Interview: Christina Petro, ZooTV Belly Dancer, Performance Artist - U2 Feedback

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Old 06-30-2004, 08:40 PM   #1
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Interview: Christina Petro, ZooTV Belly Dancer, Performance Artist*

[SIMG]http://bonovox.interference.com/interview/cpetrothumb.jpg[/SIMG]
By Devlin Smith
Contributing Editor



Nearly every night of the ZooTV tours, a dancer would emerge from the stage during "Mysterious Ways" to tempt Bono. The belly dancer has since become an important image in U2's history, thanks to both the video for "Mysterious Ways" and the tour. But that U2 had a belly dancer tour at all with them was something of a fluke, it may never had happened if not for Christina Petro, a young dancer from Florida who took a chance and became the first ZooTV belly dancer.

Today Petro, also known as Ophelia, continues to dance and also performs with the group Grim Faeries. She still resides in Florida where she and her husband, Grim Faeries band mate Curse Mackey, raise daughter Abra Cassandra.

Petro shared her ZooTV experience with Interference.com, explained what faeries are really all about and let us know what happened to her belly dance costumes.

When and how did you first become interested in performing?

When I was a child I took dance classes but I didn't enjoy performing at all. When I was about 14 I saw some young student belly dancers perform at a recital that my sister, Maria ,was dancing at and I was transfixed, I knew then and there that THAT was what I wanted to do when I grew up.

What is your background as far as singing and dancing go?

I found my belly dance mentor, Margarita Tzighan at a Renaissance festival. She was the iconic snake charmer at Busch Gardens [in] Tampa, Florida. She took me under her wing and passed on her ancient knowledge of the dance. I have since adopted her last name in honor of her incredible gift to me. I started dancing at Busch Gardens and many ethnic restaurants in Florida, Texas and the Washington D. C. area. I have studied Polynesian dance, Flamenco, classical Spanish dance, Mexican dance, Afro-Cuban, Italian folk dance and ballet. After the ZooTV tour I joined Ballet Folklorico of Ybor. I was also a featured dancer at the legendary Ybor City gothic nightclub The Castle.


(Image courtesy of Christina Petro, Photographer Cyrus Trivin)

As far as singing goes, I don't even consider myself a singer, although I have toured and performed as a singer for the Chicago industrial band My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult and later for Grim Faeries. I am more of a theatrical performer and singing is just another form of creative expression for me.

You were U2's first onstage belly dancer. The story goes that you actually approached the band's crew about dancing during "Mysterious Ways." Can you share the story of how you came up with the idea to dance with U2 and how you actually ended up on stage?

I had read in the paper that U2 were rehearsing for two weeks at the Lakeland Civic Center preparing for the upcoming ZooTV tour. I thought it would be cool to see if they would like a belly dancer to perform on stage during "Mysterious Ways" since they have been known to bring audience members onstage during shows to play guitar and such. I gave my business card to their production manager, Jake Kennedy. He asked if I could come back the next day when they were having their dress rehearsal and surprise [the band] when they played "Mysterious Ways." Apparently things had been rather stressful with the tour rapidly approaching and he thought it might loosen up the tension a bit. I never expected to end up on tour with them for four-and-a-half months.

Originally, you only danced in the Florida-area shows but soon joined U2 on the first part of the ZooTV tour. What was it like to "run away with the Zoo" (as BP Fallon said)? Did you have any reservations about leaving everything behind to tour with this band for a few months?

I didn't actually perform on the opening night because they were concerned about adding another element to the show at the last minute. However, a couple of days later I got a personal phone call from Bono himself asking if I could fly down to Miami that very night. I guess he had second thoughts about not having me dance and felt that it would really enhance the show. Of course I dropped everything and joined the tour, I love a good adventure.

U2 had never had dancers before. How much of an adjustment do you think it was for the band and the crew to have an additional performer around?

I don't think it was much of an adjustment at all. I tried to be as unobtrusive and respectful as possible. I never even asked to have my picture taken with the band. Although I shared B.P. Fallon's dressing room a couple of times. I don't think he minded very much, he was my buddy.

What was the best part about touring with U2?

Of course traveling to Europe was awesome but I was really happy to meet Nirvana.

What kind of impact did that touring experience have on your professional life?

Not a whole lot, actually. I guess a lot of people had more respect for what I do but I certainly did not capitalize on the fact that I toured with U2, and I never let it get to my head.

At the time, did you have any idea the whole belly dancer thing would become so iconic in U2's history, that someday there would be U2 tribute bands with their own belly dancers?

I had no idea there are U2 tribute bands with belly dancers!

How does it feel to have played a part in the history of a band like U2?

It's cool but from my viewpoint I don't think I have an accurate perception of what sort of impact I have had on the history of U2. With all sincerity I feel that it was Stephane [Sednoui], the director of the video for "Mysterious Ways" who incorporated the element of the belly dancer into U2's history.

Several books were written about the Zoo era, including ones by BP Fallon and Bill Flanagan. Did you read any of them? How accurate were they?

I have the book "U2 Faraway So Close" by B.P. Fallon -- the pictures are awesome. I haven't read any other books about U2.

More recently, you've performed as a singer for your own bands, such as Grim Faeries. What is your music like?

Well, if you are a fan of U2, you probably won't be a fan of Grim Faeries. We are wretchedly creepy, harsh and chaotic. Grim Faeries is like being lost in a dark and disenchanted forest. Anyone who has read faerie lore knows that faeries are not the sweet, pretty, wish-granting beings that people think they are. They are actually quite malicious. And the watered down fairytales that we read these days were originally much more gruesome and horrifying. We take these tales and bring them to life in a way that is definitely not for the faint of heart.

As a member of Grim Faeries, you've been called Xtina X. Where did that moniker come from? What did you think when Christina Aguilera started calling herself Xtina?

In 1997 I toured with My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult. Their singer, Groovy Mann, came up with the name Xtina X. I must admit, I was rather upset when Christina Aguilera started calling herself Xtina.

Today you are called Ophelia. How did that name come about? How is Ophelia different from Christina Petro or Xtina X?

Last summer I was walking through the woods in the Catskill Mountains and it just came to me out of the blue. It wasn't like I even chose it, Ophelia chose me.

What projects are you currently working on?

Well, my biggest "project" is raising my daughter, Abra Cassandra, she just turned 8 on June 15th. Grim Faeries will be featured in the movie "Unearthed." Also, I have taken up painting. I may have a piece shown at the Woodstock Tattoo and Body Arts Festival in New York this September.

How does singing with your own band compare to dancing with U2?

They are so entirely different yet both entirely surreal.

Do you think you'll always be a performer? How does that suit your personality?

I love performing, it totally puts me in another state of mind. But I'm not very fond of the business aspect. As far as my personality, I don't thrive on admiration and notoriety, I just need to have that creative outlet. Sometimes I think I might simply renounce all my possessions, live in a teepee and paint.

Do you still belly dance?

Yes, I will be performing at the Woodstock Tattoo and Body Arts Festival. It is an amazing festival with live music, art exhibits, and tattoo artists from around the world.

U2 was recently the subject of a Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame exhibit and some of their costumes were included. Did you keep your belly dance costumes? If so, where do you see them ending up?

I do still have the costumes I wore. Someone once expressed interest in buying the red costume. At one time I had considered burning it at a "material possessions burning party," I do believe people are way too attached to their possessions.


For more information on the Grim Faeries, visit: www.grimfaeries.com

For more information on the Woodstock Tattoo and Body Arts Festival, visit: www.woodstocktattoo.com
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Old 07-16-2004, 12:56 PM   #2
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At the time, did you have any idea the whole belly dancer thing would become so iconic in U2's history, that someday there would be U2 tribute bands with their own belly dancers?

I had no idea there are U2 tribute bands with belly dancers!

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Old 07-16-2004, 01:48 PM   #3
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I think you may have to invite her to one of your shows
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