When local belly dancers Krystal Marie Juarbe and Nelleke Pielaat took second place at the Belly Dancer of the World Competition in Germany three years ago, they wanted to go back to try to win the top prize.
“We’ve just been traveling as much as we could to perform. We get sponsored to teach and do workshops,” Juarbe said in a phone interview about what she and Pielaat have been doing since 2011. “Just before we were in Germany, we were in Montreal (Canada) learning from two master instructors. We were there for a week.”
They got their chance to return to the world competition last month. They and about 500 competitors took part in this year’s event, performing in front of judges and a live audience.
“It can be intimidating because you’re competing with a lot of dancers. But when you’re in front of a general audience, the dance is so enchanting that they’re mesmerized,” said Juarbe, who has been belly dancing for six years. “We went out there. We believed in our dance, style and technique.”
The competition began at 2 p.m. and didn’t end until 1 the next morning. The two Kauaians were side-by-side waiting for the announcement, and were beside themselves when the winners were named.
“They announced, ‘First place, all the way from Hawaii!’ We were just ecstatic. We couldn’t believe we did it,” Juarbe said. “We jumped up and down a little bit, hugged and then took our bow.
“We saw some of our competitors. They did an amazing job. They were also deserving,” she added. “We traveled across the world for two days. We practiced for six months for this thing. It was all worth it.”
After winning, the two spent some time in Spain to perform and as well as celebrate. They arrived to Kauai sometime afterwards separately as Pielaat stayed in Europe to visit family.
Juarbe said while she’s catching up on work since she’s returned, she and her partner are still training and looking to the future. She hopes they will attend a belly dancing intensive in Crete, Greece next summer.
“Just having the title doesn’t mean you stop. We’re still training and coming up with new material. We’re talking about what we can do for new shows here and raise more money. That’s how we support ourselves to continue to learn from master instructors and professionals,” she said. “You never stop learning. It’s always evolving.”