Friesland: Countryside clash of cultures!

Last week I was booked for a show in ‘Friesland’, which is the most interesting rural province in the Netherlands. People from Friesland are different from ‘avarage’ Dutch people. They have unusual names and they even speak their own officially recognized language, which can absolutely not be understood by non-‘friesian’ people. They are known for their ice-skating competitions, horse bread, countryside dishes and their great, blonde appearances.

In the past Friesian people have been isolated from the rest of the Netherlands and that’s why they have a very strong specific culture. I would say that there aren’t any people on earth more distant from the Arabic culture than the Friesians.

The things I love the most about my job are clashing cultures, especially between the Dutch and the Arabs. I was excited, curious about what to expect and round eight o’clock I jumped in my car. I drove all the way, over the longest dike in the Netherlands, two hours long to a village called ‘Marsum’. I passed villages with the strangest names like “Sexbierum” which can be translated as “Sexandbeer”, which certainly has a different meaning for the Friesians.

I was hired to dance for a birthday guy, a real Friesian one. He was tall, blonde and VERY shy. For the first time in my life I danced for someone that deliberately looked away my entire show! I was dancing around him, trying to catch a glance but unfortunately, not one single move that worked. Several times he whined to his friends and family: “I am not a bachelor, it’s just my birthday, why do you do this to me?” While dancing I started to feel really sorry for him. I was asked to take the guy on the dance floor so I had to make his nightmare even worse. I used all my muscle strength to hoist the enormous guy from his decorated chair and there he stood. Exemplary I started to move my hips in a very easy way, hoping he would follow, but he didn’t. How awkward.

When my show was finished everybody seemed relieved. Right before I left a very old man grabbed my arm and asked me to pose for a picture with him. While I had my arm round his shoulder he said: “Da ken ge nie samar he da bukdunsje.” Which can be translated from the Friesian language as: “That must not be easy to learn, bellydancing”. He was the father of the birthday guy and he had loved my performance.

I’m glad the birthday guy will have a photo to remember the present that was given to him, though with his old father on it.

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The unexpected striptease!

Last week I danced at a great multicultural wedding fair in a beautiful new costume. The show inspired me to write about all the unexpected things that can happen, which are often hilarious and frustrating at the same time.

When I arrived at the location the staff lead me to the enormous dressing room, which was full of very nervous Moroccan and Indian models, getting dressed for the catwalk, which would also be my stage later that evening. It was quite a challenge to perform on that catwalk with the audience sitting only left and right, but not in front of me. 

I always tell my students to practice their dancing centered towards every corner of the room, with and without mirror, if possible on different types of floors. I tell them to imagine the audience sitting at every possible side, or even all around. For example: Sometimes the audience is sitting in front of you and the wedding couple at your back. You have to practice this so you will know how to deal with this in your performance.

There are also so many unexpected things that disturb your performance. CD’s can bounce, assistants that turn off your CD in the middle of your act, DJ’s that start scratching your drumsolo and much more. What to do? You need to remember that we are entertaining our audience. If our audience has a good time, we are doing our job right. In general people love it when things go wrong. It’s entertaining and much fun and if you respond to this with your act (just make a little joke and continue your act), everything will be just fine and for the audience it might even be better because they also laughed!

Annoying and drunk male guests are the worst unexpected thing to deal with. The funny uncle starts to strip during your show or someone behind your back is having his moment of fame, in the worst case someone can get fysical. Here is my little secret: You have to be the mistress at this point and be strong but stay elegant. Grab the guy’s wrist so firm that it hurts. Smile friendly while you are doing it and no one will notice. You’re still entertaining all the other guests of course. Bring him to a chair and when he sits, do a little dance for him and get back to your stage. If you really feel intimidated you should stop your show immediate, but this never happened to me to be honest.

My two worst unexpected experiences: Once I planned to give a nice performance but when the music started everybody rused to the dance floor “Yeeeeh WE are going to bellydance!” When my show was finished no one noticed my ‘end pose’ and quietly I left, what was left of the stage. But the very very worst thing was the moment that my bra-string broke in the middle of my show. Suddenly my clients had a striptease for the price of a bellydancer, how lucky they were! I had to give a second show later that evening, for the same audience, awkward!

You will learn how the handle the unexpected, anywise. I just laugh about it and consider every new situation a challenge and a lesson.

This video is made at the catwalk performance:

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Lots of men, lots of tips, lots of risks!

A last minute booking came in. It sounded a bit vague but I am in need for gigs since the autumn started. It will be raining for the next six months and many of my students prefer to stay home so my performances will be my main income. I said yes but when I arrived at the outlying ‘scene’, I was in doubt. Did my navigation sent me in the right direction? It was raining so hard that my make up ran out immediately when I stepped out my car. Sometimes I really regret to be a bellydancer in the Netherlands.

With my suitcase full of shiny costumes, I walked through the mud till I saw something that looked like a soccer canteen. It didn’t feel right.

I was about to turn back home for the first time in my life when I heard a voice speaking with a friendly Indian accent: “You must be our bellydancer, please follow me”. Great, no turning back. The place appeared to be completely empty. “Where is everybody?” I asked. “The guy’s are playing a hockey match right now. When they are finished you will dance for them.” Fair enough. I handed over my music and headed to the dressing room, which was clean but did smell like male sweat. Never mind. I danced for two male hockey teams. The guys came from London and were originally Indian. They gave me over 600 euro tips in 15 minutes. I never expected that! The rain didn’t bother me anymore. On my way home I fantasized about the new Ted Baker winter collection.

A couple of days later I had another request, which sounded even worse than the previous one. Because the last show turned out well I felt optimistic and said yes. I had to drive two hours to Tilburg and my show had to start at ten. Exactly eight ‘o clock I finished teaching my students so I had to hurry. Again it was raining and the wind blew branches of the trees. We agreed €200 total which isn’t very much because I had over €50 of travel expenses but the applicant promised me lots of tips, under the condition we would share them equally. This is a quite common agreement so I agreed.

The party looked amazing, very big! I had to dance with a large band and I felt very excited. Unfortunately there was no dressing room so I was locked in the stockroom, which could only be opened from the outside. I waited for somebody to liberate me and bring me to the dance floor and luckily that person came fast. Men were approaching me with  money from all directions. I earned over €500 of tips in 10 minutes but when I went back to my ‘dressing room’ I got followed by a very big, drunk guy who wanted to get his part of the tips right away. I was quite flabbergasted to find myself locked in a stockroom with a large drunk guy, counting the tips from my costume. The music was so loud that no one would have heard me in the case things had gone wrong. When he paid me my salary from my own tips I mentioned our agreements earlier. He started a drama and I began to feel rather uncomfortable. I got home with half of the tips only.

C’est la vie!

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Show your parents what it’s all about!

This week I took my parents out in Amsterdam city center, I planned to show them what it’s all about. We went to a blues club which is a nice place where the “youngsters” and the “oldies” enjoy music together.

Although being with my parents, Amsterdam’s nightlife consists of music, dance, drunkenness and lots of men ;-). Some situations can be just normal when I’m out with friends, though in the company of my parents it can turn out rather embarrassing.

While my parents were enjoying a beer at the bar I headed myself towards the restroom and ran into a “Michael Jordan” lookalike – which was a tourist from the States. He was tall, muscular and charming. We had a chat and we danced while he was telling me sweet little lies. After a few songs I finally went to the toilet and when I got back an interesting scene was going on.

My dad was talking to my basketball player and they seemed very amicably. They were laughing, punching one another and making wild gestures while talking like they were best friends for years. It’s always been like that by the way. My parents make new friends all the time, they are way more social then I am. However, I didn’t feel like interrupting in this particular case so I danced to a rock song with my mom. The scene lasted the whole night.

The next day was a sunny one and because my parents slept over we were still together. I decided to join them for a cycling tour through the city. Heading towards Museum Square my dad told me he changed phone numbers with the basketball player because he promised him a guided tour. Five minutes later the enormous afro-american was riding my mothers bike. My parents were cycling ahead, sharing my dad’s bike. I was behind our tourist, trying to prevent him from getting a deadly accident.

After cycling we took a walk through the city center and my dad and the basketball player were talking continually. They had quite a lot in common, for instance their musical taste, their political idea’s and of course their sense of humor. My mom and I were window shopping meanwhile.

At the end of the day we went to the chinese restaurant for a quick dinner and my Michael Jordan lookalike sat opposed to me, while he was telling my dad about economy, oh… and that he is a vegetarian.

I ordered a “Beijing Duck” with it’s head, feet and beak still on.

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F*ck love, give me diamonds!

This week I celebrated my birthday for five days continually and felt heartbroken at the same time. I never chose to live the turbulent life of an artist, the life picked me. I never felt extremely euphoric for long without getting kicked in the face from an unexpected direction and things never turn out to be “ordinary”.

A rich Iraqi friend of mine gave me a beautiful diamond ring and of course I loved it. He was just being generous and the ring was meant as a sign of our friendship. These things are quite common in the life of a dancer. We receive tips or presents as a compliment or as a flirt and we know how to deal with it. I know dancers who’ve been offered a car or even a house by men who wanted their companion – or friendship. This is a very Arab way of men to show affection and of course status. Sometimes you accept, sometimes you don’t. As long as you are clear about your personal boundaries there is no problem. If you dance well you can get over 1000 euro of tips and your costume is making rustle sounds when you get back in the dressing room, of course these party’s are rare in the Netherlands and I have to mention, Dutch people seldom give tips because they just don’t know the Arabic course of behavior.

However, when I finally got home after my birthday celebration I found myself staring at the ring, fantasizing about my future true love, still unknown. Shouldn’t that ring been given by him? I felt confused and decided to create more explicitness in my life. I paid a visit to the guy that I’ve been dating with for the last six months (which was not the ring man, just to make clear). I had turned 26 and I need to start thinking about the future. With Carlos Santana’s “make it real or let’s forget about it” playing in my head we talked about our feelings. And basically that was where it ended.

The amazing birthday weekend with lots of friends, family, presents and a ring with a huge diamond – extreme euphoria with a punch in the face that made me latterly “forget about it” was an interesting mixture of feelings. This week will absolutely turn out to be an inspiration for the artistic mind when the storm is over.

Men can make me smoke a pack of Vogue-Menthol at a stretch.

A quote from one of my best friends and colleagues: “F*ck love, give me diamonds” made me laugh. Of course it’s so not true and we both know.

Warda’s “Salam el Ahbab” inspires me right now. Her beautiful voice makes me feel strong and happy.

(*With my respect and appreciation for the ones I write about, who are aware of the content of this blog.)

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Welcome!

Dear everyone,

The reason I started this blog, is because I would like to share my adventures now and then. Being a bellydancer in the Netherlands is not a very common profession. Though for me it’s much more then a profession, it’s a lifestyle. I would like to share my experiences at work but also stuff that has to do with the lifestyle, the results of my decision to become a dancer and make a living out of it.

Often I dance with – and perform for Dutch people. I bring them the spheres of 1001 nights, Aladin, Yamin, the colors, the scent and the sound of the Middle-East. Entering the stage veiled, I disappointed many Dutch men by not turning out being a stripper. For the Arabic people in the Netherlands, which are understandably skeptical about a Dutch dancer being the main act at their traditional dream wedding, I’m doing everything I can to convince them that I’m “like them” – (concerning the music and dance!)

I’ve been living a double life ever since my first bellydance move and I’ve been through lots of funny situations, more then I can mention. From now on I will write them all down and I hope you’ll enjoy!

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