What do I love most about being a Bellydancer in Cairo?
Making people smile.
It sounds corny I know... but it is true!
Yesterday I had 5 shows;
The first two shows were a tourist group (from UK, USA, Australia and all over Europe). I had lots of people shaking their shoulders along with me and everyone smiling. I asked one table where they were from, and they said ‘Scotland’...... you can imagine their surprise when they found out I was too! Seemingly they spent the rest of the sail trying to work out my story- how did a girl from Edinburgh end up being a dancer on the Nile? I ask myself sometimes too! One thing is for sure though... and I figured I’d put it here in writing... no, I did not move to Egypt for ‘a man’. People have no imagination! I came here for the dance, for the music, for the sunshine... isn’t that enough? It is for me!
The next sail was a private charter too... and rather than tourists it was all Egyptians... two engagement parties had hired out the one boat, one group downstairs, one up. I couldn’t work out the connection to the two groups, but they were obviously related or friends or something, since most of the time everyone just piled onto one deck- whether there were seats or not. I am not sure I can explain how lovely and warmly welcoming everyone was. The older ladies especially kept calling me assel (honey) and hugging me. The first ‘bride’, we’ll call her that since Egyptians do despite it only being the engagement rather than the wedding, was very shy at first but then at one point in my show I felt a hand on my hip, it was her... feeling my shimmy!!! I looked surprised, she looked embarrassed (I think she must have done it without thinking!) and then we both, and everyone around us laughed out loud! Then all her girlfriends gathered round her and with their hands tried to make her shimmy too! The love was overwhelming. For the music, for the dance, for the people around and for me.
That is why I dance.
Upstairs the ‘bride and groom’ were younger and more self conscious. However, everyone who had just watched my show downstairs came up to carry on the party, so they soon got everyone up on stage... and let me tell you, that stage is not big at the best of times... so just imagine me trying to dance in the centre with about 40 other people on it with me!!!
At one point they pushed a young boy fwd and begged me to dance with him. He had Down syndrome. The love and care everyone was showing towards him was very sweet. One young man said, ‘he is the greatest of us all’... the boy was beaming with happiness as he performed his fabulous shimmies beside me... but he got just too excited.. and threw up.. all over the already tiny stage. Some guests just led him off and carried on dancing. I had a conversation recently with another dancer who said the worst thing to stand in barefoot was mashed potato. I beg to differ! It was hard to keep my nose from wrinkling up... but the energy and warmth of the people helped me ignore the floor beneath me. And you thought being a bellydancer was glamorous? (Once he had recovered the boy came back onto the stage so he could finish his dance with me and take his bow!)
The, another man was pushed into the centre of the circle beside me. He could certainly dance. One man smilingly challenged- “see, he is better than you”... then a few of them started chanting the man’s name. I didn’t know what to do... but I felt somehow it would be ok. A girl behind me asked me “what is your name?”... I answered, not realising why she was asking, and within seconds the entire engagement party was chanting my name, supporting me! What a rush! Over 100 people chanting my name!!!
The last show of the night was somewhat more subdued (at one point in the engagement I was up on a chair dancing so everyone could see me!!!). There were some ladies there wearing the full niqab. I could only see their eyes. One lady stood up and walked out with her husband, as soon as I arrived on to the stage. I was sad, but fair enough, if she wasn’t comfortable then it was for the best for her and me.However, I could see other people round the room take note too. Almost as if she had passed a moral judgement on me, and therefore on anyone who stayed to watch. The mood of the room changed, people leant back in their seats instead of forward, the smiles moved away from the eyes. I tried to ignore it and carry on. Then the mood completely changed again to a very positive and relaxed attitude. She was back again... she had obviously just gone to the bathroom!!! I made eye contact and she was smiling and appreciative of the dance.
We had a great night.
.... and all with a new band... but that is a story for another blog entry!