Wednesday, March 29, 2017

A Funny Thing Happened While I Was Bellydancing...Vol. 5

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! 


For most people, the name Jaipur evokes images of the dream Pink City and its crown jewel Hawa Mahal. For me, it brings to mind the cringeworthy memory of a certain birthday party show.
Since the birthday boy was a local politician, he held his trashy-ass event in a hotel room, away from prying eyes. This was no suite either, but a rather plain room, with a couch on one side and just enough floor space to dance on. He had hired five Indian "sexy females". They danced around in skimpy outfits, but that was quite possibly not the extent of their job. Then, there were my friend and I bellydancing.
We took turns performing, one song at a time. We had another room where we changed our costumes, and made our grand entrance from the hallway, room service style. The ridiculous, awkward show culminated to one of the Indian chicks hogging the spotlight while my friend was dancing. She placed herself in front of her, and started whipping her hair around. We gladly lost the dance-off to our Desi counterparts.
Julia Basenko - Ukraine / India
Do you see anyone besides Julia in this poster??


I had recently learned how to do the Turkish drop - falling flat on your back from a standing position, with bent knees, so your legs fold underneath you. I eagerly practiced each night during my show in an elegant dinner restaurant in Bahrain.
A group of local girls was sitting right next to the stage, lost in a conversation. I turned a few times on spot to a drum roll by the tabla player, and as I dropped, he simultaneously let out a loud thud. So did my body. I hit the stage so hard my heart bounced against my rib cage. The floor felt like a giant hand slapping me in the back. The sound startled the girls. I heard gasps, followed by hysterical giggles. It was an awkward few minutes, doing floorwork with my audience laughing uncontrollably next to my head. I couldn't blame them. After that, I learned to angle myself for a softer landing. It was just better for everyone. 
Zaina Brown - Finland / World
Nobody laughed at Zaina this time


Being the house dancer in Atlantis, one of Dubai's top hotels, may sound glamorous. It's in fact one of the most famous hotels in the world, located on the edge of Palm Jumeirah, the man-made palm tree shaped island. Atlantis is a tourist attraction in its own right, and I was always asked to take pictures with visitors. 
However, the floor plan didn't make for a seamless entrance. My changing room was in one of the main corridors, and I had to walk quite a distance to the restaurant where I performed. There, I had to walk down a circular staircase to finally meet my audience.
I was having a hectic day and I was running late for the first show. I changed into my costume as quickly as I could, threw on my cover-up and wings, and rushed to the restaurant. Only there I slowed down, to enter like a queen down the stairs. I did notice one side of my wings felt heavy, but didn't pay much attention to it. I started dancing, people took pictures, as usual. At some point, I realized why the wings felt lopsided: there was a white bra stuck on it! I had dragged it along all the way from the changing room. A panic flushed over me at the sight of the dangling bra. I quickly removed it, and tossed it between some unoccupied tables. A customer with a massive pro camera was kneeling next to me, to shoot me from this angle and that. In an unfortunate bout of helpfulness, he picked up the bra - which he thought I'd dropped by accident - and handed it to me. 
What was he thinking? I was so embarrassed I just pretended it wasn't mine. 
Amar Lammar - Mexico / UAE
Amar doesn't even own a white bra!


I was hired to perform at a maternity store opening on Madison Avenue in Manhattan, along with a few other bellydancers. Our job was to do some dancing, but also to add atmosphere into the event. I showed up in makeup, changed into a costume, and was getting directions about where to be and what to do.
"Oh no!" the boss said when she saw us. "I specifically requested pregnant bellydancers. Get them out of here!"
Before I could blink someone handed me my coat, some money, and showed me to the backdoor. 

How could anyone send Tava out the backdoor?

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Sh*t Mauritanians Say **

* i
** and some non-Mauritanians too, when noted

You came here alone? What is your problem?
A fellow bus passenger.

Are you a doctor? Do you have medicine for him?
The mother of 4-month-old Hamma, who was suffering from stomach problems. A doctor had previously given her medicine which did not work. She handed him to me when we stopped for a prayer break. 

I think it's only your country that doesn't have slaves.
Ousmane, who showed me around town in Atar. He knows some slaves in person, but doesn't have them on Facebook. Historically, Mauritanian Arabs enslaved part of the black African population. An estimated ten per cent of the nation is still living in slavery. In many cases, it's difficult to determine whether someone is an employee, member of extended family, or slave.  

Sing! Allah, Allah, Allah...
Tajib, who sat next to me in a Medeh, a pseudo-Islamic gathering which includes singing, drumming, and chanting. I found it by following the music from my guesthouse to the tent. 

These days, the force-feeding is more voluntary. 
Sidi, who works in the tourism industry. The brutal tradition of forcibly fattening young girls is no longer practiced. What he meant was some women still force-feed themselves to adhere to the old beauty ideals.

You're the only one I know of who got here by plane.
A Polish solo traveler. She was doing a tour of Morocco, Western Sahara, Mauritania, and Senegal, which is a popular overland itinerary.

Did you have a Mauritanian wedding?
A girl in the oasis village of Terjit.
Main road in Terjit
Checkpoint police, taxi drivers, kids on the street, you name it.
Many countries have an obnoxious word to describe a foreigner. This one literally means a person from Nazareth - because all white chicks are homies of Jesus. 

Maybe you could take her.
'Her' was 6-month-old Salek, who was suffering from malnutrition. She's been in her grandmother's care since birth, and something has gone wrong with the bottle-feeding. Salek is now fed a variant of Plump Nut, a baby-saving product. I met her while I was getting henna tattoos.

But you eat so little!
Several people.

Tell your husband you're in paradise. Make him jealous.
A Dutch hotel owner, who has lived in Mauritania for two decades. 
Fishing boats returning to shore in the capital Nouakchott

Saddam Hussein is to us what Donald Trump is to Americans.
A man on a Nouakchott street, who saw me looking at a poster of "the martyr" Saddam. Mauritania supported Iraq during the Gulf war, and Saddam is considered a hero.

She's a hundred.
A nomad desert guide of his mother, when I asked about her age.
She's not old, she's wise.