Belly Dance Festivals in Australia
Australia has some fabulous belly dance festivals. Most of them take place over a weekend and follow a similar structure, starting on a Thursday or Friday with workshops running all day for the duration. There will usually be a major performance one evening (showcasing professional dancers and advanced troupes), and a more casual dinner on another night, perhaps with a live band and some professional entertainment. The Sunday is an all-day bazaar with stalls selling belly dance costumes and accessories, while student of all levels get a chance to perform on the stage.
The first festival of the year is usually the Newcastle Belly Dance Festival. For a smaller regional city, this event punches above its weight. Perhaps it's because it is first cab off the rank, or maybe it's because accommodation is cheaper in Newcastle than in the capital cities, so it's more affordable. Or maybe it's just the great mix of styles! Originally held in January, it now usually takes place in February or March.
In May, it's the turn of the Sydney Middle Eastern Dance Festival, which was once the premier festival in the whole of Australia. In the last few years - perhaps because people have spent all their money at the Newcastle festival! - the number of workshops has reduced, but the show and dance night are always a sell-out, and you will still meet every belly dancer in Sydney at the Souk on Sunday. Here's an unusual number from the 2016 event!
Many Sydney dancers also travel to the WAMED Festival in Perth, which is held in June or July. It's a long way to go but is often well worth it, with international and interstate teachers offering workshops.
The TasMedFest is held annually in Launceston and is a bit of a moveable feast. Check on their Facebook page to see when it's scheduled this year as it can vary a lot. It's a small festival but if you've never been to Tasmania, it's an ideal opportunity to combine some belly dancing with a holiday discovering the Apple Isle.
The final festival on my list is the wonderful Bahar Bayram Middle Eastern Dance & Music Camp. It's unique in that it is a camp, not just a festival in a club or a church hall. Living on site (in cabins and dormitories) in a natural setting makes it a different experience from your average event, where everyone is scattered in different hotels and guest houses around the venue. It's also unusual in being for musicians as much as dancers, and it has a greater focus on the folkloric.
All of the above festivals welcome all styles of belly dance, but there is one festival which is aimed purely at the Tribal dancer - Tribal and Trance Fest, which is held every two years in Sydney. It's worth checking out their program even if you're not a Tribal dancer. I attended an amazing sword workshop one year, and their Red Carpet Night is something special: it's not just a parade of routines, it's a tightly coordinated, cohesive show and is always very professionally presented.
Recently I've seen both an Adelaide and a Brisbane festival advertised, but as far as I know they are not yet established, regular events. Watch this space!