an evening with madame zingara – running away to join the circus

saturday evening we head over to montecasino. it’s media night for the fantastic travelling dinner theatre show madame zingara “aphrodisia”. i’ve been thinking lately that it might be time to retire my circus persona and pack up my burner wardrobe because i’m starting to feel a little schizophrenic, but my red tutu gets another night out and watching the show re-awakens the old dream of running away to join the circus.

as i walk up to the entrance, i am surprised by a “gorilla” who suddenly appears at my side before loping off again – the adventure has begun! 

pic from the madame zingara website

the show takes place in one of the few remaining historic spiegeltents, also known as mirror-tents, which were made around the turn of the last century and  used as travelling dance halls. to date, only about 16 of them are still in existence, including the madame zingara tent which boasts 972 mirrors, weighs 25 tons and was made around the 1920’s. it’s incredibly beautiful and still has all the original art deco stained glass, lights and fixtures. i saw the show last year, but i am again awed by the inside of the tent. everyone, ushers and waiters included, are all costumed. i fit right in. 

our server, jay is fantastic, making sure the needs of everyone at the table, are met. when he announces the main courses and i flippantly ask if he’s on the menu, he answers without hesitation, “that depends on what time you’d like me served!” it’s love at first bite. 

the entree is excellent, 2-person antipasto plates on which my favorite is the sipping cup of creamy butternut soup. yum! the following course, the pesto pasta canneloni goes perfectly with the accompanying rocket and everyone at the table seems to be having a great time. the performances too are fantastic. because of the nature of the seating, most of the performances happen in the air. the opening tango number starts on stage, then the artists take to the air. even the astonishing mongolian contortionists who have flown in just 24 hours earlier, seem to be levitating, even though they are performing on their own special platform. apparently richard griffin (how appropriate that the person responsible for this fantasy spectacular, is also named for a fantastical creature), specifically wanted mongolians because they traditionally include mouth balancing in their act. 

the different sets (all perfectly representing the “aphrodisia” theme) are interspersed between the meal courses and though the servers may be outrageously costumed, there’s an almost military precision in the way they manage to get the dishes out of the kitchen to feed roughly 450 people at the same time. i would love to be privy to the drama in the kitchen, because i’m sure it’s not easy. my salmon (i could have had springbok shanks, chocolate chili filet or chickpea patties) is superb and judging by the rapidly emptying plates around me, so is everyone else’s food.

the tons are melodic heavy-weights and they finish off the show with a medley which leads into one huge party. everyone is up and dancing to the dj. the show may be over, but the party continues. i catch a server, now done, yawning. they’ve all worked hard to make sure that everyone has a good time and it’s a job well done. 

if you can get a booking, go, before it’s gone! you won’t regret it.

(the show runs at montecasino, johannesburg from august 19th and moves to battersea power station, london in december)

saturday night fever…

just how difficult does it have to be to find a place to dance on a saturday night in johannesburg? based on my experience this past weekend, very.


seeing that we’d taken the trek out to montecasino so i could be guest dj on jacaranda fm, i decided that we needed to make a night of it. in l.a. i would be out at some party maybe once a week, or at least a few nights out of the month. i’d spend an age dressing up outrageously, pack my spinning toys and go and play with a lot of very creative, crazy other burners. here in johannesburg, i seem to be living someone else’s life. a very staid, boring someone else! i never seem to go dancing anymore. i don’t spin as much any more (more lately, but still not enough).

anyway, once done with the jacaranda interview, we head over to kai thai for supper. ok, but not great, food. i break out the red bull i have in my bag. ready, set, go. we head over to wakamata, a club recommended by a few people. unfortunately, they’ve got some hip-hop event happening. i have finally headed out of my house to find some dance house, and they’re playing hip hop! i feel like i’m deflating fast. we head upstairs to a restaurant whose name eludes me know. they’ve got a live band playing “o lare, ohoh…”. their tiny dance floor is pretty much packed. we contemplate the floor for a minute, but decide we’re forcing the issue.

after much uhm-ing and ah-ing, we decide to head over to rosebank and try out moloko. i’ve heard about the place from a number of people. on joburglive it’s described as “The slick, power suit community at play.” and it is. it’s still early so there’s no one around, yet the very pretty model type wo-manning the velvet ropes, gives us a very snooty appraisal before deigning to let us in. she laughs as i call her on it. inside, it’s all black on black, niche lighting to go with it’s niche market. the place to be for the BEE set. we pick a seat against the wall only to have a guard point out that this area is “reserved”. o-kay! we get a drink as the place starts filling up fast. finally the music bumps up a notch, and we hit the dance floor for a few minutes even though the music is kinda old-school. i’m still in search of some phat, progressive house beats. not here, at least not now.

i head to the bathroom where i have to clean the previous fashionista’s piss off the seat. if you’re too good to put your ass on the seat, at least have the decency to clean up your mess! but oh wait, i forget myself! someone else is expected to clean up after. jeez! we promptly depart and decide to check out latinova upstairs. the music sounds pretty pumping, but the guy at the door is officious and the cover is R150! i am obviously way out of the loop! who has the the kind of money to frequent places like these?

as we head to my car, we decide to check out the capital. i’m trying to figure out what the scene is, while the doorman tells me that it’s a “private function”. it takes me a minute and then i realize that this is the monthly lesbian bar a few of my girlfriends have threatened to take me to. it is obvious that we don’t belong here. if i were on my own, i’d check it out, but instead we head round the corner and downstairs where the doorman directs us. the music seeping out the door sounds pretty decent, so we opt to pay the R70 cover. inside, almost everyone is hip, black and at least half our age. the music at least, finally hits the jackpot and we hit the dance-floor and get down. this lasts about 45 minutes and then seemingly irrevocably, it switches to hip hop. we at last decide to admit defeat and call it a night.

it’s about 01h30 and between the two of us, we’ve spent between 6 and R700 on the evening. maybe next time i’ll roll up my carpets, crank up the music, and get down to house. at my house.