The Gap Between the Festival World and the 'Real World'

In 2005 started dancing in the Middle East and about two years ago I started splitting my time between the Middle East and teaching in (one of) my hometown(s), Stockholm as well as at international workshops and festivals.  
It was when I was reacquainting myself with the festival world that I was struck by the huge discrepancy between the festival world and what I call the ‘real’ world.  Now I realize that might sound snooty (but maybe that’s what enticed you to read this) but it’s shorter than ‘’clubs in the Middle East, performing to a native audience, with live music’.  
What is the difference you may ask? Well, for me there are 3 major factors, TIME, MUSIC and AUDIENCE. 
So, what I mean by TIME, is that my shows in the Middle East are most often around an hour in length. With that I have to create an arch to my show that spans and (hopefully) keeps the attention of the audience for that entire time.  
In contrast at festivals (for good reason) dancers are asked to shorten their performances to 3-7 min.  and what I’ve seen is a lot of dancers pulling out all the stops during these 3-7 minutes which as a person used to the pace of the Middle East can be a little exhausting, dare I say assaulting? 
Now for the second factor MUSIC.  It’s rare to find live music at festivals which once again is understandable since they are rarely available outside the Middle East, but it’s none-the-less tragic. The spontaneity of live music not only ads excitement but it is the only way (in my opinion) to bring out the highest level of genuine expression.  If you dance to a CD you ultimately know what is going to happen and thus your expression will more likely be rehearsed, not a matter of pure reaction.
Lastly the AUDIENCE.  At festivals we are of course dancing for other dancers (and perhaps their spouces or family that have been towed along), people who know what you are doing and have a totally different eye when looking at the dance.  I think this incites a style of dancing that is aimed at showing people what you can do rather than entertaining them, rather than moving them.  
I think it’s great that there are festivals.  I think they are a great venue for us as a community to explore in areas of fusion, to share with each other etc. but I hope that people understand that this this gap between the two worlds exist. 
My personal wish is that there is a more live music present at festivals, I think that would be a first step in narrowing the gap or perhaps building a bridge to what I call the ‘real’ world.  
Let me take this moment to plug a sponsor who is doing just this, Maelle ( is organizing a show on the 3rd of October in Brussels with……you guessed it, LIVE MUSIC.  I will be performing as well as many great dancers from the area as well as from Holland and the UK.  Please check it out here.  I will be teaching workshops the following days, for info on those click here. 
Also, do you want to learn how to dance to live music? Do it! A  tip is to check out Suhaila Salimpour’s certification program here, live improve is required…. and de-mystified.