By Tarek Amara
TUNIS, March 29 (Reuters) - Tunisians stuck inside through a coronavirus lockdown have in large numbers been watching a spangly-costumed actress belly dancing in her living room with the message: "Stay at home and I'll dance for you".
Clad in a figure-hugging dress, with a gauzy veil over her legs, Nermine Sfar shakes her hips and twirls to Arabic pop music in front of an incongruous brown sofa. Some 130,000 people watched one video live on her Facebook page.
In a country that imposed a general lockdown, closed cafes and restaurants and stopped all international travel, her social media show has proved the light entertainment hit of the pandemic. Tunisia has confirmed 278 cases and eight deaths.
Sfar was already popular on social media before the outbreak, with tens of thousands of followers.
On the first day she performed two weeks ago, before the lockdown was announced, she donned a surgical mask and gloves over her dancing costume, and told everyone to follow government advice to stay at home as she prepared to perform.
Her message appeared to get through where the pleas of politicians did not, drawing immediate interest from tens of thousands of people and a cascade of humorous - and sometimes bawdy - comments.
Sfar then pledged a nightly "corona dance". When she failed to perform one night, thousands of messages went up from fans begging her to return to their phone screens.
As her popularity grew, a male dancer, Rochdi Belgassmi, started to perform his own home routines, saying: "Wait for me tonight, Tunisian women!" and attracting tens of thousands of viewers.
"I know it is difficult to stay at home and be confined in one's place, but we can try to create a warm atmosphere in our homes," Sfar told Reuters. (Reporting by Tarek Amara Writing by Angus McDowall Editing by Frances Kerry)
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