When the world is your stage
At IRT we are celebrating our 50th anniversary and are sharing our residents’ and customers’ stories from 5o years ago.
Rozeta Ahalyea has belly danced her way around the globe and has some amazing stories to tell.
In 1969 the then 26 year old was living and working in London. “I travelled to Greece from Australia and then went onto London,” she says from her IRT Parklands home.
“I started working as a dancer at a Greek nightclub in London and then someone spotted me.”
She was spotted by a talent scout, who wanted her to dance with Cliff Richard for his song Temptation. “Cliff was such a nice man. He was a gentleman.”
Rozeta only saw the video recording of her performance with Cliff a few years back when a friend found it online. It certainly brought back memories for the belly dancing icon. “It took me back . . . I remember my hair being braided for the performance and the braids kept hitting me in the face.”
She also recalls in 1969 watching the moon landing – in the club where she was working. “We stopped the show and all watched it on a black-and-white television. I remember thinking from now on we are going to be living on the moon.”
When asked about The Beatles breaking up in 1969, Rozeta says she was a fan of the fab four. In a photo album she has a picture of her performing in Hong Kong and the man next to her is Jimmie Nicol, who drummed for The Beatles for part of the band’s Australian tour.
While Jimmie was dancing with Rozeta the other band members were in the audience.
Rozeta started her dancing career as a flamenco dancer. “But belly dancing was where the money was. And when I heard the Arabic music I felt like I was coming home.”
Rozeta doesn’t know her true age. “I don’t have a birth certificate,” she says. Her Jewish parents were killed by the Nazis in World War II and she was placed in an orphanage in Greece. Her foster mother brought her to Australia in the 1950s when she was in her mid-teens but Rozeta ran away after her foster mother tried to marry her off.
Rozeta moved to the Gold Coast, where she danced, before moving to Sydney. “Kings Cross was a beautiful place at the time and I worked at a club called Flamingos.”
Work then took her to Asia, and she was engaged to marry the Prince of Thailand, but it wasn’t meant to be. “He was a great person.”
She then travelled back to Australia, and then onto Greece and London in 1969.
Work also took her to Vietnam during the war, where she performed for the troops. “It was in the early ’70s and we were right at the fighting front. I went back several times to perform for the Australian and American troops.”
After a lot of travelling, Rozeta settled in Australia and worked at Movie World on the Gold Coast as a dancer. During her career she also taught dance.
“Then I wanted something more peaceful and moved to the Sunshine Coast, and then into IRT Parklands and I’m happy here.”
Nerve damage in her legs means that Rozeta doesn’t dance or perform anymore but she still enjoys having a shimmy when watching a Bollywood movie.
“I’ve learnt dances from all over the world. Dancing and music is part of people’s souls.”