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Belly dancing is an art usually associated with women. But Prince Kayammer has taken Greece and the world by storm. ZOE CHRISTODOULIDES meets hims
It’s just like any other day in the office when an invite lands on my desk to watch Prince Kayammer in action. While it’s certainly not every day that you get to ogle at a male belly dancer performing on stage, my curiosity gets the better of me the moment I spot his rather unusual name. Assuming he must be from the Middle East if his looks are anything to go by, I’m soon told that he is in fact a Greek through and through. And apparently, he’s also one of the most sought after performers and oriental dance instructors in Europe today.
Having arrived in Cyprus last week for a performance at the Sawa Syrian Restaurant, he sits back to relax for a few hours before the party begins. Meeting him before the show, the so called “prince” is dressed down in t-shirt and jeans, making it rather hard to imagine him transform into the night time diva that’s captured in his various publicity shots. As we sit down to chat, I can’t help but notice the cloud of smoke that surrounds him as he reaches over to roll yet another ciggie. “It’s my only vice,” he suddenly exclaims. “But did you know that many dancers smoke?” He pauses for breath. “Yes it’s bad, but belly dance has more to do with strength than stamina.”
And with that, the Prince lets on another secret, revealing that his real name is plain and simple Tasos, which is an abbreviation of Anastasios. And how did the name Prince come about? “To be honest I can’t really remember the exact moment that I thought of it but I’m sure it was with a group of friends,” he replies. But what’s most interesting is the hidden meaning behind it. “Kayammer is Israeli for the Greek word ‘anesti’ which means resurrection.” The title of ‘Prince’ then adds to the exotic appeal. “I like it because it suggests a lot,” he says with a cheeky grin. “I’ll never forget one interview in the Czech Republic where they asked if I really am a prince! I said unfortunately not.”
Real prince or not, dance loving crowds are often taken aback by the 27-year-old’s great technique and strong, emotionally-fuelled charisma on stage. After all, it’s usually women who are known for being able to shake their bellies while getting to grips with sensual oriental moves. But the prince begs to differ. “It’s about so much more than just a feminine appeal. For me there is little difference between a male Latin dancer and a male belly dancer. To find a male belly dancer a bit strange comes down to ignorance.”
But when the prince began to belly dance professionally in Greece in 2003, he can’t deny that he was one of the very few men in the country to take up such a dance. “It was definitely more taboo to begin with and even my family were a bit prejudiced at first,” he recalls. “It was even strange for me to start with but the more I travelled, the more free I became with myself and just got over it. And these days, male belly dancers have become a bit of a trend around the world.”
While jetting off abroad involved intensive dance courses in Cairo for a number of years, where he picked up the tricks of the trade, his passion for these kind of moves began when he was still in high school and just so happened to watch an Arabic dance show. “I always danced as a kid, I was barely walking but dancing,” he chuckles. “But the truth is that I never aimed or expected to be a professional dancer.”
While dancing on stage wasn’t necessarily on the agenda, his very first teachers at his afterschool dance lessons were more than a little impressed as words of encouragement gave him the push he needed to take the affair more seriously. “At the time however there weren’t enough oriental dance courses in Greece so I would save my money to do the intensive courses in Cairo,” explains the dancer. “I kept going over there for about five years and in between training I went to just about every dance venue imaginable. I felt right at home there and there was something about oriental dance that just touched me.”
After he gained his qualifications he spent much time performing at various night clubs in Greece while making regular TV appearances, before dedicating himself to teaching over the past three tears. While many professional dancers have since been trained by Prince Kayammer, his students and choreographies have earned more than 20 golden medals in Oriental Dance competitions in Greece and abroad. In 2008 he established the Oriental Passion dance festival which has now become recognised worldwide, attracting Bollywood dancers and various well-known foreign names.
But what really sets him apart has to be the fact that he’s one of the first men to ever deal with belly dance professionally in Greece, with a reputation that has exceeded his wildest expectations. With much to be proud of, one has to wonder what someone needs to really excel in this kind of performance? “You definitely need good technique and knowledge of the dance but I really think the recipe for success is showing your character though your moves.” As for his own personal secret, he suddenly becomes a little shy. “Mine?” he asks back coyly. “Oh I don’t know, I haven’t chased after the idea of being famous. That just happened along the way.”
Oriental Dance Training Course Part 2 and 3
Prince Kayammar will continue his training course in Cyprus in November. For more details Tel: 99 580357 or message www.facebook.com/klitobellydancecyprus