Avignon Trip – France

A Divine journey to Avignon!

If you have a passion for something there is nothing better for the soul than to feed that passion. There is joy in the journey, the exploration, the creation, and the presentation with each piece as relevant and as inspiring as the next. It is not always about the end result but about the journey that you took to get there.

Divine Elements Belly Dance Company is just as the name suggests an acknowledgement of all the elements that go into the art of Belly Dance and the creation of performance art. It was formed in 2009 for the Adelaide Fringe with a vision of bringing Belly Dance in all its diversity to general audiences. Some of who may have never seen Belly Dance before, or may only know of it in one form or another.

Through our collaboration with The Garage International and with two successful shows in the Adelaide Fringe in 2010 and 2011 we were invited to perform in the larger Avignon Festival Le Off in France in July 2011. At the Heart of Belly Dance had a 14 show season booked at the Garage International venue at St Benezet at the Hotel Mercure in Avignon, an exciting but daunting task. Many hours of rehearsal time in Adelaide, planning, costume making and fundraising went into the trip that would see three of the Divine Elements and Belly Dance Arabesque dancers in the journey of a lifetime. Not only would we be performing our art but we would share it with audiences in France.

Sarah J, Sarah T and I left on July 11 on a 26hr journey on planes, trains and automobiles to the town of Avignon, a fortified town that is something straight out of the movies. This beautiful place took our breath away from the moment we laid eyes on the castle wall that surrounds it. We spent two and a half weeks there living and dancing right at the heart of the Festival. Our fourth floor apartment was nice and had an amazing view of the town and the Palais De Papas. We were living on one side of the town and performing on the other with no transport other than our feet. I have no idea how far we walked during our two and a half weeks but that combined with the four flights of stairs to our apartment and constant dancing made sure we were very fit!

Every day we busked in the squares and in the cobblestone streets, handing out flyers and promoting our show alongside the many other performers doing the same thing. We went out in costume, playing our zills and saying Bonjour and Merci and had the good fortune to dance with a Romanian Brass Band and some African Drummers who we met by chance in the street. It was both elating and exhausting, trying to generate interest in our little Belly Dance show from Australia.

Late every afternoon we would head back to the apartment to put on our full stage make up, hair and choose a costume to walk to the venue in. We would pack our suit case of dancers’ necessities and walk across town handing out more flyers along the way. Our shows were at 10pm at night which is just after dark and the streets were busier than ever. We made friends with some French Nomad Jewellery sellers who would always have their stall set up near our venue. It was nice to have some regular friendly faces in what seemed like an endless crowd of people.

Our audiences were varied and each night we never knew who or how many people we would have.  With 14 shows there was much variety in the audience and each night we gave 110%. It was fascinating as artists to feel our show growing and changing with each performance. You would think the nerves would have left early on but each night they crept back in ever so slightly.

Our dear friends, lighting and sound team Meg and Pete Stephens were our little slice of home and it was so nice to have them there. They supported us in so many ways, it would not have been the same without them. It was a joy to see them every night, and after the show we would all head off to our “regular” café to see our new friend and waitress LuLu and eat crepes at midnight, watching the buskers in the Palais Square.

We made sure we took time to do some sightseeing and see some festival shows, including that of our dear host and inspiration Shakti who really took our breath away with her Classic Nu. A big thank you goes to Shakti and her husband Jorg, who not only create these amazing spaces for the Garage International artists and audiences but who have also had faith in us from the beginning.

This trip has given us so much as artists and we have grown in so many ways. We will take this experience with us into our future projects and create new pieces, forever influenced by our journey to Avignon. We feel incredibly blessed to have been able to have this experience, with hard work and determination we made it there and back. Not forgetting the support of our families and our Belly Dance Arabesque community to whom we are eternally grateful. You have one life, don’t be afraid to follow your dreams, you never know where they will take you!