When I first heard about the Nova Nouveau production “Happily Never After”, I knew that I wanted to be in it.

I’ve been in ballet productions but to be in a belly dance one would be an amazing learning opportunity and so much fun. My plan was to keep auditioning until I (hopefully) got in. With each audition I aimed to learn and improve.

Once I sent in my audition forms, I received the audition choreography and got straight to work with great excitement.

I then had to film the audition before sending it in. This proved a bit of a challenge. Not only do I have limited space to dance but I also have two six year olds who want in on the action. We rearranged the furniture in our lounge, moved our outside spotlight inside for better lighting, and set up the camera in the family room looking into the lounge and balanced on a ladder. It took several attempts to get a take that wasn’t disturbed by a little person or cat. The end result had one little wail in it but it was complete and no one knocked the ladder. I paired it with a drum solo I did last year and pushed send. It was in and now the wait began.

Christmas passed, New Years passed and the audition closing date passed. I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to get in. I’m just little old me up against so many amazing dancers. A tiny fish in a big sea. I joked that if I did get in I would probably be a tree standing in the background waving my branches, and I would be ecstatic to just be part of it.

On the last day of our family holiday I checked my email. There was a email from Nova Nouveau, but it didn’t say “we regret to inform you”. It said “CONGRATULATIONS”. I screamed. I’m not the kind of person who screams in excitement. This was just too much excitement and happiness rolled into a split second. I was in. Me! I still feel that buzz every time I reflect on me being part of this amazing experience.

I received my casting and I’m not a tree flapping in the imaginary wind. I’ve got multiple parts and I love all of them.

This production has a challenge in that the cast members are from all across South Africa and Namibia. We can‘t all get together for rehearsals as dancers usually do for productions. Solution lies in technology. The choreographers film themselves both teaching and dancing the pieces and send the videos to the relevant dancers, along with notes and floor diagrams. We all will learn our parts and then put them together in the week before the shows.

Practicing these choreographies has already taught me more than just the dances. It has opened my eyes to different choreographers teaching methods, descriptions of moves and combos, as well as about how I learn. It’s also a practice in patience (not diving in trying to learn everything fast) and to not procrastinate. Slow and surely wins the race.

I am so excited to be in the Johannesburg cast for “Happily Never After”. There is still a far way to go till I know every step and can perform to the best of my ability, but each moment so far has been every bit the experience I expected. I can’t wait till I’m there, meeting everyone face to face and working together to bring the Nova Nouveau production teams vision to life.

Jessica Perelson

Jessica has had an affinity for dancing since she was very young.  At the tender age of two years, she would attend her sister’s ballet classes and dance with the older girls.  When she was six, she was enrolled in the Norma Blakeway School of Ballet, and attended classes there for 11 years.  During that time she passed the Royal Academy of Dance grade 7 and pre-elementary exams. Jessica then shifted her focus to her academic career, and took a sabbatical from dancing until 2008, when she began belly dancing under the tuition of Janka Kliment.  In 2009 she joined the Evolution Oriental Dance Troupe and began performing regularly at festivals and functions.  She also auditioned to become a teaching assistant and started her apprenticeship in 2010. In October 2010, Jessica danced at the International Oriental Dance Festival’s Gala event with the Evolution Troupe. At the end of 2013, Jessica joined forces with Melanie Wallis and bought Janka’s Oriental Dance Studio, changing it’s name to Zahra’s Oriental Dance Studio.  Jessica now runs classes, workshops and performs for Zahra’s.