Asi Haskal is the most famous designer of bellydance costumes In Middle East.
Moreover he is famous as a talented bellydancer. His performances were highly appreciated by legendary Farida Fahmi and Mahmoud Reda.
How that happened, and his secrets about the creations of his costumes Asi told to special correspondent of Russian “Oriental” magazine Yulia Avdeeva (Silk). – Asi, is there big Iraqi community in Israel? Was Oriental dance a part of the daily life of your family? The roots of my family are from Iraq. Both of my parents were born there. Actually I was raised among the Arabic culture. In Israel there are a lot of Immigrants from Muslim countries such as: Iran, Turkey, Syria, Egypt, Morocco and more. It is a mix of cultures. The immigrants brought to Israel their habits, food, tradition, music and dance. You can find here all of this. We have the taste of all the Arab countries among us and we are exposed to their traditions.
So the dance and the culture are familiar to me and to the place I grew up. We have a big community of Iraqi people in Israel. For example, I have been performing at an Iraqi stage show that took place in Israel. At our family events such as weddings, we used to invite oriental dancers and debka groups to dance. My father used to record all the Arab films with belly dancers. And I watched them for hours and learned their dance and steps by heart, especially the dance of the famous belly dancer Nagwa Fuad for the song “ali lus”.
- What about your family’s reaction when they understood that you wanted to become a bellydancer? It wasn’t a shock to my family that I became a professional belly dancer. I have been dancing at all our weddings and celebrations a long time before without a costume. They like my dance and support it. They are happy that I do what I really love; they know that the dance is my destiny and I am only fulfilling it.
– You started to create costumes at 12! Is it a family tradition? What was the occupation of your parents? As I child I enjoyed so much to watch my grandmother knitting. One day secretly I took her needles from her wardrobe where she kept them and I tried to knit. At my uncle’s home I learned to sew. I began with making pillows, blankets. In every vacation I had from school I went to her home to learn more. I loved all the hand work and its materials. My mother is a housekeeper. My father is a Diamond merchant. None of them have ever knit or sewn.
- Do you remember your first designed costume? The first belly dance costume that I designed was at an early age and it was for a Barbie doll. Later on I was introduced to a famous belly dancer from Israel called Debi Goldman. She agreed that I would make her a costume. I collected many photos of costumes and made my own research. Once I took Debi’s costume and I ripped it apart in order to learn how to design a costume. Debi got a new costume designed by me: a silver one with flowers. – You create really amazing costumes! They are original, underline female beauty, feminity. How can you understand so deeply a woman’s feelings? Thank you, it is flattering me. Before I design a costume for a belly dancer I do a small research on her. I ask her to show me her videos, her style and her pictures. It is for my sake to make her look pretty in my costumes. Sometimes it is important to build a costume that will make her look finer, to hide some parts of the body or to expose them. Because I used to go with dancers to their shows and I have learned their needs and those of the audience, I can design for her a costume that will suit her. If the dancer needs a costume for a special dance, I ask her to send the music first, to get the atmosphere of the dance.
– What famous bellydancers dance in your costumes? There are a lot of famous dancers who wear my costumes. I won’t mention names because I don’t want to forget one of them! But there is a dancer that you are already know, and her name is Orit Mafchir, that I designed all her costumes.
- Asi, what about the group you joined as a designer and became a soloist? Please tell us how that happened? I had a friend that produced a belly dance festival. At that time all the productions used to call me and ask for belly dancers, and they needed a group of belly dancers for this festival. I called a friend of mine who has a school of oriental dance – her name is Tina. She said that she would build such a group on one condition: that I will be one of the dancers. After the show at the festival I started to get telephone calls from people who invited me to dance at their parties. It happened too fast and from then it is history.
– When you started to dance, what about the attitude toward male-bellydancers in Israel? During my time when I started to perform there were not a lot of male bellydancers in Israel. There were few. On TV shows they were seen as people that had tragedy because they are dancing and with bad relations with their relatives.
- As I know, you dreamed to visit Egypt from your childhood. How old were you when your dream came true? At the age of 16 was my first trip to Egypt. The trip to Cairo is an experience I won’t forget all my life.
- There you met with Nagua Fuad, Fifi Abdo, Dina, Soher Zaki, Mona El Said. How did you feel meeting such legendary bellydancers?
To see all those dancers, it was like meeting Madonna or Michael Jackson! I was so excited to see all those dancers that I had seen in films, to see them live. I remember the most the show with Fifi Abdo … she did a grand entrance with a lot of darbuka music. What a great sound! When she entered, the band stopped playing and there would be a spotlight on her face. The audience was silent to see where she was and to see on which side she would go to the stage. I was searching for her myself and then I saw her behind me. And in that moment, she shouted, “hopa” and I felt all her energy right next to me. I was chilled (in a good way, or course) and I was shaking, and from then on I said to myself … I wish I could be on the stage instead of her. I wish to be a dancer! The atmosphere was like a great fire!! And like a cupid, Fifi Abdo had shot me the arrow of the oriental dance! Then I met Mona Said who danced with a lot of emotion. She danced to “Lisa Faker” of Oum Kathoum with a lot of feeling. She cried during her dance and expressed the song the way it should really be presented. Sohair Zaki was so romantic in her dance, in spite of the age she was when I saw her dance … she danced like a really young lady. She danced in the original belly dance style and didn’t involve sex appeal with her dance. I didn’t see Dina the first time I was in Egypt; she had just begun to be famous. There were rumors at the night club that there was a belly dancer named Dina who was very good and classic, and that she was very special. And they said she does a strange thing: during a lot of her dance she puts her finger near her nose! We went to the market Khan el Kalili and we looked for her video; she only had one DVD at that time and of course we bought it!
- Who of the male-bellydancers is ideal for you? Thank god there are a lot of male bellydancers. Who is the ideal dancer? Every male dancer that is happy with