Wednesday, January 4, 2017
Dancing into the new year...
Soooooo...let's just say I was just a wee bit nervous about this one. :0 I've danced semi-professionally now for a few years, but those performances are few and far between. And of the times I've danced solo on such occasions, this was certainly the biggest gig of my career: at a restaurant, on New Year's Eve, for three solo 20 minute sets. That's quite a lot of dancing, right there, and at a (relatively speaking) fairly high profile, promoted holiday event by the restaurant. It loomed overhead for all of December as I selected music for my set lists, put together my costume selections and accoutrements, bought new makeup and jewelry, and generally felt queasy about the whole shebang. I wasn't alone though - Claire was also dancing that night, and we were slated to tag team our sets over a 3-4 hour period.
We had a game plan: veil entrances for most sets. Claire had fan veils for one of hers. And each of our second sets would feature balancing - me with Sword, and her with a candle tray. I would dance first, then Claire, and during the other person's set we would each discreetly loiter at the bar in our coverup, to be there to pick up props when they needed discarding or otherwise troubleshoot any issues that may arise.
We arrived together at the restaurant at about 5 pm on New Year's Eve, each pulling ridiculously large suitcases behind us, plus hoisting our proppage. My stomach was a bit of jumpy wreck, if I'm keeping it real here. Sword had been threatened TO.WITHIN.AN.INCH.OF.HIS.LIFE to behave or else be carted off to the meal recycling center on New Year's Day. He and I had rehearsed our approach and balancing technique all month, so I was cautiously optimistic, but dancing with him is like dancing with a toddler. Just when you think you're in the clear: BOOM. They embarrass you in public.
We greeted the staff and were directed to a dressing area in the back. It was nice - we had our own restroom, and plenty of space. Only thing was there was no heat back there, with a jittery door to the outside along one wall, and so the temperature was approximately ARCTIC TUNDRA for the entire evening. We shivered back there as we unpacked our boatload of costume stuff and then scoped out the scene back in the restaurant proper: people in all 3 dining spaces. Grand. I planned to dance a song in each room (sorta; the one space is significantly smaller than the others, so I wasn't sure about the ideal way to handle that one), before moving on to the next, but I truly had no idea if that would work out, or how it was all going to go down. As well, between two of the spaces lay the buffet and the bar. So lots of traversing people and wait staff to dodge.
Closer to 6 pm, we went back to get changed. I was up first, and I was NERVOUS. I shook it off as best I could as I readied. I put on my pink top and belt set over a new black and silver skirt, and suddenly the pink belt was suspiciously loose. Costume belts are very versatile and economical (you can change out the skirt for a completely different look) but they are a pain in the you-know-where for this very reason. They never fit the same way twice, whether with the same skirt or a different one, and they have zero give. I adjusted it as well as I could, put on my coverup, and headed out bravely.
Sound problems abounded, and the music was way too low when first started, so we had to wait while they fixed that. Finally, I popped into the banquet room with my pink silk veil aloft. The crowd in there was *amazing*. Families with adorable little children, who were all attentive and enthusiastic. I danced for them happily for a spell, then moved out past the bar to the next small area. Things were pretty quiet and subdued there, so I moved up to the third, larger dining space. There was more room to move in up there, so I stayed for a bit, and the people there were super polite and engaged. Things were going swimmingly, and I was really getting into it, when my pink costume belt FELL OFF while I was shimmying.
When presented with this less-than-desirable situation, there is nothing to be done but to kick the belt away and keep dancing. :0 The belt is totally separate from your skirt, so no harm done, but it's not exactly the exotic, put-together look you're going for.
I had to dance that way for the rest of my INTERMINABLE song, wait staff and guests enthusiastically snapping pictures of me, oblivious to my non-cooperative belt. I was distracted, but I danced on with vigor, at one point 3/4 shimming backwards into an empty high chair, but given that I stayed upright and kept dancing, I call that a win! 😂 As soon as it was over, I sashayed over to Claire to fix the belt prior to my final drum solo of the set. We got it back on, and I drum soloed over for the small dining area, worried about my belt the whole time, but it stayed on.
Relief flowed through me to have the first set behind me. It had gone well, even with the minor belt debacle. I pulled my coverup on, and Claire nervously fiddled with her fan veils. She had ordered new ones, only to receive them and find out that they were the largest fan veils KNOWN.TO.MANKIND. These things were larger than my dining room table. And we didn't exactly have a lot of space in any given spot in the restaurant.
I started her music and she danced out. The fan veils did great, she managed to manipulate them into the space perfectly. We got lots of compliments at the bar about how the restaurant owners and guests were loving the dancing, so I felt happy and encouraged. Claire finished up, and we headed back to our dressing space. I related how relieved I felt to have the first set done.
"Me too. But I'm nervous about the balancing."
Oh gulp. I had forgotten about Sword.
We changed. I had another top and belt set to put on, but with a velvet skirt, which tends to hug the belts better, and indeed this belt fit fine and felt secure. I practiced with Sword a few times, and he did great and promised to be good, so out we trudged nervously with our props.
Once again, I was up first, and I nervously balanced Sword on my gloved arm while Claire got my music queued up. I brought him into the banquet room first, where my favorite families were still lingering, and they greeted me enthusiastically. I whirled him around a bit, and did general sword swirling stuff, before making my first balancing attempt of the night on my head. I will give credit where credit is due, and Sword did GREAT. I balanced him for a spell, took him off to travel to a different part of the room, and got him re-balanced like a champ. The room really appreciated my efforts, but I reluctantly had to leave them to move to the other dining spaces. Sword once again came through, balancing for me in both of the other rooms. By this point, I was more than halfway through the second song in the set, so I happily brought Sword over to the bar to give to Claire. I was waylaid. :0
As I glided over, an older man got up and wanted to dance with me. And Sword. 😎 Which presented a bit of a logistical difficulty, but I made it work. Having people get up and dance with me was totally new to my professional dancing repertoire, but I knew that it was something I was going to have to master. I navigated that, finally got over to Claire, and deposited Sword with her. After that, my set was a dream, with my all time favorite piece of music "New Baladi," included in my playlist, as well as a kickin' drum solo. Once I had the balancing behind me, I really relaxed, and just enjoyed the music. The dancing went really well, and the crowd, which had grown, was engaged. This makes for a happy belly dancer. People also stopped me to ask to take photos with me, which I found a pleasant distraction.
I finished set 2 a contented camper, and pulled my coverup on for Claire's set. She was nervously lighting her candles, and I projected as much positive energy her way as I could. Balancing a prop is always nerve wracking, but most especially when it can set fire to the building. :0
I watched her carefully as she started in the banquet room (no problem), and then made her way to the small dining space. While over there, I heard a gasp. The tray had slipped off her head, but she deftly caught it with one hand, and got it re-balanced within seconds. I SO want to be her when I grow up, she is the best.
She moved to the upper dining room and got Tray balanced with no trouble, but I could tell she was eager to be rid of her. :0 I took control of blowing out Tray's candles so that Claire could finish her set, and we moved back to the dressing room in relief. Sword was very smug the whole time - he has redeemed himself as a prop of choice for the most coveted of gigs I do.
For the third set, I was downright relaxed. I was wearing one of my favorite costumes (a top and skirt set, no belt woes!) and my playlist was awesome. I felt happy and confident as I started to dance. By this point, the banquet room had finally cleared out, so guests were all seated in the small and upper dining spaces. It was also much later in the evening, and they were now ordering drinks. Hence, the atmosphere was a bit more, we'll say - raucous. :0
Thought bubble over Tiffany's head:
"Please Lord, please let this liquid that I'm currently dancing in be water."
The crowd was loud and spirited, and for the first time in my dancing career, I asked a woman if she would like to dance with me. She was dancing around in her chair, so I figured she might be a willing candidate. ;-) She seemed horrified by the suggestion and declined, but I felt proud of myself for asking. It's definitely something that is expected during restaurant gigs, so I need to get used to it. As I danced up to the upper dining space, I was clued in to the fact that these people had been watching my efforts down below. Several jumped out of their chairs and came over to dance with me. Well then.
This was a first for me, and it was a lot to manage. I had two separate dancing groups going, and they each wanted me to show them what to do. There was clapping and happy hollering going on, which I took as a good sign. As the song was wrapping up, the music cut out.
I could see Claire struggling with the audio cable at the bar, so I thanked everyone and danced over to help her. We got it fixed, but by that point we figured it would be easier and more streamlined to just have her start her set, given that I only had a few minutes of music left on my playlist anyway. Claire danced away. The crowd was all ready to go, and she got lots of willing participants to dance with her as well. The third sets really ended on high notes, to be sure.
The owners of the restaurant and staff all wanted to take photos with us, and we happily obliged. They were very happy with how things went, and I'm hoping that they'll ask us to dance there again. They got a great turnout, and everyone really seemed to enjoy themselves. Including us!
As we packed up in our tundra ;-), I reflected that as nervous as I had been, things had gone so smashing that I was now sad it was over. In fact, I've been sad about it ever since, and have longed to leave my career as a librarian to be full time, professional belly dancer. :0 Maybe there's some sort of exotic castle that needs a full time dancer, and I can buy all these extravagant and beautiful costumes to dance in...
You'll notice I'm here today. At the library. Not in a castle nor shopping for $5,000 dance costumes. So I guess you're stuck with me. 😇
I had a grand New Year's Eve, and after my dancing adventure, I went home and had drinks with Mike. It was a lovely and memorable night.
How was your New Year's? Any resolutions to share? I'd love to hear about them!