Woman’s Day (Australia)
Still shimmying at 75!
She’s jingle-jangled her way around the world a dozen times, but ask belly dancer Rozeta Ahalyeas if it’s time to give up the shimmy, and you’ll get a quick answer. “I’ve danced my way into people’s hearts for over 60 years, and you’ll never take the dancing queen out of this girl!” promises Rozeta from her Sunshine Coast home.
She spent much of her childhood in an orphanage in Greece after losing her Jewish parents to the Nazis in WWII, before seeking a new life in Australia. “My parents made sure I was safe, and I learned early on how to entertain, and began to love the sound of music and knew I had a passion for dance,” she says.
But the teen had a rocky path to her new life. “I recall always being hungry. I was taken from the orphanage when I was 15 at the hands of a woman who called herself a foster mother. It was the 1950s postwar and I was her ticket to Australia.”
But even that was fraught with danger, with the boat she sailed
on almost sinking in the Suez Canal after the ship’s engine room caught fire. “I was terrified,” she says.
“We were airlifted safely to Darwin, and arrived in rags, with very few possessions. I had never been to Australia, but I knew I had finally come home.”
Rozeta began to perform for a pittance on the epic sea journey, but once she arrived in Australia, her “foster mother” tried to sell her to a man 15 years her senior to marry.
‘I had never been to Australia, but I knew I had finally come home’
“I ran away with two dresses and a pair of shoes to Surfers Paradise, where I worked as a waitress and dancer,” she says, adding that she was self-taught.
“I ended up working in Kings Cross as a dancer for £25 a week – I thought I was a millionaire!”
It was the break she needed, and Rozeta’s star began to shine.
“I was engaged to the Crown Prince of Thailand! I never did marry, but boy, I sure had some fun along the way!” she laughs.
“While I haven’t performed in a while, who knows, I might just frock up and surprise everyone here at the retirement village with one last performance – that’ll get them talking, won’t it!”