Kajira Djoumahna, the woman of Tribal Fest®

Paola Maluje
Bailarina y profesora de Danza Fusión Tribal

Versión en Español

1-. Kajira, please tell us about your beginnings in the world of dance and how you finally focused on tribal style bellydance?

KD - I started with traditional folkloric and American Cabaret style, actually a fusion of it’s own! I have danced in troupes for years.  I also studied traditional forms from Egypt (Oriental & Folkloric), Turkish (still a fave of mine is Turkish Romany style), other North African styles, including Moroccan Guedra (which is a specialty of mine), Odissi classical dance of India, but Tribal is a favorite of mine because it is a is not beholden or bound by another cultures ideas of “how we should dance”.

2-. Can you tell us how BlackSheep Bellydance troupe started?

KD – BSBD evolved from my earlier troupes, Fata Morgana & United We Dance. After 9/11 we took the name of my festival production company “BlackSheep BellyDance” to be less political and because I always felt like Carolina’s (Nericcio of FCBD®) little “Blac Sheep” because I would ask things in class like “why don’t we turn the chorus?” or “why don’t we us the other side of the body?”  LOL  J So it felt appropriate. J    

3-. Which have being the most important challenges in your career, how did you get beyond them?

KD - My health is my most difficult challenge and sometimes it is a day to day struggle. But whenever I dance or teach, especially, I focus on that and find it so healing. I always feel better when I dance or teach.

4-. We always see your husband Chuck as a very active and visible force behind Tribal Fest® project, can you tell us some more about his role in this regard?

KD – When I started Tribal Fest® I had a partner named Ellen Cruz. But after TF 3 or 4 she retired. I was able to manage alone for a couple of years, but since Tribal Fest® 7 he has been my “online guy” and the one who keeps it alive on the internet. He also does the sound for the event and keeps me sane. I still schedule the show, vendors and write the web site. This year I am training a Staff Coordinator to take over the Staff.    - Chuck adds “people think I do more than I really do because I am the guy online that they see all the time making posts and answering the e-mails. (I am typing this response for her) Kajira will ask my thoughts on teachers, or maybe a class or two and I got to pick a couple themes but the bottom line is, and this is something I really want people to know, is that Kajira does ALL the heavy lifting. She picks the teachers, the classes, she picks the performers, vendors, tells everyone where to set up, when to dance and everything. I help out, give my thoughts, but this event is really the blood, sweat and many tears of Kajira Djoumahna. It would not happen without her. If something were to even happen to Kajira, that would be it… no more Tribal Fest®

5-.How was the Tribal Fest® idea born?

KD – There simply wasn’t anything like it at the time and I felt the Tribal Community in the San Francisco Bay Area needed a festival of “our own”. I have always loved the adage “find a need and fill it” and that is exactly what I did when I created Tribal Fest® At TF 12 we had attendees from 26 different countries, 23 represented on stage, so I guess it was a good idea!  J  LOL

6-. Where is Tribal Fest® heading in the long run? Can you give us some insight into Tribal Fest® 2013?

KD - Since Tribal Fest® 7 we have used subtitles. Tribal Fest® 13’s is “Halfway To Halloween” so we brought a lot of spooky Halloween decorations this year to dress up the area, halls and classrooms. We look forward to seeing what some dancers come up with during their sets that will go along with or be inspired by the theme. At Tribal Fest® 12 “The Year Of The Unicorn” we had many Unicorn themed performances and the year before was the Spinal Tap inspired theme “Take It To 11!”. The subtitles are one of the things that help keep Tribal Fest® fresh and not always the “same old thing”… Each year brings a little different vibe to the event.  …. As far as where is Tribal Fest® heading? That will be up to the people who attend and co-create the magic with us every year. We are open to ideas!
Tribal Fest® has been the cradle for many great talents over time.  How doest that make you feel?

 KD – Grateful! Fantastic! Happy! We are lucky to have been “the place” for people to want to go to. So we have been able to attract amazing talent each year. We have also been fortunate to help nurture new dancers and find “up-n-comers” who became stars, or well-known in part because they were seen at Tribal Fest®. It is a place to “see and be seen”. J
Based on your incredible track record:  what advice would you give any tribal style dancer in the world to build an appealing and sustainable value proposition for her as an artist and as a teacher? 

KD - Be yourself. Study hard & learn all that you can, then take what feels right for you and leave the rest behind. Don’t be a copy of someone else. As Caroleena used to say “a copy is never as good as the original” and “Always imitated, never duplicated”. Those are words to live by.

Any advice to tribal style dancers in order to overcome the often heard critic from the community of the belly dance world?

KD – Learn as much as you can about other styles of dance so you can relate and communicate more effectively with dancers of other styles. Also this is a good way to round out your own education. People in America have stopped criticizing Tribal once they saw we were educated and didn’t misrepresent ourselves. They also saw that we weren’t going away; in fact we are growing daily so they probably realized they have to deal with us eventually, LOL!  And don’t take yourself so seriously that you lose your sense of humor, or lose the FUN of the dance, which is why we all start anyway.
Remember that critics often come from ignorance or fear, and that by continuing to do your best
they will learn to cope with the idea of a peaceful coexistence. Just smile and wish them well and don’t give them anymore of your time or energy.


Tribal Fest®: The One, The Only, The Original & BSBD present
Tribal Fest® 13: "Halfway to Halloween!"
May 14-19, 2013
BlackSheep BellyDance
"It's more than a series of steps."...
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