Ok. I'm back from my belly dancing intensive weekend, and ready to report in :) It was pretty surreal, and makes for some good blogging. So, settle in. This will be a long one.
Friday evening I had class, and even then I was pretty nervous. As soon as we warmed up, Claire had us go outside to get used to the space. Oh yeah, now would be a good time to mention that this shindig would take place outside. Right along Main St. As we quickly walked through our formations to assure that we were spaced properly, I noticed a few things.
(1) In every car that drove by, the people inside craned their heads to stare at us.
(2) Creepy men whistled at us.
Neither of these 2 things was making me feel any better about my decision to do a solo for this event. We scooted back inside and ran through our troupe numbers several times. By the time I was driving home, I was all hyped up on anxiety and adrenaline.
I got in the door and demanded to debut my solo for Mike. He looked amused and agreed. I got my costume on and tried out the jewelry that I planned to wear the next day as well. As I was trying to stab a dangly earring into my ear, I hear a knock on the bedroom door.
Mike: "Can I come in?"
Given that we've been married for nearly 6 years and Mike has seen me give birth, I think he was a bit perplexed by my answer. I demurely tucked my veil around me to act as a cover-up for my costume before letting him in.
Mike: *arches brow*
CL: "Well, I want it to be like a real performance. It's all a big surprise. *winning smile*"
I coaxed him back downstairs while I finished getting ready, and then set up my music. By time I was ready, I was sweating. This will be a theme throughout the weekend. You just wait and see. Even though Friday was less excruciating than the rest of the week, it was still pretty humid. Combine that with a heck of a lot of chiffon covering my body, and voila! Sweating.
So, Mike cues my music and I embark. I really wanted to do a performance-like experience for him since he would be staying home with Hank on Saturday (performance time is Hank's bedtime). It went well. I felt kinda stupid, but tried to smile anyway. At conclusion, Mike provided the expected husbandly accolades and applause. I still felt super nervous, and had to take an OTC sleeping aid to fall asleep that night.
Saturday dawned a bright and sunny day, and I tried not to let my anxiety get the better of me. I practiced a little bit in the morning, but I busied myself with housework and Hank to take my mind off things. I left the house around 5:30 pm with my costumes in tow, sweating. The day had gotten a bit warmer, displeasing the Catholic Librarian greatly.
I arrived at the studio to drama in action (and this happens a lot at just about every single dancing event. It's women, so you know, lots of hormones :) The Middle Eastern band had arrived and was setting up and practicing, and apparently someone had *already* called the police to complain that the music was too loud. Dancers in all different stages of costuming were incredulous and upset.*sighs* This didn't bode well.
I hung out with my classmates and got changed and waited, trying not to sweat too much. 7 pm neared, and our friends the police were back. They had received another call about the music being loud and were getting snippy. We live in a relatively small town - the police really don't have much else to *do*, unfortunately.
We were all a bit on edge and shedding sparkles. 7 o'clock came and Claire came to fetch the performance group to line up. We were on first, with 2 numbers done back-to-back. We got in our positions nervously and right off the bat, I could tell that our spacing was off a tad. The band had set up speakers near the dance floor, and a tent had been erected, so things were in a different order than when we practiced. We adjusted as best we could, having a whispered conversation amongst ourselves before the music started.
As we scooted around discreetly in our bare feet, the music started, and we all snapped our arms and hips to attention. Whatever space we were in would have to do. We start facing the back, and as we hip dropped our way around I saw the audience for the first time. There was my mom, who I knew was coming, and there... was Mike and Henry!!!!!
Mike was beaming, but Hank looked as though an evil sleep sorceress had just turned him to stone. He was so, so sleepy, poor baby. But I was SO happy that they surprised me and were there. This kicked in my smile reminder very easily. We danced to Zay el Hawa and Leylet Hob, 2 classical Egyptian numbers, the latter with a kicky alternative ending. I felt that the group numbers went well, and interestingly, whereas even the group numbers in the past have been enough to set my blood pressure soaring, I wasn't nearly as nervous about them this time around. Because I had THE SOLO looming ahead of me. *doomy music plays*
The only thing was...suddenly, it was hotter than Hades outside, and we were all sweating like farm animals in the barnyard. By the time we wrapped up Leylet Hob, my costume was completely gross. I had no idea how on earth I was ever going to manage to wrench it off my body, let alone do it in a two minute span, which is how long we had to change for the solos. And all of this, with the threat of the police storming in to break up the loud belly dancers, and we had the makings of a real human interest story.
We hurried off, and the mixed level class took the stage. I squeezed my way into the dressing room, and with the assistance of a few of my beloved classmates, managed to work myself into my solo costume. I slapped on another coat of lip stick, and it was going to have to do. I was covered with a thin sheen of sweat, and not exactly feeling at my cutest, but I didn't really have a choice. One of my more experienced classmates blessedly went first, so I hovered in the background, feeling quite ill.
I did my best to psych myself up. I mean, within minutes it would be MY TURN. It's sort of like when you're in labor and you get to the transition part - despite the escalation of the suck factor, there's no goin' back now. Lara finished, and I was up. I tried very hard to implement what Claire advised me - performing is very much like acting. You may not feel perky, but you have to act perky. If you looked worried, the audience will worry for you, and you really don't want that. You want them to relax and enjoy your dancing. I've always loved dance and watching dancers because, to me, dancing is creating art with your body. There is technique involved, but there is also simple presentation; showing your work to its utmost potential. That's what you are doing when you smile as you dance.
I unwrapped my veil, set it aside, and strode to the stage. I got in position and pasted on the beatific beam. I look out at the audience. Yep, they're still there. And...yep. They're all lookin' at me. This is pretty much my worst nightmare.
As I contemplate this, my music starts. I was dancing to Wuh Ya Booy, from Sabla Tolo III. I was mostly dreading those first couple of seconds. You're just starting your routine, at your utmost place of anxiety, and you have the whole number ahead of you. I completed my opening sequence and moved to my first saucy hip drop. So far so good. I had this running, hysterical conversation with myself going on in my head the entire time.
"Circles, left corner. Drop, drop, drop, drop. Hip circles, and then don't forget to lift the right hip in preparation for the pistons. Pisons, really make them count! Undulate up, shoulder shimmy, SMILE! Don't forget, you changed the next arms to right hand to head *feels sweaty hair* and left extended. Ok, good girl. Bicycle hips, SMILE! Change arms. Ok. What's next?"
What I really wanted was for *me* to feel like I had done my best. I know that with a solo, if you blank, you can just make something up. This is opposed to a group number, in which if you start doing something completely different from the rest of the group, it will appear that you (a) are lazy and haven't practiced, and/or (b) have been drinking. But I didn't want that. I wanted my first choreography to go off as planned, for me to have smiled and looked (somewhat) confident, and for me feel that I did my absolute best.
And I did. I really couldn't have asked for it to go better. The audience seemed attentive. Nobody fell asleep while I danced (except possibly Hank) or started up a conversation on their cell phone. I didn't trip, run headfirst into the speakers, or otherwise humiliate myself. I remembered all my steps and arms. And I smiled. Oh, and the police didn't come storming in and tackle me to the ground. So, that's good. A win-win.
I struck my final pose, curtsied, and hustled off. I could hear the band clapping for me as they prepared to start the live music, and I felt happy. SO HAPPY. I, voted shyest girl in my senior class 17 years ago, belly danced on Main St. during an event open to the general public. At age 35. And you know what? I loved it! I love to dance. I'm a decent dancer. And I put myself out there in a way that I never have before. Even in all my years of formative dance in tap and ballet, I never once did a solo. There is something so satisfying, especially for a person of a reserved nature who was never part of the "in crowd" in high school, about doing what I love as an adult. Nobody can tease me now and make me feel bad about myself unless I let them. I did something meaningful to me, and other people appreciated it. I had an adrenaline high as if I had just given birth. INTROVERT POWER.
As the band started playing, I ducked into the studio and laid down on the floor under the air conditioner for a full 2 minutes. Finally, I managed to get up and wrap myself back in my veil so that I could go watch Claire dance. I had to do the improv thing at the end, but by that point I was feeling no pain. I was happy. I did good.
So, how does this story end? We danced for a bit. Had some champagne and cake. At around 8:30, after the band came back from a break, the police saga finally came to an end. It was early, and the band was really, really trying to keep the music at a happy medium, but to no avail. The very cranky person had called the police to complain about the music, so the band had to pack up their equipment.
It was too bad, and I felt badly for Claire, who has worked so hard to build up her studio. She deserved one evening to celebrate it and enjoy it.
That little sideshow notwithstanding, I had a *great* time. It was a successful day for your Catholic Librarian. And yes... I do have pictures :) Or rather, my dad does, on his computer. He will be sending them to me, and I promise that I will post a few. I'm getting braver by the minute...