Winter Visit to Berlin’s Snow Princess
by Najia Marlyz
Caravan Magazine June 10, 1988 (now out of print). Re-written for GS March 17, 2013
posted March 31, 2014
It is rare that reality matches one’s fantasy, but in this case, in 1988, my expectations were surpassed by the reality of wish-fulfillment. I thought I was prepared for my winter trip to Germany; it would be picturesque and snowy. What I got, in addition to deep snow and cold air, was an opportunity to meet with one of Germany’s top Middle Eastern dancers, Beata Zadou, on a more personal level than our previous brief meetings at the Rakkasah Festival in California.
The role of visitor and traveler, though exciting and even at times edifying, can also be a pain in neck, but instead, this trip was a pleasure of color, sparkle, and excitement for me.
Graciously, Beata had invited me to teach the master class in her studio in Berlin and that gave me a clear focus for my visit to that history-laden city. When we arrived, snow was already fluttering down, and although I had brought along a coat, boots, and long socks, all of my clothing was California clothing and was inadequate. Did I say inadequate? It was shockingly inadequate! It took me a couple of days of suffering with my cold red knees, nose, and ears to remember that lurking back in my suitcase were leotards and tights that could double for long underwear and a veil that could be used for a scarf! However, once I borrowed a heavier coat and woolen scarf, I was set for a non-California winter adventure.
Beata was participating in the three-day International Tourism Festival 1988 in Berlin, representing Abu Dhabi. I enjoyed the festival and watched her dance; she was looking every inch a snow princess. She was costumed all in white silver and rhinestones with a little crown of white flowers in her long blonde hair. The Germans made an appreciative audience, standing spellbound as she danced.
Even more appreciative were the Middle Easterners who crowded around for a glimpse of the wonderful sight she made lured by the live music provided by white galabeya-clad musicians. Afterward, several admirers followed her to her dressing room door where they were thanked – and firmly shut out.
Beata hurried, changed into street clothing, donned her floor-length blue-dyed mink coat, and we were off in her car to the studio where her dance students were gathered, standing on the sidewalk, waiting patiently for the studio to open. Beata commented that although we were late in arriving, her students expected that circumstance because she is habitually tardy. Beata is a talkative young woman who is at ease and fluent in English and pleasingly candid in her opinions. I was impressed with the love and concern her students displayed for her!
Beata’s studio was squeaky clean; even though “the cleaning lady had not been in yet”, she whispered to me. It was well lighted and warm. (The walls were decorated with many pictures of our mutual friend and instructor, Bert Balladine—once also a Berliner.) It was a delight for me to teach her students who were quick to respond to instruction and polite in the extreme as are most German classes I experienced. They were so appreciative of the instruction that my fears about communication and language problems disappeared quickly. Those who did not speak much English were aided by someone dancing nearby. I taught some American-style veil air sculptures they had not seen before, and then worked with concepts of musical interpretation appropriate to use with Egyptian music. The two-hour class passed by quickly, ended with the students applauding as is often customary in Germany for a guest instructor, and we were soon headed back home, where Beata dropped me at my doorstep. I expect that I will see Berlin again but now believe I would rather visit there during a warmer season so that I could enjoy the shopping and historical sites. If you go to Berlin, you should definitely call Beata and arrange to join one of her classes. She has an encouraging, welcoming personality and is a professional dancer of quality.
Just two weeks after my visit to Berlin, Beata spent a couple of evenings with me in California while she was featured as a guest teacher at the 1988 Rakkasah Festival’s weeklong workshop. I was charmed by her openness and frank views of life both here and in Germany. She made me laugh many times, showing her ease in demanding what other dancer teachers are often shy to expect: respect, adequate remuneration, and affection. I said goodbye to Beata, feeling that she had given me far more than the gift of earrings she placed in my hand as we parted. She reminded me throughout my stay that I must uphold the value of my dance by commanding respect as an instructor and a performer—not through being temperamental—but through living the confident star attitude she understands so well.
Ready for more?
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