The Gilded Serpent presents...
Dog's Day Afternoon, my audition
by Lucy Lipshitz

Today I had an audition. It was my first audition ever! This really is strange, considering that no one has ever asked me to do this before.   I guess other people just kind of knew what they were getting when I dance. In this case, I had waited for nearly one year for this opportunity. If I danced well at this audition, I would be engaged to perform at a very nice women's luncheon, which is held every year in October sponsored by a local 12-Step group. I've heard that women from around the Western states attend, and the planning committee takes great pride in providing quality, spiritual, entertainment and a guest speaker. I had even heard that the food was fantastic.

As for me, how could I lose? I BELONGED at that luncheon!

I'm a member of that 12-Step group.  I'm a woman, and I support all women living in sobriety.  I knew in my heart, that someday, somehow, I would sword dance for all those wonderful women.  I knew that they would love my performance!  They would get chills from my soulful, sensitive, and sober interpretation of the haunting Turkish Roma music I use for my sword dance.

The day of the audition was the typical, hot muggy monsoon day. I arrived at the home of the woman who was in charge of the entertainment committee. She was a charming lady, with a very, very large dog who evidently loves belly dancers! The dog leapt upon me, and thoroughly sniffed me, including my costume, and the nice lady had to pull her off of me. A few seconds later, the dog was back, and I petted her. Her response was a big, wet kiss. Her "mommy" was pleased that the doggie liked me, but tried to entice the dog to leave me alone, so I could get ready for my dance.

Ms. Nice Lady set up the tape player, and cued my tape, while I pulled out my portfolio, my most recent dance photos, and something I had written about the connection between sword dancing and a woman's life. I proudly told her that my performances are appropriate for all ages of people, that my dances are family-oriented, (and heck!) even animals like me, as she could see for herself!  I tied on my hair scarves, and then my ankle bells, which seemed to intoxicate the dog. She heard my bells jingle as I walked into the main room, and her head lurched up with great interest.

Her hairy face looked very intelligent, but I did worry if maybe she thought my bells might be rabbits or ducks or something wonderful to hunt. She appeared to be drooling.

The lady wanted her husband to come out and watch me dance too, so I sat and waited while she went looking for him. The dog also left the room for a minute, then returned with what looked like a white bandage. She stood right in the middle of the room, holding this thing in her mouth, then dropped it. Her mom dragged the dog and her toy over to a corner where the mommy sat, and after staring at my ankles, the dog began to chew on her treat with great pleasure.

I like to mentally prepare just before I perform, but, especially with sword dancing, I like to be calm. As the calmness began to flow, I pushed the "play" button on the tape machine, and my dance began.  Suddenly, the nice lady said, "Lisa!  If you turn around slowly, you will see my husband, "B---" standing right behind you!". I turned around, and sure enough, about 18 inches from where I was dancing was a quiet man looking at me. "Off" went the music machine, as he and I shook hands, and his wife introduced us. I reminded the lady that my name is Lucy. We passed to Mr. Nice Husband my portfolio pictures and talked a bit more. I told him about my sword dance philosophy, and then I was ready to prepare to calm myself again.

The moody music started. Slowly, I walked out, the bells slowly ringing. I swayed with the violin, closing my eyes, getting into the music, centering myself to be willing to open up to the music. The doggy was lying nearby, chewing, eyeing me with a tint of suspicion. The music was beginning to build up to the first crescendo, when I carefully balanced the sword on my head. This is about 45% of the way through the dance. Suddenly, "DING DONG!", rang the doorbell! Like an explosions into my dance, 75 pounds of yellow tornado whirled over, then flung itself at the window by the door, throwing out some deep, intimidating "WOO-WOO-WOOOFFs" with a couple of fake snarls thrown in for good measure.  I'm certain that I saw bits of chewed rawhide toy flying out of her mouth, which really added to the faux ferocity. Her "mommy" let the "intruder" in.  She turned out to be another member of the women's luncheon planning committee. The dog grudgingly let her head be rubbed, then plunked herself down on the new nice lady's feet. We were introduced, and the photo portfolio of "Lisa" was brought out again. We talked, I answered their questions, stated that "I'm not Lisa, my name is Lucy", and then I was ready to start the dance. Again.

The dog still had her chew toy, and was watching me out of the corner of one brown eye. As everyone settled in again, I pushed the "play" button on the tape player, for the third time.

Again I calmed myself, and centered into my Cosmic, Spiritual Self. But the Cosmic Lisa, uh..Lucy, was too flustered to feel very spiritual by now. I had already forgotten where I was in the song.

I figured if I could get back on track at this audition, I could handle anything! So, I found the point in the song where the music soars, and I put the sword on my head. I danced my dance.

I tried to remember to feel the music, to try to pull my audience in the dance with me. I did my shimmies, I dipped, and did some pretty good stuff for a novice.  I began to sweat. It was hot, and I was working hard. I began to wonder when the song would end. Uh-oh! That's a bad sign. It means that I think I have run out of moves. But I remembered what my teacher told me. It's okay to repeat moves! It's okay to not have a move for every bit of music! It's okay to have silences in the dance! So, I quit trying so hard. I closed my eyes again, and tried to center my Cosmic, Spiritual Self one more time. However, Spiritual Lucy had checked out! All that was left was….. "Lisa", getting tired and hot. The end of the dance was nearing, but still I hadn't quite regained my bearings in the music. I stopped, did a dip and twirl while I re-oriented myself in my dance. I knew that the big ending was coming, the amazing spin, always a crowd-pleaser. I began to spin, faster and faster. I used the soft focus method I was taught, keeping my eye on the corner of the sword as it balanced on my head. The time for my last turn was approaching… 

I began my multiple spins slowly, then twirled faster and faster. I watched the doggy carefully as well.   I sure didn't want to step on her, and ruin a budding friendship or lose one of my toes! The doggy was watching me carefully, just to make sure I wasn't going to attack her "mommy". She didn't seem to love particularly that shiny, sharp metal thing balanced on my head. At the 8th rotation, I began to quickly slow down, so that by the 11th turn, I could stop abruptly, and keep the sword from flying off my head and whacking someone from my petite audience.

The music came to a finale, and I ended in a beautiful pose. Very impressed with myself, I took a bow.

Suddenly I felt something strange and gooey on the bottom of my cute little belled foot.

As my little audience applauded, I smiled disarmingly and bowed, while I gracefully tried to wipe my foot off on the very nice carpet. The doggy was now dozing on the other woman's foot, her soft little jowls draping over the woman's ankles. The doggy looked very happy. I took a little peek down at the bottom of my foot. There, nearly ground into by paste by my INCREDIBLE twirling, was a piece of heavily-chewed rawhide toy! I played it very cool, and calmly rubbed it off my foot. Perhaps it is still there in the carpet, or by now, the dog has eaten it.

The very nice lady was really into the dancing! She asked me to do another dance, that she and I found we both love, so I obliged. It's a very kicky piece, and has a PHAT drum ending! She was tapping her feet with the music, and gave some cheers of encouragement. They weren't quite zagareets, but close, so I showed them how to zagareet, and told them what it means, and promised that at the luncheon, I'll show the audience how to do it.

I was still a bit flustered, but was happy. I took off my scarves, drank some more ice water, and shook hands with the husband and friend. I spied a remnant of the strange thing that had been glued to my foot, so very politely, I kicked it under the rocking chair where I was standing. The doggy opened one eye as I said good-bye to her, and looked quite benign, but I swear she had a smirk on her face. As I drove off into the thunder-tinged afternoon, I felt good. Either way, I think the audition went well. I was able to do some good moves, and involve my audience. The dog didn't try to eat my ankle bells. The humans seemed to like me. And I proved my point, that my dancing is for everyone, not just humans! I know the dog loved me, because she gave me a little present. And not ONCE did she call me "Lisa"!

Ready for more?
more from Lucy-

I Walk In Pain And Beauty by Lucy Lipschitz

I also walk with the Hope that other dancers will read this and know that they don't balance
on this double-edged sword alone.

Salah Takesh Interviewed by Janine Ryle
For years, he was involved in the San Francisco North Beach scene during the eighties as a drummer
while his brother, Jalaleddin Takesh was a kanoonist and restaurant owner. We asked him to recall some of his experiences for our North Beach Memories series.

Crone Dance by Mimi Albert
There's an attitude here toward life, toward the art of movement in general, which expresses the affirmation of a belief in the human spirit and its manifestation in oneself, one's gender, one's position in society.

 
 

 Gilded Serpent
 Cover page, Contents, Calendar Comics Bazaar About Us Letters to the Editor Ad Guidelines Submission Guidelines