Madeline Blount
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Stranger Than Fiction: A Circus, and Eurovision

May 27, 2009 @ 11:43 AM | Permalink

There is no way all of that could happen in one day -- except that it did.   Writing about last Saturday should really be two posts, but I'm going to go with the absurd unity of time rather than breaking it down more digestibly.  Because sometimes things are in reality, well, hard to digest.

Last weekend started with a call from someone I had worked with on a dance performance piece here in Nicosia. "This girl dropped out of our street circus," she said.  "Would you possibly want to come down to Limassol and play a photographer-mime with us?"  

For future reference, if you ever get asked a question like this, you should always say yes.  I knew I had done something right here, as well, if I was someone's go-to for abandoned street miming gigs!  Score.  

I got into my friend's car, which was a stuffed theatrical caravan for the day.  I sat next to bouquets of flowers and a pair of stilts.  We got to Limassol, the port-city in Cyprus, hours before the only rehearsal, so I had some time to walk along the beach there.  If only inland Nicosia had water. .  .

I showed up at the Rialto theatre on time for rehearsal -- the cast of about 12 met each other, read through a list of acts, and then proceeded to get into costume, ready to go.  We were performing in a square to celebrate the 10th anniversary of a newly renovated theatre.  Everyone had white mime make-up, and elaborate costumes; my photographer act involved forming tableaux of audience members, taking pictures of these people with a Polaroid, and flinging those photos into the audience, all the while wearing a fosse-like body suit and top hat:

getting ready at the rialto theatre

The circus went really well --  we were able to work off each other and the audience without rehearsal.  The band rocked, and by the end of it I had half a dozen Cypriot children (and their dog) chasing after me, asking for their own Polaroid (foto! foto!).  I think I almost made one girl cry when I tried to show (mime!) that I only had so much film, and couldn't give her more than three pictures of herself . . . 

The cast gathered for Cypriot mezze, that marathon meal, to celebrate after getting out of costume late in the evening.  We had an appetite from the show, which meant I actually could eat quite a bit of the souvlaki, salads, cheeses, breads, olives.  We were washing it down with beer when someone turned on the TV: Eurovision finals time. 

I'd heard about Eurovision, but never really seen it.  The best way I can describe it is American Idol with nationalism.  Every participating country sends in a pop music act, and people watching all over the globe send a text message to vote for their favorite.  The only rule: you can't vote for your own country.  This doesn't eradicate the politics from it, of course; there's a controversial trend of voting for your neighboring country.  Eastern Europe tends to vote in an "Eastern bloc," or so my dinner neighbor told me.  I got to watch some of this in action.  The Greek Cypriots positively flipped out when the Greek performer stepped onstage.  Everyone in the bar knew the song, and everyone copied the guy's gyrating hip movements.  Even the man next to me who was complaining about the cheese and camp of Eurovision started whooping and dancing like the rest.  It was like a switch was flipped on; the whole place went crazy!  This means of course everyone from babies to grandfathers, like any good night out in Cyprus.



 Some of the moments of euphoria were when the Eurovision stage turned into a rising diving board with the Greek flag underneath it, from which the performer Sakis Rouvas jumped off.  He was wearing the tightest whitest pants I have ever seen, so there was actual worry (or anticipation?) that they would rip whenever he jumped.  

When the Turkish group came on, belly dancing and belting, it was immediately a different scene -- no babies or old men dancing, instead just solemn watching.  The change was swift.  The crowd still watched intently, but this wasn't "their guy."  More than that, the singers stood in for the country that Greek Cypriots consider to be occupying the North.  Cyprus has never failed to give all of its highest Eurovision points to Greece, and this year was no different.  Zero points to Turkey, in this nation where Turkish remains one of the official languages.

I got a ride home with the fire dancer from the circus.  She had been rooting for the Armenian song, as she was Armenian herself.  The Armenian act was one of the only ones that kept a traditional style rather than going pop, and I thought it would have scored higher.  When Armenia presented its cell phone votes live, the Armenian TV anchor had been flashing a postcard, clearly wanting to display the picture on the front, holding a cheeky expression, while she read the numbers.  My fire-breathing friend told me that this picture was of a monument in a disputed region on the border with Azerbaijan, one that Armenia annexed to protect the Armenians in the region in the 1980's.  A small gesture with rippling effects, for anyone who knew what the picture symbolized.  More for Armenians, I imagined, than anyone else; although my friend said it was really meant to dig at Azerbaijan, whose raunchy number got 3rd place in the whole competition.  

She also told me about her family's history and the Armenian genocide, how many of the refugees from that conflict (also with Turkey) ended up in Cyprus to raise their families.  Only to have another international conflict rip Cyprus apart barely a generation later.  I remembered this plaque on a beachfront in Larnaka:

We talked about how multiple nations, including Cyprus (and on this plaque), recognize the Armenian tragedy as a genocide, but the US has failed to do so, to this day.  Interests in Turkey preventing America from using the G word, we surmised.  An explanation, if not an excuse.  Our disappointment in my home country, and the country that everyone else here at least has an opinion about, drove us home to Nicosia.

Who did I vote for?  I had a Cyprus cell phone, and therefore a Cyprus vote!  I sent my SMS in for Norway, who did end up winning the whole competition.  I liked the camp of the Greeks, the tradition of the Armenians, but that Norwegian kid could play the violin and dance at the same time.  

O, and he was cute.






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Loved the ending on this. Related: I find that sometimes I remember a meeting or moment but can't recall what country it happened in. I also find that if I ...

Saleem Reshamwala on Upon Waking, and Placelessness 2009-03-23

Thanks Saleem -- I've also experienced that tonguetied delirium from speaking multiple languages in the same conversation. . . interesting to think of meaning separate from words, does meaning require ...

Madeline Blount on Upon Waking, and Placelessness 2009-03-26

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