Middle Eastern Dance is an easy dance to fall in love with; after all, it’s fun to watch, fun to do, can be done by pretty much anybody, has an interesting and rich history, is both a traditional and developing art form, offers fantastic music … I could go on and on. Some of its attributes are discovered early on and others present themselves over time.
After gigging for awhile, in some typical and not-so-typical venues over time, of the things that struck me one day is that no matter where I dance, there is a high probability that someone watching will know what they’re looking at.
I’m not kidding. One day a couple of years ago I was hired to dance at—of all things—a pumpkin festival at a far-away farm in rural a New Jersey. After driving for hours, the last half mile was a dirt driveway, and my car was covered in dust. When I got there, I was told that there was no place to change into my costume, and the other dancer and I ended up changing in … are you ready for this? … a huge refrigerated locker behind the performance space, which was an open-sided barn. We were going on after a mariachi band, and there were middle-American-looking farmers all over the place in cowboy hats and overalls, straight out of a TV show or something .
Our show went well, and everyone seemed to enjoy it, but the whole time I was wondering, “What am I doing here?” I was sure the assorted farmhands and whoever else was there was wondering who or what we were.
But sure enough, back in the cavernous refrigeration unit, right after the show, there was a knock on the door. We slid open the giant rolling door (it was at least 12 feet high), and there stood a woman, dressed like everyone else, in jeans and a flannel shirt and a trucker hat. She said, “I’m so sorry to bother you, but do you gals have business cards? I just loved your show! My family is half Lebanese, my niece is getting married next month, and …”
Well, there you go. I had been sure that no one had the slightest idea what they were seeing, but in the most unlikely places, someone will pop up who studied Belly Dance once, or has a friend who dances, or is from the Middle East, or some such connection. It has always been important to me to do my best job at every gig, representing the art form as best I can, using the right movement with the right music in the right way each and every time; making sure every detail is the best I can make it.
Knowing that there will likely be someone who knows no matter where I dance makes me very happy. I find myself looking at all of the audience members and thinking, “Is it you? … or you?”