Gilded Serpent presents...
It Wasn’t About the Trophy:
North Valley Belly Dance Competition in Oroville, Ca. 2006
by Salima

It wasn’t that winning first place wasn’t suh-weeet—it was!  However, for me, it was more about “being” my fantasy and wanting to become a legitimate part of that special, select group of artists and entertainers who perform the beautiful, exotic art of Belly dancing.  My coming away with a trophy for first place made my dance fantasy seem infinitely more incredible!  Before I heard the announcement of the contest winners, I had already chalked my night up as an experience of total enjoyment.  The event, The North Valley Belly Dance Contest Competition, took place in Oroville, California on November 11, 2006, and Carolee Tamori ably and professionally coordinated it.  The event took place at the State Theatre, which is a beautiful old classical theatre—built in the early 1920s.  Restoration appears to have retained some of the theatre’s original Art Deco decor.  The effect put me in mind of the setting of the hotel in Stephen King’s movie, “The Shining”.  Okay, we will not go there—because, yes—I believe in the after world and, in my fantasies, surely spirits haunt all old theatres!

First, while I realize that winning a first place in the “Novice Category” in a Belly dance contest is not winning the Academy Award, as far as I know, it was just as much fun and probably more.

  I cannot even begin to imagine the politics involved in the Academy Awards, but I certainly did not feel anything like politics happening here.  I appreciated the judge’s comments, and felt they were very fair.  Truthfully, I would have welcomed a few more comments for their instructive qualities. I know there is always room for improvement, and I embrace the knowledgeable input.  Certainly, I have my own opinions about artistic things, but my eyes are wide open to absorb both the good and the bad.

The evening started with the dancers’ check-in.  One of my instructors, Yasmine (of Sirens In Sanity), was competing on the same evening in the live music category, and another of my dance instructors, Saiedeh, the Director of Sirens and choreographer of my routine, came along for support.  (How is that for pressure?) I found my way to the dressing rooms below stage, where there were several individual rooms.  I poked my head through the black curtains to peer into one of them. Since I liked the fact that it had two long counters and mirrors, one on each side of the room, I claimed my little corner and began the primping ritual familiar to all performers.  Later, some tribal dancers and my friend Molly (who had entered into the “Solo Category”) joined me in the dressing room.  Everyone seemed giddy, very friendly, and courteous.  After I applied my stage lips, I proceeded with my shakedown.  That is where I jump around, shimmy, wiggle, bend, swirl, etc. to make sure everything stays put in my costume!  I do not have too much to worry about up in the… um… upper torso department, but I know it is better to be safe than sorry!

If a pop out did occur, I am sure the judges would not be undulally influenced but performers know that incidents with costume failure can make an audience feel sorry for the dancer rather than amused. 

Next came the waiting, and the waiting…  It was not actually too nerve wracking to wait because everyone was talking and looking at each other’s costumes.  The fact that we dancers get to dress in such eye-popping attire is yet another reason why I love this dance form so much.  

So, it was my turn to compete!  As I was standing at the side curtain waiting for my music to begin, I started to panic mildly, thinking that, perhaps, I had mis-communicated my music cue to the stage manager.  As I became busy trying to signal to her—Boom! Familiar strains of my music began.  Ack! I was supposed to start on that very first beat—so I had to scramble!  It was a nice, sizable stage, and the house lights were completely dark; therefore, I was looking out into a black abyss!  I could not see anyone, not even the judges.  Admittedly, contacts may have helped a little, but regardless, at that moment, I felt like I was up there all alone, dancing for myself; it was a bizarre, strange feeling. I idly wondered if that is what inspired Billy Idol’s song “Dancing with Myself”?

I managed to accomplish a head wrap with my veil, and had to be careful to make certain my heels did not find the electrical hole that was located, inconveniently, in the middle of the stage.  I was not sure how much of that concern the judges detected, but it seemed I disguised my brain waves well enough.  After my performance, which, of course, I can barely remember, I wanted to run out and do it all over again!  After that initial burst of adrenaline that tends to interfere with balance as well as inner serenity, I wanted a chance to go back out and perform my dance better, the way I knew I could.  I can just imagine how the Olympians must feel when they fall on the ice after they have performed their skate routine perfectly hundreds of times.  Mishaps are so frustrating! While keeping the scope of this contest in context, I was just grateful that I had not fallen off the stage!  The little faux pas could have been so much worse; so, I managed to keep my delighted smile…

You might ask why I felt the need to enter into a dance competition.  After a lot of thought, I have concluded that it was mostly about me competing with--myself.  I have done many things in my life and by forcing myself to have other performers judge my performance, I have motivated myself to step up to the plate and accomplish what I had set in my mind to do.

It is not about exhibitionism or “showing off”.  If there is anything I detest in performers, it is those who believe they are “all-that” and stick their noses up in the air.  Our lives, faces, bodies, health, etc., can change in the blink of an eye.  (You could have asked Christopher Reeves.)  The people that I love and admire the most are the ones that are beautiful on the inside, and I have found them to be (typically) confident, secure individuals that do not feel the need to boast or rip on other people—even if they feel annoyed by unprofessional antics from time to time. Anyway, that is enough about that!

If I have any regrets about anything, I would be that I did not start learning Belly dancing earlier in my life because there is much to learn and so little time!  I have been lucky to study with such great instructors!  I began lessons with Yosifah Rose in Martinez, California, and then, I established my dance home at Sirens In Sanity in Benicia with Saiedeh and Yasmine.  I also take instruction from master dancer and coach, Najia Marlyz of Bay Point, California, who adds professional polish to my edges.  What a difference subtle changes can make!

Do I love to perform? Oh yes!  I think is must be for the endorphin rush it gives me.  I seem to gravitate to things that make my heart pound: performing, bungee jumping, and other daredevil activities. My advice is this: if there is anyone who is reading what I have written here who is undecided about entering a contest, I would urge you, “Just do it!” 

As far as I know, we only have one life to live, and personally, I do not want to leave my life thinking, “If only I had done this and that, and that…regrets and missed opportunities!  All of the women I encountered who were participating in the competition, even those in my Novice Category, all were very outgoing and supportive.  I felt no fear…

I encourage you to enter into a competition for the fun of it, for the experience and motivational incentive, and to meet new friends in the dance world.  Dance your heart out and have fun, but do not do it just for the trophy!  …By the way, have I shown you mine?

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