x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

The decision to prevent the world’s most pierced man from entering Dubai is damaging to the emirate's image as a global tourist hub, say performers at the edgy, circus-style nightclub.

Ringmaster Darren Somerville, 35, began his career on stage as a drummer in a band in his native Ireland and toured Europe before joining Cirque Le Soir in London when the club was just a small Soho venue with a capacity of about 150. Courtesy of Cirque Le Soir
Ringmaster Darren Somerville, 35, began his career on stage as a drummer in a band in his native Ireland and toured Europe before joining Cirque Le Soir in London when the club was just a small Soho venue with a capacity of about 150. Courtesy of Cirque Le Soir

DUBAI // Performers with the Cirque Le Soir say they are perplexed by the decision to stop the world’s most pierced man from entering Dubai.

Rolf Buchholz, who holds the Guinness World Record for piercings, was turned away by immigration staff at Dubai International Airport who reportedly suspected him of “practising black magic”.

The German has 453 piercings, and two horns implanted in his forehead, and was due to perform at Cirque Le Soir at the Fairmont Hotel, on Sheikh Zayed Road.

The club’s ringmaster, Darren Som-erville, said the publicity generated by Mr Buchholz’s refusal of entry affected the emirate and the club.

“It’s a shame as Dubai attracts so many performers now, so this kind of negative publicity isn’t good for any of us,” Somerville said.

But he did not think it would deter people from going to the basement venue to watch acts including glass eaters and performers having concrete blocks smashed over their bodies, or nails inserted into their noses.

“People like the controversy and the shock factor,” said Somerville.

He said the acts looked dangerous, but great care was taken to ensure the performers followed strict health and safety rules, while also respecting local cultural sensitivities.

This includes not showing any bare skin or cleavage on stage. Women’s shoulders must also be covered.

The cabaret club regularly books extreme performance artists who specialise in bizarre acts, such as burning their bodies on stage.

“As performers, there is no interaction with the crowd, no high fives, no hand-shaking, no touching at all,” said Sahara Gunn, the creative director.

“We are pushing boundaries to the maximum level already so when we have orientations for new performers, we are very clear about the rules and regulations.”

Aleix Garcia, the club’s manager, said Mr Buchholz was one of several acts “with special looks or abilities” that were booked to appear, but after the recent controversy he admitted the club has had to cancel some of these artists.

“We went through the Guinness Book of Records and thought it would be great for Cirque Le Soir to have Rolf,” said Mr Garcia.

Mr Buchholz’s act usually involves suspending himself from the ceiling using his many piercings. But the clubs rules meant he was banned from performing this stunt and was booked to simply meet guests and bring some “freak show” to the club, said Mr Garcia.

“He can’t be seen showing many body parts here, which is really what he’s all about, but at least we could have had him here. We wanted to show the world these people. We were very sad he didn’t come,” he said.

Mindful that Mr Buchholz’s appearance could upset some members of the public, the club had prepared a strict itinerary that would have restricted his movements to his accommodation and the venue.

“His appearance was not deemed appropriate,” said Mr Garcia, adding Mr Buchholz had to wait 36 hours before he was allowed to catch a flight back to Germany via Istanbul.

“The authorities were worried he would be misunderstood to be black magic, but they were all very kind to him and respectful.”

Mr Garcia maintains cabaret clubs such as Cirque Le Soir, Music Hall and The Act, which have sister venues in Beirut and the US respectively, add to Dubai’s appeal as an international tourism destination.

“These places are all really bringing something to Dubai, you’re seeing a real show. There are many clubs that come and see it as an easy way to make money then they close, but these clubs are offering something special. To do this is creative and needs creative minds.”

But performer Veronika Valentine said she was surprised that Mr Buchholz was not allowed into the emirate as he was “a lovely guy”, and that it might have repercussions.

“It puts Dubai back a step after this. There’s a lot of performers who are now saying they won’t come to this country,” she said.

mswan@thenational.ae