Originally from France, Mayel, her husband, Francois and daughter, Alma live in London. Mayel is an exquisite dancer, every shape she forms delightful. I have loved watching her develop. She has been the principle dancer in several dance companies, including Johara, Company of Dreams and the female lead in Ozgens shows. Mayel takes bellydance seriously and believes in studying and training hard to achieve results. – Kay
How did you get into belly dance?
I grew up in France surrounded by North African music, Dance and Culture but it wasn’t until I went to University that I started to actually learn the Art of Belly Dance. I had my first experience of performing on stage at the age of 4. It was in France, a children’s musical and for the next 10 years we worked on a different musical every year. At this time I was also training as a rhythmic gymnast and starting to enter competitions – good experience for later!
One day my friend said she had found a bellydance class. This was 15 years ago. It has become my passion, my calling and I have never looked back.
Tell us a bit about your dance journey – how did you end up being a professional dancer?
I moved to London in 2007 and my dance teacher in France had recommended me to go to Jo Wise classes… I’m so grateful she did as it felt like rediscovering belly dance all over again. It also allowed me to meet some amazing dancers who have become my dance family. After a couple of years of attending Jo’s classes I joined Johara Dance Company and it is also when I started to dance in restaurants. I was
working as a part time French teacher and I could do with some extra money to cover the cost of classes, workshops and costumes etc… I started by being a cover dancer in a restaurant in London. In 2012 I won the Belly Dance Trophies – which was the biggest London competition at that time. It gave a boost to my dance career and helped me to little by little build my network and get my own gigs.
What did you like most – and what did you like least – about being a professional dancer in London?
What I love the most is the connection you can developp with your audience. When people are receptive, appreciate the Art or are curious about the Culture then it makes my job really easy and lovable.
The Belly dance comunity is always so encouraging and welcoming but when you dance in restaurants it’s a different world, you need to have thick skin… As there are still people out there who don’t know anything about our dance style and get the wrong idea. You also need to deal with constant competition and need to always be at the top of your game.
How did you get into teaching? And what do you like most about teaching?
In 2010 if I remember well I started my training to become a JWAAD teacher. It is a very complete course that allowed me to learn a lot about teaching methods, musicality, the culture & history of the dance.
Once I got my diploma it gave me the confidence to start to run my own classes and workshops in London and in the UK.
What I love the most about teaching is watching my student grow and become their very own dancing self.
You have a young daughter – how do you balance motherhood with your dance work?
It is the biggest challenge to be honest and I had to reduce a lot of my dancing time.
But I feel lucky to still being able to dance and teach as I need it to keep me balanced… I have a great partner. Whenever he is at work I look after our daughter and when he comes home I go out and teach or gig. I manage to make it work as being a mum developed a new organised side of me I didn’t even know existed… but I have to admit being a mum is a full time job itself and I’m definitely not taking as much work as I used to.
You have worked with several dance companies – tell us about the highlight of your time.
Stage is my 1st love really… my cathartic place… it allows me to wash away all the negative in my life. It is my way of meditating. I’ve had the chance to works with very talented choreographers and directors such as Jo Wise, Charlotte Desorgher and Ozgen on Theatrical productions. With Ozgen I got to go to Australia to dance in his show… It has been such an incredible experience!
In order to join Company of Dreams, I had to train myself in jazz and
ballet so I could add a new repertoire of moves and techniques to my belly dance. Touring with Company of Dreams has been a dream come true really as I was paid to do something I absolutely love, I learnt so much from the other dancers and it created a bond between us that is so unique!
My style has gained so much working with commercial, ballet and jazz trained dancers.
As belly dancers in restaurants or cabaret settings we are used to dance solo and on the spot. Most of the time we dance in 2 dimensions and we are not aware of our arms (as there is no space to use them really!) So learning group dances as well as working with a partner definitely pushed my boundaries and taught me how to adapt, use space and trust my fellow dancers …
Theatre is a great place to develop creativity… everything is allowed, the limit is limitless. (You can see Mayel here performing
at the Arab Quarterly)
What do you like to do to relax?
I’m honestly not the most relaxed person… but breathing exercises really help me.
What is your star sign?
I’m a Virgo, a perfectionist with all the good and bad that comes with it. lol
What is your favourite colour and why?
I don’t have a favourite colour… It keeps changing with my moods. But to wear I love red! I think it is what suit me the best but somehow I keep buying pink belly dance costumes.
At Fantasia you are teaching ‘Crazy Oriental Combos’ – can you tell us a bit about what to expect:
I’m super excited to be teaching at Fantasia again this year.
The workshops will cover some unique foot patterns and cool combinations using different techniques and styles to wow the crowd in your choreographies or improvisations.
Lastly, what would you like to be doing in 5 years time?
In 5 years time, my dream would be to tour again in a theatrical show… And possibly my own show.
Fantasia is Londons longest established bellydance festival. If you haven’t been to a Fantasia Bellydance Festival yet, now is the time!