Wednesday, May 4, 2011

An evening's entertainment

An evening’s entertainment

Resorts are fine as far as you go, but you don’t want to stay there the whole time. They’ll shelter you from the more nefarious evils of local cuisine, you’ll probably have a nice room, and there’ll be a salubrious lounge somewhere to sip drinks that’ve been brought to you.

But for local flavour, you’ll probably have to leave the gates of your holiday sanctuary. To swim with dolphins, explore Stonetown, go paragliding or tour the spice farms, you’ll need to leave. Want to go for a drink at Africa House and sip gin and tonics as the sun plunges into the Zanzibar channel. Yip, you gotta head out.

But the resort’s not throwing in the towel. They’re not about to let themselves be painted as some kind of lame-ass holiday club. They bring the action for your satisfaction!

Take tonight! They’ve got the Maasai traders from the market next door in to do a dance display. It’s not how you’d expect. It’s more a series of short dances lasting no longer than a minute, where each of the half dozen dancers gets a chance to execute his three biggest hops while they all chant mesmerically.

But the Maasai are regal and aloof. They lack audience interaction. Perhaps this next dance troupe will offer something more.

They’re clad in floral fabric, either skirts or trousers, singing and dancing, accompanied by a three-piece rhythm ensemble of djembes, cymbals and bass drums.

The exertion of dancing and singing has the dancers drenched in sweat – all except one guy. They leader of the group is wiry, with the muscle tone of a martial artist, skin like ebony and abs like a case of black eggs. He is not perspiring a drop.

He’s also completely possessed by the power of the music. And he has our undivided attention.
After the trance journey of song two appears to have reached its climax, he takes things to another level. The man runs offstage and returns with an enormous python around his neck!

The dance now takes a more terrifying turn as the man wraps himself in the irate animal, which tries in turn to strangle him. Another dancer follows him, painstakingly unwinding the snake from his torso as he inserts its head into his mouth.

We recoil in terror, but he follows us, wading into the rapidly vacated seating as we climb onto chairs, over them, people running for safety…

Some loiter warily. What outrage has this resort visited upon us in the name of excitement? The dancer begins licking the snake, which rears backwards in attack mode…

He puts the snake on the ground and it immediately thrashes towards us, scything across the concrete. All the chairs are empty, audience chattering with fear, clutching our cameras and manically firing off pics.

As the python cuts across the performance area, a large Afrikaans housewife strides up to intercept it. As the reptile reaches the first row of chairs, she takes her seat. The head of the python is five centimetres from her toe.

She flinches not an inch, and the snake quickly backs down. He heads back to his boss, who swiftly folds him back into his box.

“I’m used to big snakes,” she mutters under her breath. Two seats down, her husband blushes furiously and goes for another gin. Notch one up for the resort. That’s entertainment.

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