Friday, 7 September 2012

The Self-Created Myth

“Please send me a bio, with lots of good info about why you dance and your experience. 500 to 600 words will be fine,” read the email in my inbox. “Look forward to hearing from you!”

I stared at those numbers for a long time. 500 to 600 words? Characters, surely. Truth to tell, I’d be pushing it to make 600 characters too. Come to think of it, I could tweet my “dance experience”. My deep cry of despair brought The Man in from the garden to see what was wrong. He peered at my laptop screen before emitting a brief snort that sounded for all the world like a suppressed chuckle.

“You could lie,” said The Man. “Well – not lie, exactly. You could ‘embellish’.”


“Well, there was that trip you did in 2005 to Turkey, Egypt and Jordan. We spent Christmas together in Morocco a couple of years ago. And we’re going to Miriam’s wedding on Saturday – she’s Moroccan. You can say ‘thank you’ in Arabic and Turkish. You eat quite a lot of falafel and drink coffee. Last week you came to Phoenicia Food Mart with me and we bought olives.”

“So what?”

The Man retreated to the comfy chair in the corner of the room and pulled the cat up onto his lap. His eyes drifted closed. “During my time living in the Middle East, I developed a deep understanding of, and love for, the language and culture of its peoples.”

“You did not.”

“No, no, my slow to latch-on love. That’s what you say in your bio. ‘During my time living in the Middle East, I developed a deep understanding of, and love for, the language and culture of its peoples.’”

“But I’ve never lived in the Middle East!”

“Were you alive during your holidays there?”

“What kind of a question is that?”

“If you were alive while you were there, you were ‘living’. You lived in the Middle East. It’s just grammar.”

“But –”

“Is there a photo of you dancing in a nightclub in Cairo?”

“Of course not, because there were dozens of us on the dance floor and –“

“Good. Then there’s no proof that you weren’t in costume or actually performing. Put this in too – ‘I have had the honour of being a guest performer at Cairo’s famed Shaky Credentials Nitespot.’”

“You are very naughty, and I can’t possibly say any of this,” I scolded, my fingers flying across the keyboard as I struggled to catch every word he said. “What else?”

“Who did you do a workshop with while you were there?”

“Aida Noor.”

“Is she famous?”

“Um, yeah.”

“Marvellous! Did she say anything nice to you? About your dancing, I mean.”

“Not that I remember. We did sit at the same table while she had a cigarette, but I don’t think she spoke to me other than to gesture for my lighter.”

“Ah hah! So she wasn’t repulsed by you. Excellent. Put this in – ‘With every performance, I strive to justify the faith shown in me by my mentor, Aida Noor.’ OK, now who’s a famous dancer who HAS said something encouraging to you?”

“At the International Belly Dance Congress in 2007, I did a workshop with Fifi Abdo. She looked off the stage in my direction and said ‘Good!’, but to be honest I think she was speaking more generally to all 100 people in the room.”

“Don’t try and obscure the facts with honesty. ‘I am one of Fifi Abdo’s favourite dancers...’”

“Absolutely not. No. There are limits.”

“Your limits are self-imposed. We’re saying ‘one of’ her favourite dancers, not ‘her favourite’.”

“Mm. You’re almost too good at this. No woman wants to know that her husband’s relationship with the truth is this flexible.”

“Come, my little kumquat, and unfurl your brow. This is all for your benefit, remember. How about we just say that Fifi Abdo ‘spotted your talent’ at the Congress?”

“Better. Keep going.”

“How many countries have you taken workshops in? If it’s more than one, call yourself ‘an international performer’. Come to think of it, there were French people at that hafla performance of yours, weren’t there? I saw them clapping at the end, which makes you an ‘internationally acclaimed performer’.”

“Wow. It does, doesn’t it? I am so much more accomplished than I thought I was!”

“You are this close to being able to quit your day job. Just stick with me and it’ll happen before you know it. Did you know that trying to show Colleen from Marketing how to do a head slide makes you a teacher? And that time at Sandeep’s party when you explained to his Swedish friend Anni how belly dance differs from burlesque. That makes you an international teacher. And a lecturer – no, not a lecturer. That implies you were talking to more than one person, so it’s not quite true. Say ‘academic’ instead.”

“I have an amazing depth and breadth of experience! Even I would take workshops with me based on this!”

“Now for the icing on the cake. Is there a clip of you dancing on YouTube?”

“Well...there was one that got taken down by my teacher because it got too many ‘dislikes’, and there’s one where I'm barely visible at the end of the frame in a workshop run-through. Will that do?”

“Of course. Just describe your performances as ‘boundary pushing’ and ‘avant-garde’.”

“I am very avant-garde, aren’t I? No wonder the belly dance world hasn’t be able to handle my awesomeness and I’m not stupendously, stupidly famous! Thank you so much for helping me to write my bio correctly.”

“You’re very welcome. Now that you’re all done, do you want to go to the movies tonight?”

“Sure. The Imposter looks pretty good. I’m always fascinated by con-artists who go to great lengths to convince people that they’re something they’re not. Doesn’t trying to live up to all the lies get exhausting?”

The cat jumped off The Man’s lap and padded out of the room. The Man gave me a long, thoughtful look and then stood up and stretched. “I don’t know,” he said eventually. “Let’s find out, shall we?”  


  1. You know, I have heard a lot of dance bios with less truth than those!

    1. This is just wonderful, perfect. I love your writing. And you made my day.

  2. Absolutely love it. Best bio by far!