Istanbul Again, Part 2: New Gig, New Coworkers

I didn’t know what to expect dance-wise when I came back to Istanbul after being away for six months, but as it happened, I received a call last Wednesday from the owner of a venue in oh-so-chic Etiler. I started performing on Saturday and will be there for the next five weeks, which is when I go to the US for five glorious weeks, a trip of which the management is not yet aware. :/

I’ve performed at this venue before, including filming a video advertisement for them in the fall of 2012. They’ve since moved to a new location, with a bigger stage and a nicer dressing room. They’ve had a complete overhaul of entertainers, and one of the new ones is a zenne, or male belly dancer. (Name withheld.)

I’ll admit, he didn’t make the best first impression on me. When he started to light a cigarette backstage, I suggested sweetly that we not smoke in our small, shared dressing room, and although he protested, he put out the the cigarette. When I thanked him, he replied with a snooty, “Evet” (“Yes”) instead of saying “You’re welcome” or similarly appropriate remark.

I’ve found that with stuck up dancers, the best method is to be kind and complimentary, but not disingenuous. This worked well and fairly quickly with him. As he was the veteran dancer (I’d actually performed there before him, but he’d performed most recently and regularly), I made no protest as he planned the dancer order (dancers have artistic freedom there), and he seemed to relax and warm up to me after that. He quickly went from obnoxious to adorable. He even gave me a nickname “kara kฤฑz”–dark girl, which used to to describe a girl with dark skin, dark hair, or dark eyes, all of which I have, and no, I didn’t find it offensive, at least not coming from him.

He was having a lover’s spat with his boyfriend, a married man with two kids, who had apparently lied to him about going out drinking the previous night. He told me all about it. It seemed this incident was the last straw in their relationship. I put on my makeup and prepared to perform as he regaled me with stories about his lover.

My performance went well, but due to a DJ who was uninitiated in the art of spinning for a dancer, and an awkward ascent to the stage (there was no clear path through the audience, so my entrance was less than grand), it wasn’t perfect. Still, everyone seemed to rather like it, including my new gbff, the zenne. He performed after me.

I rarely say this about a Turkish dancer or a male belly dancer, but he was phenomenal. From his perfectly toned little body and to his precise technique and beautifully executed choreography, he gave my favorite zenne, a dancer called Diva, a run for his money. He danced as though he had been trained by Didem Kฤฑnalฤฑ, Turkish belly dancer extraordinaire. Usually, I wouldn’t approve of such a blatant resemblance to another dancer’s style, but his technique and stage presence were so superb, I couldn’t help but to enjoy his performance immensely. Not only was he an incredible dancer, he was also an accomplished seamstress–he’d made his own costume. Creative and thrifty, too–the costume was made from an evening gown of his sister’s.

So, he dances beautifully, he choreographs, he sews, he’s funny, he’s gorgeous, he’s fit, and he’s charming. When he came back to the dressing room and asked me what I’d thought of his performance, I could honestly tell him that I loved it.

At one point, he picked up his phone, and spoke into it using a speak-to-text feature to compose the final message he would to send to the lover who’d betrayed him. He then turned the phone to me and another dancer and had us check the text before he sent it off. As it turns out, he’s illiterate. He’s 24, and as smart and talented as he is, he’s never learned to read and doesn’t care to at this point. I was shocked! Reading and writing give me so much pleasure and convenience, I couldn’t imagine my life without literacy.

Right before we parted for the night, his phone rang. He told the person calling that because of the noise and the rush to get to his next gig, he was unable to talk and would return the call soon. Then he looked at me and winked. “Benim yeni kocam,” he said. My new husband.

I absolutely love the guy! I hope he’ll be happy with his new man.

3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. skywalkerstoryteller
    Nov 20, 2013 @ 19:15:11

    I never knew there were male belly dancers! Your stories are interesting – and it does happen often that people we take an initial dislike to end up becoming our best friends. Has happened to me several times. Looking forward to reading more.


  2. Kristen Noelle
    Jun 08, 2014 @ 00:34:16

    What an intriguing story!


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