Belly-dancers at Turners Hill – really!

Wednesday evenings at the Tarana Indian Restaurant in Turners Hill are fast assuming cult status in our little corner of mid-Sussex. There are a number of reasons for this, the great award-winning food has got to be one, the brilliant atmosphere and service is also up there – but I’m going to take a wild guess and suggest that the beautiful belly-dancers could be the main attraction!

Wow! What a great night out we (three couples) had this week. We arrived by taxi at 19.15, which is just as well because the car park was already packed, which was no more than a portent of what was to greet us inside the fabulously re-furbished restaurant. There must have been getting on for 200 people there.

Normally this would be immediate cause for concern, but not on this occasion as we were efficiently and courteously escorted to our table with the minimum of fuss. Drinks orders were taken and we were soon into studying the menu and quizzing each other about ‘what do you fancy’ and ‘Oh! That sounds nice, I might try that myself’.

Fortunately the process was made somewhat easier by the fact that there was a semi-set menu at £18.95 available which left us just with the choice of ‘mains’ and a side dish. Did I say that made things easier? That might be an exaggeration as we struggled to come to terms with the extensive menu.

In time, having gone around the houses more than once, we were ready to order. Here I have to advise you that there is nothing behind the times about the Tarana – for example, every waiter is armed with a mini iPad to take your order. One can only imagine that as your carefully considered choices are being tapped on to the screen, they are being WiFied straight in to the kitchen for the action to start – impressive I thought.

But then, though he keeps it very quiet, the charming maître d’, front-man and impeccable host, Jaham, who runs the Tarana, has hidden depths when it comes to the use and application of high-end technology – and it shows in all aspects of the restaurants profile.

But I digress – back to the Tarana experience. Well, I suppose it has to be noted that there was some delay between the ordering and the serving of our food, but with 200 hungry mouths to feed I’m guessing that was inevitable and, in the event, barely noticeable as we enjoyed our wine and anticipated the start of the show.

In fact both the food and the show arrived at the same time – there was tonnes of it, food that is; have a look at the pictures, which hardly do our banquet  justice. I’ll simply say it was delicious, expertly prepared and beautifully presented.

Suddenly we were being entertained by a Bollywood sound-track with the rhythmic beat and enchanting eastern melodies you would expect – and then before you knew it two absolutely delightful young women appeared in full belly-dancing costume. We were stunned – I’ve seen belly-dancing before, in London, it was good, but not as good or as alluring as this. And the audience of enthusiastic diners showed their appreciation – no silly wolf-whistles or cheering – just heartfelt applause. Why – well, because the dancing was exquisite and yes, exciting and exotic too. (Hopefully the pictures will provide some idea of the show’s appeal.)

Each performance by the dancers lasted 10-15 minutes and there were three performances throughout the evening, finishing around 22.00. Each dance presentation involved a change of costumes – all of which were sexy, but in no way gaudy or vulgar, quite the opposite in fact.

It was great entertainment for all ages, mixed groups (like ours) and families – and this I think is the genius behind the success of the Tarana, and why they can pack their Turners Hill restaurant to capacity on cold and raw Wednesday evenings.

I was lucky enough to get to talk briefly to Jaham and the dancers – Emiliah and Schyraz – at the end of the evening.

Now, of course, it is showbusiness, so I really should not have been surprised to find that ‘the girls’ were not actually from India or the Middle-East – though both had, as part of their extensive training spent time in Egypt and India learning the belly-dancing technique.

It’s tempting to fall in to the trap of believing that earning a living as a belly-dancer is for the dodgy and disreputable, but you’d be wrong. Both Emiliah and Schyraz (their stage names) have been training in dance schools around the world from the tender age of 12 acquiring classical, ballroom, contemporary and modern jazz-dance skills – and picking up dozens of awards on their long and arduous path to recognition and success as professional entertainers.

They have worked and trained in three continents but that is as nothing to the pitiless schedule they now maintain with regular appearances in London and the Home Counties – the demand for exotic dancers has never been greater.

Whilst dancing is their main focus right now Emiliah and Schyraz both (almost literally) have other strings to their bows – Schyraz for example is a photographer and a violinist, and is striving to get that longed for break into musical theatre that her training has prepared her for. Emiliah is an accomplished  singer-songwriter, and has by no means given up on her desire to launch a recording career; both girls meanwhile are qualified dance teachers and run their own classes.

The old adage, ‘never judge a book by its cover’, might have been coined specifically for these two young women; beautiful, exotic and alluring they most certainly are – but also talented,   hardworking, determined and tireless to in pursuit of their dreams, and also completely beguiling!

So, take my advice, the next time you feel like cheering yourself up and pushing the boat out a bit, get along to the Tarana Indian Restaurant in Turners Hill on a Wednesday evening, you won’t regret it – Jaham and his team will make sure of that.


28th Feb ‘13

schyraz-dances-at-our-table2-2013-02-27-21-35-05 emiliah-takes-the-floor-at-taranas2-2013-02-27-20-51-57 Schyraz & Emiliah in action at the Taran Resturant 2013-02-27 21.08.08 Schyraz_n Irene dishing up at Tarana's 2013-02-27 21.19.26 Here comes the grub! Tarana's 2013-02-27 21.16.07


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