Friday dinner time found me enjoying some stroganoff with Mike and Anne. Henry was out to dinner and a movie with his grandparents. Anne was quite taken with the armful of bangle bracelets that I wear when I dance:
"Want to hold that."
She too likes sparkly things.
After we ate, I put on my blue and silver costume, casting worrying glances at the weather outside. A high wind warning isn't exactly the optimal time to be wearing a dance costume with a mumu-like coverup. And I figured we were going to have to walk outside a bit between the parking lot and the convention center that was our dance destination. I put my raincoat on over top of the coverup and hoped for the best.
We all met up at the dance studio and piled into a few carpooling vehicles. We headed downtown.
Mumu's blowing and silk veils wrapped around our hair, we made quite a sight transversing the area between the parking garage and the convention center. I thought for sure the parking attendant was going to say something to us, but he just stuck his head out his little window, mouth agape.
Upon our entrance into the convention center, we quickly encountered Fancy People. All week long I couldn't remember what this charity event actually was. Turns out it was a fundraiser for a local legal organization assisting families and children. Thus, lots of people in formal attire and news anchors abounded.
"Who are you?! You look like movie stars!"
She exaggerated, to be sure, but I was just happy people didn't think we were freaks.
We were directed to the dressing rooms and general backstage area where we settled in. Also present were some African dancers, a small orchestra complete with tango dancers, and some Bollywood dancers. We were on the schedule for the end of the dancing segment, which was to take place while the attendees ate dinner and dessert. I assumed the fashion show was to follow.
At any rate, we snapped some pictures of ourselves and gossiped backstage as people eyed us curiously. Group performances don't make me nearly so nervous anymore as dancing solo, but this was a *large* room and it was filling up. The runway added complexity, although I could see that it in fact was quite wide and that made me feel better. We whispered plans for entering and exiting and awaited our turn.
Claire swooped out with her wings of Isis when it was bellydance time and we anxiously waited for her to finish.
"There's a gooey section toward the end; that's your cue to get ready."
And somehow, we knew precisely what she was talking about. Aforementioned gooey section came on. We cued up. I was the first one to walk out, trying to "make it count" with my hips.
I got to the front of the inverted "T" and took my place on the right front wedge. We began to dance.
It was a little awkward. People are eating dessert and sipping coffee and many of them could care less about the dancing going on. I tried my hardest to beam their way regardless and not forget the choreography.
Somewhere around the first shimmy segment I made a somewhat disturbing realization: I recognized a woman at one of the front tables. I hadn't seen her in about 10 years, but I used to work with her back when I was a practicing attorney. That can't be her, right? What are the chances?
Oh right, very good. This is a fundraiser for a *legal* organization. She's an attorney, so there you go. And who is that guy next to her? Yep, her husband, I remember him too.
I let that sink it for a second as I began to feel even more awkward. Maybe she doesn't recognize me?! That would be ideal.
Well, it took me all of 1 second to recognize her, and I'm practically right in her face at the very front of the stage. Although I have the element of surprise on my side, the chances of her not recognizing me are pretty slim. In fact, I can see her glance my way and whisper something to her husband.
I swirl my veil to and fro, and shimmy for all I'm worth, but all the while everything that I'm writing is running through my head. I recall a post in the Biz of Bellydance (a private Facebook group that I'm in) a week or so ago in which a dancer wrote to complain about a blog she had happened upon. The blog author wasn't happy that a regular belly dancer appeared at her favorite Middle Eastern restaurant and was writing about her confusion and discomfort with the situation. One of the comments that she made was that she felt bad for the dancer, and wondered why "she couldn't do better for herself; should I tell her that she could go to college instead?"
I mean, seriously. Unless you're a superstar belly dancer also selling instructional DVD's and putting on internationally attended workshops, a person could NEVER survive on wages earned as a professional dancer. Living on what you earn in a week dancing in a restaurant and a belly gram or two? Not possible. Nearly all belly dancers have day jobs, and it made me cringe to think that other people may believe that belly dancers are these pitiable women with low self-esteem who think that they aren't smart enough to do anything else. Yikes.
The thought made me gulp as we eased into the drum segment of our number. I kept my gaze up, beaming at the EXIT sign at the back of the room and danced my little heart out. When our music ended, I breathed a sigh of relief.
We got lots of compliments from people backstage as we reassembled our silk veil wind shield and headed back to our cars. The parking garage guy couldn't resist stopping us to ask who we were and what we were doing when we encountered him a second time.
We changed at the studio and went out for drinks and snacks afterward. As ever, I laughed and laughed. I love these women. I may no longer have a career that society holds in high esteem, but I'm eons happier than I ever was all those years ago.
I'll take it.