The big golden ballroom became still, immersed in the darkness only interrupted by little glimpses of light (fairies*) coming from chandeliers resting on white tables. The scene happened inThessaloniki, Greece, a week ago.
I searched for original ways to start my performance (old habits rarely die). If I´m bored, I imagine my audience will be bored. Oriental Dance needs an URGENT shake. A series of urgent shakes – big ones.
I´m standing a couple of meters away from the balcony – which became known as the “Evita Perón” balcony thanks to Nikolas Kazakos who suggested I would start my show there, singing “Don´t cry for me, Argentina”. The adrenaline, another old friend of mine, is taking over. Fear and wonder* are always there, it doesn´t matter how many times you´ve been on stage, how much success you´ve gathered or how well you know your craft (and yourself, equally important). If you´re an artist, you always start from zero: nothingness: jumping off a cliff without a clue on where or how you´ll land.
The whole event had been exquisitely organized so there was a gentleman (an employee from the hotel), wearing a groomed papillon, requested to hold my hand while I descended from the blessed balcony into the ballroom and on stage. I could see it/him, even in the dark: he was more terrified than me. For a second, I wondered: who´s Joana? Me or him? For the look on his face, he was Joana. Not me. He was going to be under the spotlight, not me. He was going to jump off that cliff, not me. Uff! I was relived for a moment.
His company, his synchronized nervous attack and his care were silent. No one – but me and the camera men who were also there, holding my hand without touching it – knew how supported and protected I was.
Music started to play: it´s show time, baby! JUMP: JUMP: JUMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPP!
So I did but not without my nervous wrecked companion searching for my arm in the darkness in order to help me go down the stairs; the companion whose anonymous presence made me feel safe, respected, taken care of, protected. Above all: protected.
This scene multiplies in many other scenes in my mind. I could write another book on these invisible angels that keep covering my paths with cotton and sugar. Nobody knows them; most will ignore them. I don´t. It´s the NET. My net. Our net.
– Oh, she´s so sweet to everyone…- I hear them saying.
-No, darling. I´m not that sweet. I´m just awakened. – I tell them but they can´t hear me.
Apparently simple people who contribute to our dreams and happiness without the hope of recognition, money, fame or even a pat on the back. They´re everywhere, like trees and clouds. And most of us ignore them, just as we do to trees and clouds.
Here´s how my mum has done her job: be kind and polite to everyone you meet, not only because that´s the correct thing to do but also because life is a damned ironic, surprising rollercoaster – you never know when the servant becomes the king and the king becomes the servant.
Another angel revisits my memory: Sabrine, the toilet cleaning lady of the first venue where I performed in Egypt. Everybody I knew treated her like shit. (Sorry for the lack of a better word: shit it is). Her job was to clean the toilets, to hand toilet paper to costumers and to ask for the egyptian institution: the tips: the “baksheesh“. No glory – no respect and welcome to Egypt!
I loved her from the first moment I saw her – she was a jewel to me: a mother, a sister, a friend, one of my biggest fans (she used to film my performances, from the toilet, on her modest mobile phone). She had no contacts with big shots of the oriental dance world; no bling to finance my shows; no influence of any kind; nothing. Or everything, depending on the perspective.
She offered me flowers; she stopped by my changing room to tell me how beautiful I looked that evening or to deliver some homemade cake she had prepared for me. She hugged when I was exhausted and spoke about me (as if I was the last coca-cola in the desert) to the ladies who passed by her kingdom (toilet). Without realizing it, she became my assistant, my friend and even my publicist. Where others saw filth and poverty, I saw a warm home and a valuable supporter. The Net* was working through her or she was working through the net.
Reminder: never underestimate the “little person” who crosses your path. Wake up: there is no “little person” and no “big person”. Everything changes and no one can be definied by their fame, money or power. All of those things are circumstances and circumstances change in the blink of an eye.
The GRATITUDE I feel towards these invisible angels is infinite. That greek gentleman´s hand, hidden in the dark background of a major event was crucial for the success of my performance. Crucial for the mending of my heart.
Sabrine and many others, like her, whom I met along the way, have been the unknown pillars of my career and my being. No smallness in them. How can angels be small?! Small are the ones who look down on them; small are the ones who are too blind to listen to divinity spoken in whispers; small are the ones who ignore life´s crazy, often unsettling crossroads; small are the ones who keep ignoring the obvious: we´re all one.