• by Zara Dance

Dancing on Tahia’s Stage for DINA


A LONG night but one more gig

It’s been a LOOOOOOONG night. We started with my first gig at 9pm and we have been boy racing around Cairo, gig to gig, ALL night!! We finish my last gig at some crazy time 4am or 4.30am but my manager tells me I’m not finished. We have a gig at 6am. We are going to be filming a TV drama. What? It will show in Ramadan. TV DRAMAS OVER RAMADAN ARE BIG BUSINESS.... Double what??

“How can you spring this stuff on me!”

“I just got the call now.” he acts casual.

I feel that I never get any real time to prepare for these “big” gigs; that I just get rushed in quickly in between my normal gigs. I tell him I need to go home and change. My costume is soaked and anyway it is the same one I wore when we filmed a wedding scene at another big film gig which I never had any time to prepare for.

So this time, I insist we stop off at my home and then we go to the set. It is a night club in down town Cairo.

Tahia's Night Club

But this is no normal night club. This is a FAMOUS old night club that has been around for years. It is called, Sherazade in Emad El Dein. This is the night club which TAHIA CARIOCA would regularly dance and I was even told at one point she owned the club?!

“WOOOOOW are you joking?” I’m in shock.

My manager laughs, “Ha ha yes, you’re going to be in the night club scene.”

We have to go to a hotel just around the corner that they have rented out and wait for our scene. I think we will only be there a few hours max… it turns out NOT!!!

We are there for HOURS and HOURS and HOURS….. WAITING and WAITING. Finally at about 1pm we are called. Remember, I have been awake and in a bellydance costume, and full make up since 8pm the previous day! I feel far from glamorous and EVERYTHING in my body aches…

When the time comes I want to do anything but dance. We go down into the club…. There are sooooo many famous faces around. I recognise so many dancers, actors and singers that I am overwhelmed: DINA, Tarek El Sheikh, Haifa Wehbe, and LOADS OF OTHER ACTORS I RECOGNISE FROM THE TV!!!

Wow! I try to act cool.

The Director is female. I tell my manager how cool that is. He tries to dismiss it, claiming it’s only because her dad is rich. I tell him off for dismissing her achievements.

The club looks classic. Exactly, I imagine, how the club looked in Tahia Carioca’s time. There is the main stage with velvet curtains behind, lights all around and then loads of tables with cheesy table cloths on and fake bottles of beer.

Last min Costume change

It’s HOT. Really HOT and the air is thick. They can’t put on the air-conditioning because it affects the sound of the recording. The place is full of extras, all employed to fill the club. They are sitting around the tables or standing around the stage. They all look, if I am honest, grumpy, hot and bothered. They have been in this stuffy atmosphere since 6am filming various scenes.

I get on stage. There is an issue. The costume I have on, that I have just sat uncomfortably in for 7 hours whilst waiting in the hotel, is not suitable. It shows too much of my flesh. WHAT! You’re having a laugh. I get shuffled off the stage by the costume director and dragged into a little room. She frantically looks through a box of costumes and starts pulling out AWFUL, cheap bellydance costumes. I cringe and they are all so tiny. Finally she pulls out a dress. A cheap one but at least it isn’t too tacky, but it is black lycra and tight. I don’t have a bra with me so I have to wear it over the bra of my costume….... Goodness me - this is NOT how I envisioned my debut on Egyptian TV!

I get out and feel like an idiot but try to look casual. The director seems happy. During this time the band has arrived and is on the stage with me. I know them. We all say a big, “Hi!” to each other. I was lucky enough to have danced with them on the previous film I’d worked on. They are lovely.

Filming FINALLY

Finally, we start to film and BOOM out comes Dina. She’s in my scene! Not only that, SHE HAS TO WATCH ME AND TALK ABOUT ME!?!? Basically, I am dancing on the stage in the background and Dina is sitting on a table in the crowd with 3 other famous actors and one of the characters is trying to convince her that she should become a bellydancer because she is such a good dancer. Then she points at me and tells Dina’s character that a dancer working here makes over 2000Le a night. Dina’s character acts shocked and starts to consider being a dancer.

I’m trying to act cool but Dina is there in the crowd watching me …. and the WORST THING? I have to dance to NO MUSIC! The band just mimes the instruments and I just dance on the stage to nothing! All the extras have to dance to nothing too.

I’m so hot and the costume is so uncomfortable. I am conscious of being sweaty and the dress having sweat patches. It’s so horrible. We film the scene about 10 times (45min-1hr). I’m dying the whole time. Finally the director is happy.

But I am not done. Dina and the other actors disappear and then we do a whole shoot of just me on the stage actually dancing to live music with the band so they can use the music over lay and the close up takes of my dancing. We do one take and they are happy. I’m like, “What? Just one take!” I can’t even remember how I danced. “Can we go again?” but nope; it’s done. I’m off the stage. The next scene needs to be done.

A little memento

I insist on going back stage to take a photo with Dina. There was a STRICT NO PHOTOS on set or phones on set policy so I have no photos of this moment. I push myself past all the security and get to Dina’s changing room and ask her for a photo. She agrees. I tell her I love her and it was an honour to dance in her scene. She is polite BUT SO NICE. She lets me take a photo and wishes me luck in my career.

FINALLY I GET HOME – I COLLAPSE! It has been a LOOOOOOONG day and I only have 4 hrs before I need to get ready for my evening gigs.

But what a day!


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part of the Zara's Zouk family
Photography by Evie Kalila
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