I know the question you’re all dying to ask… So what’s Dina like? You know, as a person…
Let’s face it, Dina is the biggest star in the bellydance firmament. She’s Lady Gaga, Madonna and Beyoncé rolled into one. The woman whose costuming and dance style changed bellydance forever. Who commands enormous fees and who has bellydancers screaming her name on the rare occasions that she performs in the West.
So really, she has every right to be the very biggest diva in a world where, frankly, a lot of diva behaviour goes on.
Of course Khaled and I were worried about what she’d be like. Would she be difficult? Would she be demanding? Would she expect us to run around her like servants. We had both experienced behaviour like that from other big stars we’d helped bring to the UK in the past.
But I have to report, Dina is a total darling!
Firstly, she’s tiny. And seems slightly shy. She does that dip thing so many of us do when she gets a compliment or when she meets someone for the first time. She sort of dips down and slightly away from you, as if not wanting to make herself too big and important. And she has a lovely sweet, shy smile.
She also has a great sense of humour. The audience got a sense of that in the Saturday night show as she joked and backchatted with them between her dances. And backstage she was really joyful and funny. I mentioned in my last post the cartoon run she did from the wings, winding herself up and going off like Roadrunner. And we could see that she was having the time of her life in the wings watching the show. We had assumed she’d be ensconced in her dressing room until her time came to dance. But no, there she was with the rest of us backstage, laughing and zhagareeting and clapping along to our performances.
But her sense of humour really shone at the Sunday evening dinner.
I have to tell you here and now - the Sunday evening event is billed as a relaxing dinner at the end of a busy festival. But in fact it always turns into the mother of all parties! Get together an international crowd of bellydancers who have been working hard all weekend (and going to bed early to be fresh for each morning’s workshops) and you’ll get the best party you’ve ever been to!
The restaurant had promised to clear a space for us to dance but when we arrived, the table that should have been moved away was still there. Occupied by two very elderly, very tipsy, ladies who had been there since lunchtime and were showing no sign of moving. We all got increasingly jittery as 8, then 9 o’clock came and went and still they stayed put.
Then they stood up and got their coats and you felt the tension in the restaurant tighten as we anticipated the moment we had been waiting for. Two waiters carried the table away and it all kicked off! Khaled immediately got up on his chair and started dancing. Aziza, not to be outdone was up on hers in an instant! It was the signal we all needed and the rest of the party went wild!
Then there was the remarkable moment when Dina got up to dance. We had put together a CD of mixed bellydance party music – Shaabi, pop, a few drum solos and some classic favourites. Suddenly Tahtil Shibbak came on and everyone looked to Dina. She got up from the table, pretended to elbow her way through the crowd and, memorably dressed in combat boots, trousers and a buttoned up cardigan, launched into a wonderful, lightly caricatured version of her signature dance. Laughing her head off all the way through.
As the party continued I think all of us were pinching ourselves to find ourselves dancing around in a circle with Dina. But none of us had a more memorable time than Behiye Binnaz, a lovely, popular girl in the local bellydance community, who suddenly found herself dancing in the centre of the circle with Dina, Kazafy and Khaled pretending to be her backing dancers. They were playing the part of the Ghawazee dancers who often appear in old films behind stars like Samiya Gamal. As people realized what was going on, we all joined in and Behiye was surrounded by the whole international crowd, joyfully clapping along and calling out her name.
I can’t begin to tell you the respect I felt for Behiye in managing to hold it together, when most of us would have blushed and run away. In her modesty, she did try to escape a few times, but we wouldn’t let her. So she danced and danced and danced. With some of the greatest names in bellydance cheering her on.
And then when the track finished and she sat down, her teacher, Ann Hall, came over and showed her the video she had taken of the moment. And Behiya wept rich tears of joy and disbelief.
What else to tell you? Well apparently there’s a video somewhere of Dina climbing a ladder outside the restaurant, but I haven’t seen that yet. And there was the beautiful moment when I saw Aziza and Dina, two dancers I admire more than any in the world, exchange glances of friendship and understanding. And what about the Debke line which snaked around the restaurant, filled with some of the biggest dance stars in the world?
But the biggest, most scandalous news I can give you? Dina had three puddings!! Yes THREE! Ice-cream, cake and chocolate brownie with cream and yet more ice-cream.
How on earth does she stay that tiny?