tap a strange rhythm on and started to move their hips and other limbs in a dance at that time unknown to me.
So after that you started bellydancing?
No not immediately, back in Belgium I gave ethnic dances to earn a living but took workshops of bellydance with Wendy Buonventura, author of nummerous historical works on bellydancing. When she returned to England the director of the organizing dance school, Jetty Roels, asked me to start a bellydance course. I already had the basic movements as a second nature so it became obvious that this was to be on my way. I'm still very gratefull to Jetty Roels that she gave me the chance to develop my dance talent. I stayed many years in het school d'Oude kapel (old chapel) and many of my old students like Samyra, Aida and Maya Sapera started an oriëntal dancing career and are still active dancers and teachers, and I'm very proud of them.
From the beginning of your dance career, you worked a lot together with live musicians, what was your experience with them?
Indeed, from the moment I started to doing oriental dance, I worked together with many Middle Eastern, Turkish and North-African musicians. I learn enormously from them, and it definitely marked my style. Dancing with Turkish bands gave me the knowledge of 9/8 rhythms. Even had private lessons from a Turkish imam who played qanoun but it had to remain secret so I won't mention his name :-)
Many of the most remarkable moments in my career were the shows and festivals with live musicians. Still remeber the Sfinx festival with Al Kholoud, the festival with the musicians of Cheb Kader, notably Djamel Ben Yelles (Jane Birkin, Cheb Mami, Cheb Kader, Khaled, Sven Väth, Faudel), the shows in Athens with the Stars of Damascus, the show with Arno and Roland and the many other known and lesser known bands.
Strange is that your picture was on a CD cover long after you quit oriental dance?
I was pretty surprized too!!! Of course I had been involved in the first Abdel Hazim productions, as Hatshepsut was written for me... That was even at the time I still teached in d'Oude Kapel. Almost the entire Hatshepsut album was made with percussionist, composer and singer Abed Halabi. I worked 2 full months with in him in an oriental show in Athens, Greece. A few tracks appeared on the "Bellydance revolutions" album of producer Abdel Hazim. The photo sessions for the Hatshepsut CD where not used but apparently were collected from the archives to be used on another CD production.
What's your story on using the pictures of Aziza Gizeh for your album covers?
The CD was named "Bellydance revolutions" so I wanted something special. As Aziza has been an very important factor in the development of my carreer, it became obvious that this was a way to show my respect. And a dancer with a sword was never used on any bellydance album as far as I know. So the choice of my stock pictures was quite obvious. Some of the old video production I made in 1980 was also used in the video Zarmina as we didn't want the usual video style for the clip.
You're currently working on a new album together with Abdelkader Zahnoun, another musician Aziza Gizeh worked frequently with...
Indeed. In fact I used to be the guest percussionist in Khader's band Al Kholoud. Khader is a very old friend. Met him by coincidence on a few concerts and one thing leads to another and soon we found ourselves working together on a some tracks. Many of the rhythms are the things I played as percussionist with Al Kholoud.
Are you planning to go touring
Not really, the creative process is mostly done in the studio with musicians working on different project. On the other hand I miss the interaction playing live with oriental dancers. But enjoying performances by Ava Fleming and others gave me fresh inspiration for quite a few tracks and so did Leyla Jouvana.