The Whirling Girl

There was a row of boxes.  Each one was filled with a collection of anonymous lives degraded into sepia:  mortified and torn histories.  Unknown, unimaginable and unwanted…they were crying – like ghostly children – for attention.

She was leaning out of her box; staring steadfastly ahead, which was all she could do, as her hands were full:

Out for a Spin

 One hand held the American flag; the other held the flag of Syria (it would possess the Ottoman crescent until 1918).  Her full skirt, caught in a web of lace, was held aloft by unidentified helpers that stood at each side:

Hand and a Hem

Clenched between her teeth was a chair.  And there she stood, flags and skirt waving, the legs of the chair hovering over her head.  A curio of the circus, presented as vaguely Oriental, slightly exotic:  a memory of vaudevillian whimsy.

Her name was Marie Bayrooty – a ‘Syrian Danseuse’, in the New York Times’ rapt words .  And in 1905 she became famous.

The New Revolution

On a fabulous night in April, in Madison Square Garden, Marie spun like a dervish, keeping her own time, on a small section of sand and tile.  Alternating between heels and toes, like a ballerina in a box, she turned and turned.  She ate an orange, sending pieces of whirling citrus detritus into the enthralled audience.  During the final minute she cued the band, which struck up “Yankee Doodle Dandy”:  she then picked up her spinning speed, before slowing to a stop.

But Marie had not finished.  She then grasped a chair with her teeth, and whirled for 5 minutes more.  Then “she stopped, made a curtsy, and trotted off to her dressing room”.

Yet Marie was not yet prepared to lay her dizzy career to rest.  The next year she broke her own record, spinning for 32 minutes – and completing 2,990 revolutions.  Her silken slippers winking from beneath her hastening petticoats, Marie was a blur to the light-headed reporters who watched and counted.

But with the passage of decades, her mad flutterings were silenced.  Consigned to her box, she was hidden – and her story forgotten.  Perhaps out of desperation, or out of loneliness, she was able to gather the strength to finally complete her 2,991st revolution – the one that lifted her out of her prison and into my waiting hand.


9 responses to “The Whirling Girl

  1. If I were Miss Bayrooty, I would be delighted and possibly even gratified with this moving tribute. Your first paragraph drew me right in, suggesting a world beyond my experience: “…mortified and torn histories”. And the idea that she had a hand, from beyond the grave, to come to you to tell her story seems so perfectly justified, since you have told it like no other could. I love the way you think.

  2. I love this, the picture is fabulous and from what Ive heard more valuable being the theme. What a rare find!

  3. At first quick glance at the headline, I thought it read: The Whining Girl. This story is much better. 🙂

  4. I have vertigo – in a good way! Nice imagery and certainly a lovely tribute to Marie’s talents. Love the photo as well.

  5. Hi,
    Very good post, what an extraordinary Lady, I really enjoyed the read.
    Thank You for the visit to my blog.

  6. missusk76 – yes, Marie was leaning out of her cardboard box, trying to separate herself from her ephemeral neighbors. I saw her immediately and knew she had to be mine

    savethephotos – she was only a few dollars; I hope, somewhere, she isn’t fuming about the brevity of fame and our lack of respect!

    alleycatadventures – ha! Life on the circus circuit, however, wasn’t easy – perhaps she really did do her own bit of whining.

    leendadll – thanks!

    Emmy – the photo – water-spotted, faded as it is – is a wonderful jewel. Marie is a delightful prize.

    magsx2 – don’t mention it, please; thanks for stopping by. This girl must have had a most entertaining life; wish I knew more!

  7. I think that girl missed the real meaning of dervish whirling!

  8. Absolutely amazing. I say this for 2 reasons; 1- Every so often I search the web for information about this amazing woman and finally have found something. 2- This is my great-grandmother. I have heard this story countless times from my grandfather, when I was growing up. I currently possess her 1906 Worlds Record Medal, which proudly displayed in my home.

    Thank you

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