Monday, July 29, 2013

Stinging insects, sweat, malfunctioning costumes, and disappearing swords - it's festival bellydancing time!

Looking for some entertainment on a Monday? Look no further, dear reader. This is an all dance post, so if that part of my blog isn't what interests you most, check back in tomorrow or Wednesday. But for those that want to stick around, settle in with a cup of tea. This one is epic.

Yesterday I danced to exhaustion surrounded by my loving troupe at a local art festival. We were scheduled for three 15 minute sets, over a three hour time period. I figured things would be a bit hectic, and that some adventures might be involved. It was that and a whole lot more. Let us begin!

(1) Not Your Average Rite Aid Shopper - With Anne recuperating from a cataclysmic temper tantrum earlier in the morning, I left the house as she was mercifully being put down for a nap. I was running a few minutes late as a result, and so made sure to leave the house ready to perform so that I wouldn't need to do anything upon arrival at Claire's mom's house (our home base for the festival, since it was right down the road from where we needed to be). A few minutes into my ride, I make a disturbing discovery: I forgot something, and it was something that I really needed. Should I go back? That didn't seem wise given the time and Anne situation.

What's a desperate bellydancer to do? She stops on the way and strolls into the local Rite Aid dressed in a voluminous purple caftan coverup with a beaded green skirt peeking out underneath. Pink strappy sandals completed the look. This attracted the curious attention of the teenage boy who rang up my purchase, but who thankfully asked no questions.

(2) Is Everyone And All Their Weapons Accounted For? - I arrived at our meetup location feeling a bit nervous and with a packed trunk. I had all of my costumes with me, plus the tray of flowers for our group balancing number, and a sword for Claire. It's inexplicable, but her sword has gone missing. We're not certain where such a large, scary looking item could be hiding, but all the same it has not been seen all week. I bring mine for her to borrow, and it's a good thing, because wings of isis would have been an absolute disaster, see below.

As Claire practices balancing my sword in the living room, we all trickle in and pow-wow in the designated changing room - Claire's mom's bedroom. (And btw, this is a woman after my own heart. Her house was laden with Catholic statuary and paraphernalia. I even espied a Baltimore Catechism on her nightstand. This will be me when I'm 90). Jan makes the breathless revelation that on her drive down, she stopped off at a fast food restaurant for a cup of coffee to go, and got stuck in the ladies restroom. Without her cell phone. Also in her caftan. A panic attack ensued until she busted the door open with a well placed hip thrust. We all marveled at her bravery as we gathered up our flower trays.

(3) A Stable Dance Surface? Pfft! - We arrive at the spot for our first set to find that, unsurprisingly, they are running behind. Also, the "stage" is just this truck that opens up, so it's both small and not exactly confidence-inspiring. It also has a leak and several wet areas. We wait nervously.

When it's our turn, we're introduced, and to the badly out-of-tune music (good sound guys are very hard to find at these events, sigh) we begin to dance. We did attract a crowd, to be sure. And it went well. We had 2 of our signature group numbers (a pop song, then a drum) and then Clarie did a little bridge dance while we got our trays. The tray balancing went great on the stage. The only downside was that the flowers seemed to interest both (a) a butterfly that would not leave me alone, and (b) a wasp who took up residence in Jan's hair. We finish, trays intact, to many accolades.

(4) "A Performer's Parking Pass? That Doesn't Actually *Mean* Anything" - Unable to locate Claire's daughter, who was acting as our chauffeur, since the parking guys wouldn't let her park in the lot, we ended up walking back to her mom's house in our costumes and coverups, which inevitably happens *every* time we perform, in all sorts of different weather patterns. Yesterday, it was the sun, and that combined with some energetic dancing had us all sweaty just in time to change for our second set. And this second set wasn't at the stage, it was...

(5) Belly Dancing In The Street - This Is Normal. Supposedly...  - We arrive at the location for the second set, and there isn't exactly any guidance as to how we're supposed to actually perform there. There is no tent or other designated performance area. We do what we always do, which is make the best of a confusing situation and set up some veils as a boundary. Thankfully, Claire's sound system runs on batteries. We turn on the music and randomly begin to dance, right in the middle of the street.

(6) An Ill Timed Gust of Wind - Everything goes great, and a good number of people stopped to crowd around us. The only hitch in our perfection is that a gust of wind came through just as we started balancing our flower trays. Now see, this is where swords are our friends. Swords are heavy. Silk flowers and plastic trays from the Hobby Lobby are NOT. Yep, the trays blew right off our heads, but we are resourceful belly dancers, and we grabbed them and kept them on. The best thing to do when you're using a prop and it's not doing what you want it to do is let the audience in on what is happening in a playful way. They enjoy your being a good sport about it. After a bit, the wind died down and the trays stayed put for the final segment. Thankfully. We were grateful, given that by this point we were all sweaty and exhausted.

(7) Thank God, The Costume Malfunction Did Not Result In Any Nudity - Ugh. When *that* is the way that the story is introduced, you can guess that although modesty was preserved, it was all still quite embarrassing.

Ok sigh. It's the third set. So I'm dancing. By myself. In front of a crowd. In the middle of the road. And I'm improvising, so I'm making things up as I go along. It's going well, actually.

Suddenly, I become tuned in to the fact that is something is going amiss with the top of my costume. It just seems...loose. The back on this particular costume has always been a bit loose on me, but I've never had my mother-in-law fix it, since it really hadn't caused me any troubles. Notice the use of the past tense in that sentence, dear reader?

I keep dancing, and do a discreet costume check. Back is unnaturally loose. I glance down, the front is where it needs to be, but it just doesn't look right. I casually do an arm movement so that I can put my hand behind my neck to check the halter. Right, it isn't there.

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! *HAS.HEART.ATTACK*

Panic with me here a moment, dear reader, share my pain.

In a split second, I realize that something horrific has gone wrong and embrace the fact that I need to fix it. Like, immediately. I give up on being discreet and do a full scale examination of my chest although I do keep dancing. This is where improvisation really saves your fanny. It didn't matter what I did as long as I kept moving. The top is still covering my important parts, but the halter straps have come unfastened and are on my shoulders. I grab them. Modesty is preserved. Unfortunately, I haven't been dancing for all that long and can't pretend this is suddenly the end of my number, nor can I exactly run off in tears.

We're in the middle of the street, there's nowhere to go. :0

No, lol, that's not the only reason. I was in a predicament and dealing with it emotionally would have only made me feel worse later. Costumes are like props. The best case scenario is to act like you meant for all of this to happen, and sometimes you can pull that off. Not in this case, no sir. I *clearly* did not mean for this to happen. The only thing to do is to let your audience in on what has happened and let them know you're being a good sport about it despite the fact that you are praying silently for the Second Coming to please happen right at this moment. Or perhaps for a swarm of locusts to invade.

No insects or clouds opening up in sight, I glance over my shoulder at Claire. I don't really know that anybody else fully knew what had happened yet, only a few seconds had elapsed. Thankfully, there is apparently a heretofore unknown soulmate bond between Dance Teacher and Dance Student, and the instant my dinner plate-sized eyes pleadingly met hers, she read my mind and knew precisely what was wrong. She was at my side in an instant.

Within 10 seconds she had my halter straps knotted tight. The audience of course, is watching the entire proceedings. Good gracious, why me? So what do I do now?

I run up and hop over the veil barrier and dance my little heart out. I smiled bigger than I ever have and I know that I have never danced better or more free. I mean, why not go for broke? It's not like things could get any worse than they had been. (well, actually, that's not true. It could have been  A LOT worse, and thank the good Lord that he made me self-aware in time). The audience, certainly sympathetic to my former plight, seems to really appreciate my efforts.

Every time I turn around I can see my troupe watching me carefully, sending me supportive vibes. I beam at them and dance, dance, dance. When my music ends, I curtsy low with gratitude and head back to the loving arms of my dance friends. They are all wide eyed in appreciation.

"Dude. You were AWESOME. I've never seen you dance so well!"

So, dear reader, let this be a lesson to us all. Shit happens, but when it does the only thing to do is put your best foot forward. When I was a kid, this would have devastated me and scarred me for life (I know this because I once tripped during a school play. I still don't talk about the details). But now I like to think I've grown wiser with age, along with having better hair.

Yesterday was FUN. I can't remember the last time I had that much fun dancing. Although I wish my little crisis hadn't happened, I dealt with it with as best I could, with aplomb and good cheer.

And the bond that I share with my troupe is now stronger than ever. We're all there for each other, no matter what. And the fact that even after my harrowing little experience I still performed the final group number with them? That meant something. It meant a lot. To all of us.

We're a group, and the group sticks together.

It was an adventure, to be sure. Next performance is August 17th. :0

At least this one is inside. And my costume is going to receive some serious sewing action, rest assured.

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