Tribal Chit Chat with Devi by Hilary Cinis

An interview between Devi Mamak and Hilary Cinis on the First Australian Tribal & Trance Festival.

Published in The Palace magazine
Issue 39- May 2006

When Devi First mentioned the idea of our own tribal and trance festival right here in Australia I, along with other dancers were so excited and naturally had heaps of questions for her. So I popped up to her home in the Blue Mountains and we had a chat about it over some tea on her back deck.

HC: So I suppose the most obvious question to get out of the way is why have a dedicated Tribal festival?

DM: I have been very passionate about ATS since 1999. In those days there really was no other ATS teachers that I knew of and certainly none in my area. It was very frustrating for me to be a tribal dancer on my own. This is why I started teaching.

ATS [and it’s close neighbours] have gained popularity in this country like wild fire & while this is true most ATS troupes are spread far and wide across the country. Many ATS enthusiasts have to travel quite a distance for workshops and in some cases classes. I’m hoping that the festival will be a great avenue to get together, network, learn & make new friends with similarly inspired people. As a forever student I certainly would love this opportunity.

Another reason to have a tribal inspired festival is that I feel it would really put Australia on the map, as far as Tribal goes anyway. Here in Australia we have many talented and innovative artists. Bout time others took notice!!


HC: And apart from living locally and it being a gorgeous part of the country, why the Blue Mountains?


DM: I think the mountains is a great place to host a festival for a few reasons apart from I/we [Ghawazi Caravan] living here. It is very close to Sydney and is a very popular tourist destination with many beautiful national parks & world heritage areas to visit. Not to mention the quaint and interesting shops, galleries, cafes & restaurants. People attending the festival will have heaps to do outside of the festival itself & if it’s peace & quite they are after then you can’t get much more tranquil than the Blue Mountains. I have sponsored several overseas teachers over the years & have always hosted the events in the Blue Mountains. Attendees from all over Australia and N.Z have attended & I have had nothing but positive feed back on the location of these type of events.

We also have a fabulous community up here. The locals are so supportive of everything that I and Ghawazi Caravan do. They are really helping with this all the way.


“I find the history & meaning behind various dance forms & their movements fascinating. I also have a great respect for these traditional forms & personally like to go back to the “source” every so often, even as an observer or philosophiser if not a dancer.


HC: When you first had the idea, what did you envision and how has it developed?

DM: Well funny thing is I think in the back of my mind somewhere I knew I would be doing this! However this was not the original plan & in no way did I think I would ever be presenting this on my own!  Awhile ago Raine [Ghawazi Caravan memeber & assistant admin] had mentioned the idea to me but i didn’t feel confident enough that the two of us could pull it off. In 2004 Terezka contacted me & suggested we present a festival & co sponsor it together. I loved the idea of having a partner that had been in the dance scene for so long & agreed. At that point our visions were quite big but not very different to how they stand today. We wanted the festival to embrace ANYTHING tribal. ATS of course but also a focus on dance/music traditions such as classical Indian, Flamenco, Aboriginal, Moroccan, African, Russian. Any teachers/performers we could get our hands on really, as long as the quality was there. There was also to be an equal focus on music as well as dance. After all what is the dance without music?

Terezka has since pulled out of the project due to over commitments so I have decided to scale down just a tad. Two days now, instead of three. There is still heaps of workshops to choose from. Mainly ATS & tribal fusion but there are also other workshops to choose from, African to Zaar & beyond….! There is also more dance & less music, at least for the first one.

I am going with a more ATS base for now as I think these workshops will do really well as people are hungry for as much ATS as they can get at this point in time. As the festival continues I will pay attention to the ground swell of interest & see where to make changes if any. It has been alot of work & I couldn’t do it all without the help of Raine & kris Warburton, [who really are my right & left arm as far as the festival goes!] all the Ghawazi’s, Groovii Biscuit & you!

HC: How do see that Tribal and Trance fit together?

DM:I want to add elements to the festival from other traditional & folkloric dance styles / music as I mentioned earlier. I find the history & meaning behind various dance forms & their movements fascinating. I also have a great respect for these traditional forms & personally like to go back to the “source” every so often, even as an observer or philosophiser if not a dancer.  I love the idea of the festival leaving the participants with a feeling that they have just been on an archaeological expedition or that they have learnt something about another place or time.

I also have great admiration for the innovative artists who successfully fuse their art of choice. This is what I love so much about ATS & in particular what Carolena Nericcio & FCBD have done.ATS has fused traditional dance forms so beautifully that the audience cannot tell where the seams are. The fact that ATS is often mistaken for “authentic” says to me that it works. So there you have it. I’m torn. I love the traditions & I love the innovative!

So back to the question! Very simple really Tribal & Trance festival has a nice ring to it. Tribal & folkloric festival or Tribal & world Festival just isn’t the same Besides Trance dance is done in many different countries for various reasons, even in today’s modern, western society.  Tribal & Trance. Both embrace both the old & the new.

HC: Another thing we’re all dying to know is, are you bringing out any international acts and guest teachers?


DM: Oh yes!!! As well as having many fabulous teachers from the local area & from around Australia & N.Z we also have Carolena Nericcio [Artistic Director, Fat Chance Belly Dance] from San Francisco & Megha Gavin [Artistic Director, Devyani dance company. Affiliated with FCBD]  from Alabama teach for the whole weekend. The workshops are titled Tribal Pura & embrace the original form of ATS [as there are so many off shoots now].


HC: Is there going to be any other dance and music? Shopping?


DM: There will be performing all day Sunday for anyone who wants to come along [keeping in mind out themed event]& a “red carpet night” performance for teachers of the festival & special guests. Oh yes & shopping of course!!!. Lotsa Tribal goodies to buy!


HC: Who are you hoping will come along?


DM: Well the dance community of course, but not just the Tribal belly dance community but the belly dance community itself. There will be plenty on offer for anyone interested in a variety of styles. There will also be friends & family of local dancers & of course the locals themselves. Besides belly dancers [tribal or otherwise] I’m hoping it will interest other dancers & musicians locally, nationally & perhaps internationally.