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Zaharr in 1968 just before she began dancing at the Minerva Cafe
Gilded Serpent presents...
Zaharr's Memoir, Part 12:
Learning to Perform
by Zaharr Hayatti

Zaharr shares her struggles and her triumphs as a dancer from 1966 to the present. “For many of us, it was a hard road that led to North Beach and beyond.” she writes. Return to read her story as it unfolds here in the Gilded Serpent.
Previous parts to this story are listed on Zaharr's "Bio page"

What happened that night at the Café Minerva changed my life. Yes, perhaps I managed a credible “show". But certainly the musicians saw me and knew right away that I wasn't capable of much at this point, so they only played a short time. But my performance did get a lot of attention, and applause. Possibly just for having the nerve to get up in front of everyone and making the attempt!

While I changed back into my street-performer’s clothes, I thought about what had just happened out on the dance floor.

I was closer to my dream than I had ever been and I was shaking with the happiness it brought me.

I knew I wasn't dancing like one of the pretty dancers I had seen in 1966, but now it was 1968, and it was time to focus on my own goal of learning more. I wanted to feel that joy inside when the music flowed into me and became the movements of my body. Just a glimmer had touched me, but what a happy thing it was.

As I emerged from the dressing room, Vasilios came up to me and took me aside. “Listen”, he said, “Why don't you come here and dance for a while. Come in on Fridays and Saturday nights. I’ll feed you as much as you can eat and carry home, bring you all the wine you want to drink, and you can keep all of your tips.” You don’t need to bring the Bagpiper.”

Was this an offer for a gig? Since my teacher was too young to be professional, I didn’t know who to ask for advice. So I told him I would think it over and call him back.

When I saw my teacher next time, she suggested it was time for me to go down to Broadway and take a look at the girls in the Casbah. Maybe I could get some ideas there. She couldn't go in, because she was just sixteen, but I could. I was old enough now, just having had my 21st birthday. Maybe one of the dancers could tell me how much a beginning dancer could ask for. So I made my way to San Francisco from Berkeley by hitchhiking. It wasn't yet dangerous in those days. It seemed like a lot of people used it as a way to get around and there had been no crimes committed yet by the hitchers or the drivers. In some ways, we were so innocent in those days. Everyone feeling safe and wandering anywhere, even late in the night.

When I got to Broadway, I would stand outside the door of the Casbah and listen to the music and catch a glimpse of the dancers from time to time. After several trips like this, one night I was invited inside. My face was beginning to be familiar by now to the doorman. (Probably the awful eye make up!) Since I was all alone, I sat as far away in the dark corner by the door as I could. All night, I was enthralled by the dancers, the music, the energy of the audience who were mostly Arab at that time, and very expressive and enthusiastic! This was not at all what I had seen at the Minerva.

There was a bigger problem now though: the dancers looked so unapproachable that I couldn't think of asking any of them how much they were paid!

Finally, I called Vasilios and told him that his offer was just fine, and I would be there on the following Friday. This was the beginning of my tutelage about how to be a good performer.

Coming soon!- Part 13- The Nitty Gritty About Customers…

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Ready for more?
10-9-05 Zaharr's Memoir, Part 11- The Minerva
What do Greeks know about Belly Dancing anyway?” He just grabbed my hand and we headed toward the door. Grumbling, I followed him inside and I was startled to see a big stage with a large wooden dance floor right in front of it.

12-30-05 My Retirement by Zaharr
Thirty-six years of feeling special, of dressing up night after night and of being “The Sultan’s Favourite Kadin” ended with such a quiet whisper that even I was surprised.

5-7-01 An Interview with MARLIZA PONS, by Robyn ("Maya") Hallmark
In a tiny bikini, I'd dive into a lighted pool outside the restaurant, and come up with a pearl in my mouth!

1-20-05 Amani “Around the World” DVD Report by Katya Faris
She has put her dancing on stage and has created numerous theatre productions in the past 10 years and this show is the first one on DVD.

1-17-06 Bellydance Superstars, Our Plans for 2006 by Miles Copeland, 2005 Photos by Monica Berini
There is nothing like consistency and constant pressure to deliver at your best each night to weld a group or troupe together.

1-16-05 Rhythm and Reason Series, Article 8, Leadership Risks by Mary Ellen Donald
When you lead people, you take certain risks. One such risk is that of self-revelation.

1-11-06 Return to India – This Time it’s Personal! by Michelle and Sandra
We thought that the misfortunes associated with our previous performance tours of India were simply anomalies in the blissful and glamorous world of dancing overseas.

12-13-05 The Zar by Yasmin
We do know that today thousands of women in Africa and the Middle East use this music to cure all kinds of illnesses. They literally dance until they drop.

11-17-05 Traveling with the Touareg by Linda Grondahl
This was my 5th trip to Algeria since 2000 and I have been amazed at the rapid economic development. The government is working very hard to make Algeria a very popular tourist destination once again.


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