Going belly up in front of your peers

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Martin Moodie
Martin Moodie is the Founder & Chairman of The Moodie Report.

There are certain critical rules to follow when you are attending a travel retail industry event in the Middle East and a belly dancer starts her routine.

Unless you are a rare example of a travel retail exhibitionist, the last person on earth you want to be is the hapless guest called up by the dancer to join her on stage. You won’t look good, I promise.

Industry veterans tend to adopt a similar technique to avoid the humiliation – it involves keeping your head down and staring at your plate, even if you finished your meal 30 minutes earlier. Alternatively, check your blackberry or iPhone constantly and do your utmost to look like a distracted, distinctly ‘un-fun’ person.

There’s another rule, a new one. Don’t sit at the table of Dubai Duty Free Managing Director Colm McLoughlin, especially if you’re tempted to adopt any of the techniques referred to earlier. The Irishman can spot a soft touch from Galway to Garhoud, and he’ll have you in your sights as surely as Padraig Harrington lining up a three-foot putt to win a major.

One of Colm’s recent dining companions at the recent MEDFA conference Gala Dinner at the Dubai Duty Free-run Aviation Club was Jean-Michel Bostroem, long-time L’Oréal Produits de Luxe International Travel Retail Worldwide International Marketing Director and now travel retail worldwide agent for the edgy Juliette Has a Gun fragrance.
Sure enough, Jean-Michel (below) was the first to be given the dreaded beckoning finger by the swaying, voluptuous belly dancer, though to be fair he turned out to be some slick mover himself, throwing in more hand actions than Thierry Henry in an Irish penalty box.

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Next victim, coincidentally also sitting at Colm’s table, was Paul Griffiths, CEO of Dubai Airports (pictured  pre-dance alas with Colm and Breeda McLoughlin; by now I was avoiding taking any more pictures in case it brought attention on me) and a  highly talented musician in his own right, who dispelled the old adage that white men can’t dance with a bravura performance.

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The worst, as is so often the case, was saved for last.

By now I was rereading the same message on my iPhone for the 37th time, and actually trying to look in the opposite direction to the performance. It didn’t work.

To my immediate right at the table, a place held by Colm McLoughlin, I noticed a sudden hand movement. Quicker than Irish rugby skipper Brian O’Driscoll to spot an opportunity, he had pointed in my direction while my head was turned.

There was no avoiding my fate. Nor, alas, was there any avoiding the rush of instant ‘paparazzi’ in the form of many of my sympathetic industry colleagues who with quite indecent haste rushed to the edge of the ‘show’ to capture my descent into hell on their cameras and cell phones.

Never has such a pitiful performance garnered so much attention. Goodness only knows what is being done with all those pictures at this very moment. I suspect I have not seen the last of them.

There’s only one thing for it therefore – get my retaliation in first by publishing the less damning of the pictures (below, taken on my own camera by one Breeda McLoughlin), in an effort to minimise the impact of any that may follow.

Sadly, that strategy is likely to go as belly up as my dancing technique.

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[Notice the traditional New Zealand haka technique of hands on hips – mine, not hers, of course]

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[By now the dancer’s face is starting to contort as much as her belly as she tries to compensate for my lack of rhythm]

Dancer mm_Small

[And finally, the poor woman decides it’s better for her reputation to simply dance alone]

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