Zophie The Betrayer Suspect One: Murder In Morocco

Zophie comes from the Askali, Romani family.  A family that is cursed.  As Persian folklore states, the Romani family is doomed to roam the earth, unable to find peace, due to their greed.  The great King had once given the Romani family prized horses to travel and provide entertainment among the poor, but instead, the family drowned themselves in wine and left the horses to nearly starve. Upset by this, the king had a powerful Sihir place a curse among the family.  Zophie, the eldest daughter of the family and a fortune-teller, has grown tired of wandering.  One night, while her family is sleeping, Zophie tries to escape. She is caught by her younger sister and they quarrel. Overcome by the power of Zophie, the younger sister falls. In a panic, Zophie escapes leaving her injured sister.  Unknowing to what fate has brought her sister, Zophie, claiming a new identity as Sophia, finds herself a home in Morocco and at Majorelle Operetta, the heart of entertainment in Marrakesh. Known for her incredible balance she performs a tea-tray dance with fire.

Zophie becomes the first suspect in the murder. Was Zophie suspicious that the dead dancer knew her true identity? Is she the killer? Will her true identity be revealed? Or can she escape her families curse?

 

Nafay’s Casino Cabaret Characters

NafayBawdy and brilliant, Nafay has a knack for business.  She is the owner of Casino Cabaret also known as Queen Nafay’s Casino.  Nafay grew up as the only female in the family along side two older brothers and her father who raised them.  Her mother passed from an unknown cause while Nafay and her brothers were very young leaving Nafay to become more dependent from her older brothers and learn the family textile business.  The business was successful and at its peak toward the end of the Ottoman Empire, when robbers stole and vandalized the business, burning it to the ground.  This led her father into a deep depression and eventually death. Nafay, then nearing her early twenties, became more independent and started acting and dancing.  Eventually, once again working with one of her brother’s, she opens a casino that will cater mainly to Europeans and the Western World heavily influenced by Hollywood and its glamorous stars. It stars the troupe of Golden Age Dancers with stories all their own.  Eventually, Nafay will have to face part of her past that she was soon hoping to forget.

Farah: Farah was raised primarily by women and is a traveling street performer who sings, dances and recites poetry. She performs regularly at the marketplace where she swings her assaya(cane) and plays her finger cymbals.  As Samara (read character below) travels to Cairo she sees Farah dance and is mesmerized by her beauty and dance.

Sabah: The young Sabah left her family when she was a younger teenage due to rebellious behavior.  She found herself in Cairo where she meet up with Nafay, the owner and troupe director of Casino Cabaret. As one of Nafay’s first troupe members, she soon becomes the headlining star of the casino.  Sabah is movie star gorgeous, talented and a bit narcissistic.  She is spoiled endlessly with jewelry and gifts from patrons.  Sabah works very hard and has little time for friendship.  When Samara, a unique and beautiful girl enters the troupe, Sabah becomes cautious of her dance ability.  Things turn for the worst, during a routine rehearsal, when an unexpected intruder comes to practice and causes Sabah to trip.  Now, with a twisted ankle, she is unable to dance for the weekend show leaving Samara to temporarily take her place.

Jamah: Jamah comes from a long line of traditional male dancer’s in Istanbul. However, with the growing trend and adoption of western taste, the once popular male dancers of the Ottoman empire have slowly demised.  Jamah is determined to change this and longs to be a part of Nafay’s troupe by any means necessary.  He works as a busser at the casino and is often allowed to sneak in to watch the troupe practice.  One day, in order to prove himself to Nafay and the other dancers, he tricks the new troupe member Samara (locking her in the kitchen closet) and performs in her place during a dress rehearsal.  At the end of the song, the troupe is a tiny bit shocked but giddy and impressed that he know the choreography. However, an over-dramatic Sabah faints and falls to the floor, twisting her ankle.  Jamah runs out of the building before Nafay and her brother get ahold of him. With Sabah unable to perform, Samara will have to take her place.

Nafay’s Casino Cabaret Troupe: Nafay’s troupe consist of the most beautiful, elegant and talented dancers who perform on a weekly demanding schedule.  Nafay, who is the owner and troupe director provides the choreography for many of the performances.  Their style includes theatrical stage performing with props as well as improvisational numbers to live music.  They have a very showgirl western appeal to their dramatic and alluring look.  Sabah is the headlining star of the troupe who has solo pieces in the choreographies. Samara, a young new dancer, will soon become part of this troupe.

Samara: Samara was raised alone by her father Assad after he took off and abandoned her mother for her unconventional lifestyle.  Assad is protective of his daughter but see’s that her personality grows more toward her mother’s way. In fear, Assad tried to shelter Samara from the world.  On the way to the marketplace to run errands she decides to leave once and for all.  She makes her way into Cairo where she meets and instantly bonds to Nafay who gives her motherly love that has been missing most of her life. Nafay welcomes Samara, an untrained dancer to the casino, and spends the majority of her time training her to eventually join the troupe.  She has her struggles at first but then becomes accustomed to dancing.  Eventually, she joins the troupe much to the jealous demise of the star Sabah.  When Sabah trips during rehearsal Samara soon takes her place as the soloist. But that is not the end of the story.

To be continued…

Prepare for the Unexpected!

Samia PinkExpect the unexpected.  This was a term I often used for my cheerleading squad that I coached.  In cheerleading the unexpected happened often.  There were times when one or more girls were injured, absent or had simply just quit the team.   What did this mean?  It meant we had to adapt to our surroundings.  That means a girl who was a spotter suddenly had to become a flyer or a stunt pyramid completely needed to be changed and it needed to be done quickly for a performance or competition.  However, one thing was for certain, the girls never missed an event. They expected the unexpected.  The same philosophy is true for belly dancers.

Rule Number One: Always have a well-fitted costume on hand for performing.

 

This past spring I had drove out of town to Monticello, NM.  I had signed up for a few different workshops.  Monticello is a nearly deserted place along a twenty-five-mile drive of valley.  While I drove alone to the dance workshop I imagined a whole slue of things that could happen along the way.  What would happen if I suddenly became stranded?  Would a man with a chainsaw come after me?  Would I run out of water and die in the sun?  Would a rattlesnake bite me?  Luckily, I still had two bars left on my phone.  I stopped along the way to take pictures of where I was to send to a couple of friends – just incase.

When I arrived at the workshop I felt relieved that I had made it.  I took a candle workshop and then drove back along the valley to my hotel in Truth or Consequences.  Awe. There was an air-conditioned room with a bed and restaurants nearby.  I was content.  I bought take-out food, ate and then fell asleep while watching Signs on television.  I woke up a few hours later, showered and traveled all the way back to Monticello.  I was looking forward to some middle eastern cuisine and entertainment from the musicians and belly dancers.

It was a lovely place.  The hostess had created a wonderful event.  It was welcoming and the catered food was nice.  I sat, ate, drank and was happy.  Then something occurred.  Apparently, one of the performers had to leave back home due to an emergency.  The hostess asked if I would be willing to take her place in the show.

“Oh, I don’t know. I don’t have a costume with me.” I said,  “I’m sure we can find you something.” she said, “You can borrow one of my costumes.” she continued, “Ok.” I said hesitantly.  I really don’t like to turn down any opportunity to dance, especially to live music.

She asked me to follow her.  We walked into a trailer where the dressing room was located.  “Here this should fit you.” She said.  I looked at the costume.  It was about 4 inches too long for my five foot two frame.  Also, as boobalicious as I am, the cups were one size too big for my frame.  However, I tried it on.  It was a full-skirted costume with a belt attached to the skirt.  I thought, “Maybe if I tuck the top part of the skirt into the belt it will work.”  The bra was the tricky part.  Let’s just say there were a lot of safety pins involved.  I looked in the mirror.  The room was very dim but I thought this was definitely a costume I could pull off.

After all the pinning and tucking I needed to go to the little girls room.  The little girls room was a public port-a-potty.  Now, I do not think I am too good to use an outside toilet but the seven hundred-dollar costume I was borrowing for the show was definitely too good to be in there with me.  However, I did not have a choice.  I grabbed a flashlight and made the short journey to the toilet, high heels and all.  Halfway down the hill I stumbled. “I’m ok!” I said to no one but myself as I pulled myself together to walk again.  I did my business and walked to the performance area.

I gazed as the professional hired belly dancers did their thing on stage.  I hoped by some sheer luck that the song I would be dancing to would be Classical Egyptian or folkloric since I am decent with a cane.  I walked to the side of the building down a dirt path covered in rocks.  There was an entrance to the side of the stage I wanted to start my performance at.  I watched as the girl before me performed with the band.  And then suddenly “Ouch” I yelped.  Something had crawled up my leg and bit me on the upper thigh.  I turned red.  I was embarrassed that the audience heard me and that I had interrupted the performance.  But as usual, my powers of invisibility were in gear and not a single person noticed.  Then as the tingling continued my imagination continued as well.  Did a scorpion bite me?  Was it an ant?  There was no time to panick.  My name was being called.

“From Albuquerque New Mexico, Ranee!”  The music started, I waiting for about thirty seconds and entered on cue.  The pain in my leg suddenly disappeared and I danced – badly and mostly in placed.  You see the costume did not work out after all and was coming apart from where I had tucked in the skirt.  I could barely travel, bend or spin but I smiled!  This seemed like the longest set of my life when the drummer finally started his solo.  Now, I can fake a pretty good drum solo even as nervous as I was.  For me drums mean this is nearly the end of the performance.  I motioned to the drummer to finish.  I spun around and ended in a dramatic Turkish Drop.

My bra popped. The halter had snapped and I was on the floor, my head toward the audience.  I grabbed the halter with one hand and tried to get up as gracefully as I could and exited the stage.

Now, I have seen this happen before.  I never expected it to happen to me.  After a few moments of sheer shock I composed myself.  I walked up the hill back to the trailer and changed as quickly as possible.  Hey maybe they won’t even realize it was me that was dancing?  I returned to watch the rest of the show and enjoyed it.  This was a lesson learned.  Now, I always have a costume on hand.  And in the event I don’t?  Well, I won’t be borrowing one either.

Oh, and I did mention this earlier but just incase you forgot, I did this all in heels.

Cute, Chunky Girl

Samia PinkC.C.G that’s what I call myself.  Cute Chunky Girl.  I don’t go a week without someone telling me how adorable I am.  It doesn’t matter how awesome I think my choreography is or how inventive my new move is or even the fact that I can slide into the splits or spin into a Turkish Drop.  I am just so damn cute.  In my earlier years, this just burned me up.  In my selfish mind, I believed that cute was a compliment that covered up what people thought of my dancing.  I wanted people to say “That dance was awesome.” or “You danced beautifully.”  Instead, I felt like a newly born puppy that everyone has to love.  You know what I am talking about, that puppy that poops and pees and tears up the house, but you have to love it because it is cute.
Now, the chunky part.  I blame the Lovato’s for this.  Horrible genetics.  The woman have huge boobs and flat butts.  It would not be so bad if my tummy wasn’t so thick and squarish.  And, no matter how many squats and legs lifts I do, I will never have a Kardashian ass.  I still haven’t learned to deal with this, although some days are better than others.  “Maybe if my stomach was smaller, you could see that I do have some roundness in my booty.”  I think to myself often.  My stomach is not round because of lack of exercise or overeating.  It is my deep addiction to soda.
“Damn you Coca-cola! Damn you straight to hell!” I often say out-loud.  Now, I don’t blame the soda company for its yummy goodness.  I mean one soda is fine but for me, Ranee: cuteness extraordinaire, one soda sometimes is not enough.  I can drink Coke morning, noon and night.  A fountain from McDonald’s for me is like ambrosia for the Gods.  It’s the corn-syrup I am addicted too, as it is for so many.  I tried drinking the real sugar one that is found in some of the Mexican owned stores in the South Valley but it just does not do the trick for me.  I may need some tough love, a hypnotist or a new addiction to cure my undying love for Coke.
Recently, I have tried something new: soda water.  Yes, you know what I am talking about, club soda.  The drink of recovering alcoholics or recovering corn-syrup drinkers.  Many people around me now ask, “How can you drink that?  It taste like Alka-Seltzer.” I have no idea to answer this question. Honestly, I think it taste fine.  It is bubbly with zero calories.  I mean I am down from drinking six Cokes a day to about two Cokes a day.   For me this is a start.  You can’t forget your first love;I mean first addiction.
So that explains my chunkiness.  As for my adorable cuteness, it must come from the fact that I love what I do and that is dancing and performing.  I have been a natural ham all my life and although I am not skinny I have a nice smile. I enjoy my Facebook picture postings and videos that I put up.  When I danced with Souhail Kasper recently I wanted to put an additional seven pictures up on my posting, but I thought that may be a little too much even for me.   I don’t think any of the other dancer’s, who danced with him that night, posted pictures of themselves and believe me they took some hot photo’s.  I assume they just are not as needy as I am.  I get giddy with all the comments and likes I received from those photos I posted up on Facebook, even from the people who do not really know me or like my dancing.
I mentioned my cute issue with one of my male students recently.  He told me that was probably the nicest compliment that someone could give me and insisted that it was a term of endearment from other dancer’s and audience members.  He also told me, “It’s easy for a twenty something to be cute.  You have to earn being cute when your older and that just shows how young you look and how young at heart you are.”  “Ouch” I thought,   “I really must be a total ass to have thought otherwise.”
So, now as I near to my fortieth birthday this year, I appreciate the cute compliment.  I look in the mirror, see the newly gray hairs that need to be dyed and look at my wrinkles made from laughter and smiling.  I like the way I look a think of the positive things.  I mean I love my legs, boobs and mischievous grin.  I am cute, not beautiful or gorgeous but cute is awesome. Hell, I could be the next Betty White.  And wouldn’t that be nice?  I hope I can be a cute old gal.
As for my pancake ass – more squats.

Showtime!

El ReyIt had been a couple of weeks since the audition and a few of us had a scheduled performance at one of the downtown theaters.  I think there were about eight of us scheduled to dance solo’s that night.  The only difference between me and the other dancer’s performing was that although we all came from the same studio, most of them had not been at the audition.  I wonder if they had heard about the audition incident?  I certainly was not going to mention it.  Hell, for now, I was ready to dance!  I had choreographed a number with splits and floor work included.

There was a rumor that there was going to be a large crowd for the event and that we were suppose to be a paid.  Along with the dancer’s, there would also be performances by musician’s as well.  I had no idea what I would be paid.  There were several of us dancing. Admission to the show was seven dollars.  I was wondering how much all of us could make?  There was a rental fee, the musicians and DJ had to be paid as well.  There were also several high quality flyers that were passed out. However, I was not too worried about it since I was not in charge.  The thought that I could possibly take twenty dollars home for my first paid gig was thrilling.

I came to the event in a partial hand-made costume that M had made for me.  The bra and belt had been purchase previously at a dance workshop. M had sewed me a new skirt from material I had purchased at Hobby Lobby.  It had sparkly silver stars spun over shiny black over-lay.  She also made me a pair of black arm bands from tightly woven curtain spun material. Underneath, I had a pair of sheer black harem pants.  In the early days of my dancing I wore bindi’s. Why?  I have no idea except that I saw other dancer’s wearing them and idiotically thought it was part of middle eastern culture.  I wasn’t aware of the Bollywood slash Arabic fusion style that had become popular.  I just thought the bindi’s covered my forehead nicely and made me feel pretty.

I came to the venue in my costume.  As a dancer of less than six months, no one had ever told me how unprofessional it was to come to a show, of any kind, already dressed.  I learned much later that the best thing to do is get dressed in a room at the venue or if you absolutely have to come dressed, you should wear a cover-up also.  At the time it didn’t care.  I was gallivanting around in my costume, downtown, for everyone to see.  Believe me, I wanted to be seen.  As I arrived at the theater I walked through the front doors with my boyfriend.  “Can I see your ID miss?” asked the bouncer.  “I’m a performer here.” I said.  “Well, I still need your ID.” he responded.  I had to walk back to my car, in full costume, to get my ID that I had left in the glove compartment.  I returned with my ID “Here it is.”  I told him. “Wow, you really look young for your age.”  he said.  “Thanks!” I replied with a huge grin on my face.

I was at the venue one hour before show time.  I walked around to see if I could find any of the other performer’s.  I found my teacher who greeted me with a big hug and sent me to the building next door where the other dancers were.  I walked upstairs to find them.  There they were stretching, shimming and practicing their movements for the stage.  Now, I’m a performer, but I am also an introvert.  I didn’t want to practice backstage or stretch.  So, I do what I always do; I practiced in my head.  The song was “Ice Queen” performed by Dinletir from the first Belly dance SuperStars CD.  In my mind I saw myself performing flawlessly.  I was ready.

The crowd gathered up fairly quickly and the show was about to start.  I had a few friends and family members in attendance.  I could see some of their faces from the side of the stage.  While I was waiting for my turn to perform, I watched the other dancer’s.  I also noticed the stage floor.  There were several extension cords, amps and other items that could easily trip me or another performer.  “I better watch out.” I thought to myself.

My turn came abruptly as soon as the performer before me left the stage.  My music was on, loud and full of bass.  It was at this part of my dance journey that I was unaware of entrances and exits.  I always used to start my dancing on the first measure of music.  I had to rush out quickly to match my movements with the music.  I felt good.  The crowd loved me!  When I slide into my splits there was a loud applause that echoed through the building.  I finished dancing to my song, exited the stage and felt tremendously happy with my performance.

I composed myself backstage and then went to join my friends and family for the rest of the show.  The adrenaline wore of and I yelled, “Son of a bitch, I pulled my damn hamstring!” My best friend was there  and asked “Are you ok?”  “The splits. I hurt myself when I did the splits.”  I whined.   When everyone was backstage practicing and stretching, I should have been stretching too, but no I was practicing my performance in my head.  I slumped over the rail I was next to and watched the rest of the show.  I was interested in watching my teacher, the final dancer, dance.  The crowd loved her and there was a loud thunderous clap when she spun in her “Turkish Drop.” A Turkish Drop is a few full turning spins with a dramatic drop to the floor, sliding down on your knees and landing on your back.  It was amazing.

I left the show a bit early, limping to my car.  The next day I stayed home, unable to walk comfortably, and watched Wishmaster 3.  As I rested on the futon, one thing keep going through my mind, ” I’m going to learn how to do a Turkish Drop.”

Oh, and I never got paid.

Audition!

Samia PinkI had been taking dance classes from my new teacher for about two months when she announced that an audition would be coming up.  A musician was looking for a couple of dancer’s for a venue at one of the local casinos.  I was very nervous and unprepared.  As a dancer I needed to know what the music sounded like and how to prepare a simple choreography to that music.  I wasn’t trained yet to dance to anything that was non-choreographed, much less live music.  However, I wanted to audition.  I figured it would be a good experience whether or not I got the gig.

I didn’t have a professional costume at the time.  This was a great opportunity to purchase my first professional costume.  I met with a local vendor that had a shop inside his home. There were so many pretty and very expensive costumes. Everything I loved was over my budget of $300 dollars.  I would soon learn the name Eman Zaki, a designer, whose designs were beautiful but expensive.  I tried on several costumes, none of which I could afford, even though I was told I would be getting a deal since the owner was good friends with my teacher.  I said, “Here is the thing, I only have $300 with me.”  He took out some costumes which looked very similar to the”Desert Swirl Brand.”  The Desert Swirl brand is known as an inexpensive alternative for dancer’s on a budget. They were not as heavily beaded or filled with crystals but it was in my budget and it was a beautiful hot pink color.  He said, “These are not professional costumes, but you might like them.”  As many dancer’s know, there are very few times when we try on a costume and it fits perfect. The skirt was about 5 inches too long for my 5 foot 2 inch frame.  It was also a little loose for my hips.  I would need to speed more money on a seamstress to add elastic at the hips and hem it from the bottom. “I’ll give you $250 for it.” I offered.  “Well, for you I will let you have it for $250, you will have to check the room for any accessories that go with it.” He said happily. “Thank you.” I replied, ” I can’t wait to wear it!”

The audition was a week away, I found a seamstress who would fix my costume.  In the meantime, I needed things I rarely purchase like make-up and hair products.  I also needed a mani-pedi and a eye-brow waxing.  In the process would also practice putting on stage make-up.  The word stage make-up just feels wrong.  It reminded me of Drama Club in high school and how much foundation I would have to wear when I played the Wicked Witch of The West.  BLEH!

I never learned how to put on everyday or evening make-up correctly but M was a pro.  She is one of those girls with perfect hair, perfect make-up, laced with the newest Dooney and Burke purse.  Everything opposite of the Sketchers and Old Navy Jeans girl that I am.  “Close you eyes Reina and don’t squint, relax.” M said, “I am relaxing. Please don’t put too much on my face.” I said like a child getting her hair brushed too hard. “Remember, you put on the liquid liner after the false eyelashes.” M repeated, making sure I was paying attention. “I know this.” I said. “Ok, look in the mirror.” M said both excitedly and relieved. “My God M, I look like a whore!  I don’t look like me!” “You are so weird,  you look pretty.” said M, ” You are just not used to wearing it.” M tried to assure me.  “I can’t do this, I look ten years older.”  I said. “No, you look fine. You don’t look like a high school student anymore.” M laughed.  “I am washing this off. I’ll just figure out how to put my own make-up next week.” I said as I ventured off to the bathroom.

A week passed ,and my make-up finally washed off (who knew that you really had to buy make-up remover?) It was time for the real thing.  I put on some red lipstick, a little eye shadow, false eyelashes and was ready to go. Luckily, I have naturally rosy cheeks so I don’t buy blush. I put my costume on;my seamstress did a great job and I felt good.  I felt good about auditioning.

I drove to the studio where the audition was being held.  There were already about eight dancer’s there, all from the same studio.  The musician walked in and we all greeted him.  I didn’t have any special props with me, in fact I wasn’t at the stage where I was using props at all.  It didn’t matter, I don’t think he was looking for the best dancer – he was looking for lovely ladies.  Why the hell not; doesn’t every musician want a hot girl near him?  We danced in two by two in front of him, it wasn’t that big of a deal, I was fairly happy with my performance.  When we finished dancing he thank all of us and left.  I had overheard him talk with my teacher about which two girls he wanted.  I was a little hurt that I was not one of those girls. ” Oh well”, I thought,” not too big of a deal, something eventually something will come up again”.   All of  the girls meet up afterwards for drinks.  It was a fun time and everyone seemed happy.  However, that was not the case.

I went back to the studio and found that the classes were empty.  Then the news came quickly that the studio would close in a month unless business picked up.  “What?” ” Why?”  “What am I going to do now?” I thought.  It turns out that after the audition, some of the girls had felt as though they were not being judged solely on their dancing but on their beauty, body and complained that the audition was more of a “Meat-Market” then anything else.  I thought about the dancer’s who had been chosen.  They were beautiful, perfect hour-shaped glass figures, but they could dance. Hell, I would have picked the same two if I had been him.  I wasn’t sure what to say to my teacher, except “Well, in the business you must have a thick skin.”

I am so happy that I have a small amount of thick skin, I needed it to continue dancing.  As for those other dancer’s, who did not make the audition, I haven’t heard from them since.