Tuesday, June 28, 2016

A Funny Thing Happened While I Was Bellydancing...Vol. 1

All professional performers must be able to think on their feet. This goes double for bellydancers - we are all about that improv. In this blooper reel of a blog series, we shine a spotlight on some of the most ridiculous moments of our careers. Let the stories begin! 


I was dancing four nights a week at gorgeous Moroccan restaurant in Athens, Greece. It was the kind of place where they put flower petals in the toilet bowl in between every customer. It was a nice job, although occasionally they had us do ridiculous things - like bellydancing in angel ballerina costumes, or carrying one of the dancers around in a chariot dressed as Cleopatra. During our shows, we made our way through the crowd, and were then hoisted up onto the large, round dinner tables to dance. Once or twice, I didn’t quite get to the center of the table - which caused it to tip and send food and wine crashing down over some wealthy businessmen. They were not pleased.
One of my colleagues offered me a private party gig out of town, and I happily took it. The clients who had hired me turned out to be the stars of a popular Greek sitcom called Mitsi Hostas. Three of the actors picked me up in a tiny car, and we began the long drive across the Peloponnese peninsula.  Each time we made a pit stop, people started shouting  “Mitsi Hostas!” Cameras were flashing, and even I was asked to sign a few autographs.  
I was expecting a great party full of Greek celebrities. I pictured dancing in an elegant nightclub with a stage, good lighting, the whole nine yards. I could not have been more wrong. We walked into a dimly lit lounge, illuminated mostly by a strobe light, with exactly one man sitting inside. I hoped we had just arrived too early, and other guests would be arriving soon. It was not the fancy venue I imagined, but not a complete dive either.  
When it was finally time to perform, only a few more people had trickled in. Ready for an uneventful show, I made my way to the dance floor. Suddenly, the subdued atmosphere changed. Someone brought out a case of champagne, and popped some bottles and began spraying the crowd. Opa! Soon, he'd had enough of that, and started to kick the bottles instead. Broken glass was flying everywhere. The rest of the guests showed their appreciation by showering me with stacks of white paper napkins. The floor was now a sea of broken glass, and globs of champagne-soaked napkins. Never in my life had I been so glad I wore shoes to a gig! At one point, the guest of honor motioned for me to dance on his table - which was fully covered in dishes and glassware. I looked at him expectantly, thinking he would clear some space for me. He just smiled, and with one swipe of his arm sent everything on the table crashing to the floor. I got up and danced. Greeks sure know how to throw it down!
Najla - US / World
"Oh no you didn't!" Najla cannot hide her dismay


I had a contract in a five star hotel in Dubai, dancing with recorded music. One night during my entrance song, the manager suddenly faded out the music to complete silence. Then, he came over to me.
"Sorry, just keep dancing!" he said.
"What the fuck?" was all I could say from my shock.
"Just continue to dance."
I tried to wrap my mind around the fact that I was actually, truly told to dance without music - to a full restaurant, no less. I turned away from the audience to take a breath, and told myself "I'm professional, I will finish this set, and kill the manager after." So I turned back around, and kept dancing without music. The people, who moments ago were whispering to one another in confusion, recognized I was in an unpleasant situation, and became very supportive. I stayed on the stage for what felt like around fifteen minutes, and left. It must have looked like TV on mute. 
Backstage, I unleashed my fury. 
"Where is this asshole?" I shouted. 
The staff tried to calm me down, to no avail. Once I found the manager, he explained himself. 
"Marilyn, I'm so sorry, but today we have some very powerful guests in the restaurant. They asked to watch the bellydancer, but without music."
"Why didn't you tell me before I started dancing?"
"They called me over just when you started. I thought they wanted me to stop your performance, but they said they wanted to watch you, however, they were in the middle of an important conversation!" 
The manager had understood how ludicrous their request was, but felt powerless to resolve the situation in any other way. As for me, if this ever happens again, I will ask people to bang their plates with utensils. 
Marilyn Barrios - Argentina / UAE
Don't mess with Marilyn - she has TWO swords!


The Las Vegas lounge was slow to fill up on an early Saturday evening. It was far from the Strip, in an area filled with nightlife geared toward locals. During my set, I invited a girl sitting with her friends to dance with me. She gave me the I-couldn't-possibly routine, acting shy and giggling, refusing to get up. This is fairly typical - and I knew if I didn't persist, it could be domino effect from there, and I might not be able to get anyone up to dance. So I insisted, and finally she relented. The instant she stood up, she put both her hands on my chest, and said she wanted to perform oral sex on me. And not in those words. 
Zaina Brown - Finland / World
"Seriously?" Zaina losing her poker face

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