A Quest for Beauty, Part 3
I opened the show at a recent performance at Moss Landing’s "Haute Enchilada Restaurant", where I am a house dancer as well as the scheduler. As I danced out with my zills pinging away, a male voice from a nearby table said, "This isn’t what I signed up for!" I immediately replied in my best stage voice, "The women need something to look at too!" Laughter ensued throughout the room, saving us all from a possibly sticky situation by a healthy sense of humor. By the way, the man in question later told me that he really enjoyed the show (even me) and thanked us for our performance.
What follows here are several humorous anecdotes. Some of them are about being a male in a female dominated field while some are merely about being a Bellydancer in the first place. My first rule concerning being weird ("weird" as evidenced by some reactions to my previous articles) is to have a good sense of humor!
A number of years ago, I was in a workshop with the fabulous Alexandra King–a "Gypsy style" workshop featuring a ton of skirt work. Although it was one of the first times, if not the very first time, I’d tried skirt work, apparently Alexandra liked what I was doing because she invited me up to the front of the class to assist her in a demonstration of a combination involving two dancers using skirts. She said. "Don’t worry, I won’t embarrass you!" In reply, I reached down, lifted and spread my skirt widely and replied, "Do I look like I can be embarrassed?" Hilarity ensued.
Goose & Gander
When I take a class or workshop with a new teacher, I always try to tell her my philosophy of "teach me just like any other student" so she won’t worry about what to do with me. In a workshop with Nourhan Sharif, I hadn’t had the opportunity before class to speak with her, so at the midway class break, she approached me and apologized for her female-centric language and said that she did not want me to feel left out, etc. Bless her! I put her at ease by telling her that "In this context, I just consider myself an honorary woman; it just makes it easier for everyone. If women often have to deal with male-centric language in many places, I figure I can deal with the inverse. What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander!
The Choreographic Pariah
Choreography can be a challenge to me. There was one spot in a certain cane choreography that I was always ending up on the wrong foot. The more I thought about it, the more panicked I felt and the worse the situation became.
During one rehearsal, I was thinking to myself, "here it comes!" Sure enough, I ended up on the wrong foot. The instructor immediately cut the music. "Uh-oh" I thought to myself.
She stalked up to me, looked up at me with her hands on her hips, and became four foot nine of red headed wrath: "Zorba," she started, "we’ve been doing this dance for two years, and you always, always, always, do this movement backwards every single time! It’s–the–right–hip!"
I’d like to be able to say that I never screwed it up again, but I did get significantly better after that–whatever it took to get through to my clumsy male brain!
Asleep at the Switch
Once upon a time I was ready to dance a veil number at Monterey’s historic Kalisa’s La Ida Cafe. I was folded up on the stage, veil covering me, waiting for my music to start. Waiting… Waiting… Waiting… No music. I wondered, "What’s going on? (or not going on?)" A low murmur started in the audience. Time for some comic relief. I let out a loud, fake snore. Utter silence–but still there was no music. I produced another fake snore, even louder than the first. A titter ran through the audience. I was about to peel my veil back, stick my head out like a turtle’s, and inquire of the sound person something to the effect of "Sometime this week would be nice…" but, just then, the music began, and I danced my veil piece to an audience glowing with smiles!
There’s nothing worse than sound problems – and I’ve had my share of them, many much worse than the one I have just mentioned above. Music suddenly starts doing the herky-jerky? I’ll often herky-jerky along with it. That wins the audience over every time, because you certainly cannot hide the problem. One time, it was so bad that I pantomimed kicking the errant stereo and "shot" it with a thumb-and-finger pistol!
I’ve had any number of encounters with what I call "feral women" who are the inverse of the creepy guys with whom female Belly Dancers are all too familiar. My wife isn’t always present to fend them off, so sometimes I find myself in some "interesting" situations. On one such occasion, a dance brother and I were walking out after the conclusion of a show in which we’d both danced. A woman was waiting for us outside, and immediately expressed her admiration for both our dance performances and, let’s just say she was pretty explicit about the effect same had upon her. Thinking fast, I said "Well, today’s just not your day; I’m married, and he’s gay!"
I was never the athletic type; as a child, I was a bit of an ugly duckling–clumsy, klutzy, and shy. I was always the one chosen last for "the team", and I detested P.E. classes. So now, as a member of Janelle’s Santa Cruz class, I’m working harder than I ever have in my entire life! "101 Creative Ways to Torture the Bellydance Student" is the title of a book I’m sure she will be announcing that she has had published any day now. "Paramedics standing by at every class!" Several of us enjoy teasing the long-suffering (and humorous) Janelle about her strenuous workout format.
I had just finished dancing with Jamaica Sinclair’s "Troupe Diva" at a street fair, and I was collecting my veil et al when a member of the local country western band (who were performing following us on the same stage) walked up to me and asked "Did you lose a bet?" "Oh Goddess!" I thought to myself, "I hope my dancing was better than that!" but replied aloud, "No, but I think you just did!" (I’d noticed him in the audience during the performance, and it was fairly obvious that I was the subject of a discussion.)
How do I handle the rare female detractor who wants to keep me in a narrow "male box"? I handle it with humor of course–but I also drive the point home by adding a rejoinder such as:
- "If that’s the case, why are you wearing pants?"
- "Yes, I see that you don’t conform to outdated gender roles yourself."
- "No, my wife doesn’t confine me to the kitchen."
I have enjoyed overall good acceptance from the members of the general public whom I have encountered. Most of the gals love me, many men accept me as a dancer; but there are the occasional people, mostly men, who are obviously uncomfortable in my presence when I Bellydance. I guess they think if they look at me too much, or I get too close, that they’ll turn gay or something. Whatever! However, I usually find that a humorous rejoinder is the best way to defuse potentially tense situations–and it often helps an insecure male if I "let slip" that I’m married. It is interesting psychology, and I’ve won over quite a few folks with some fast thinking and humor–even some older Middle Eastern men!
Ready for more?
- 4-9-09 A Quest for Beauty, Part 1: Beauty is Discovered
My wife of 17 years asked, "You’re going to do…. what?"when I told her of my desire to take Bellydance lessons.
- 9-10-09 A Quest for Beauty, Part II: Damn the Torpedoes and Full Speed Ahead! by Zorba
I recognized that "femininity/masculinity" was an entirely artificial construct, and femininity/masculinity was based on reality, i.e. biology.
- 3-2-10 Latest Craze- Egyptian Oriental Dance, The Fitness Benefits of Our Dance by Hadia
This is a fabulous idea, except for the very important and primary fact that the majority of efforts in this direction have attempted to fit this archetype of feminine activity into the current prevailing masculine model of linear strengthening and tightening, complete with fitness speak, crunches, squats and sweat!
- 2-26-10 Life as a Bellydancer: A Dancer’s Dilema by Najia Marlyz
Next came my surprising reality check. It stung me pitifully when I was introduced at my family reunion as "Evelyn’s daughter, the Kootch dancer"! I still thought of myself as a graduate student, learning fascinating things about ethnic studies and folklore.
- 2-17-10 Shimmying on the Shores of Paradise, The Dancers of the Dominican Republic by Sylvia Richards
White sands and turquoise waters come to mind when most picture the Dominican Republic, but the Caribbean paradise offers visitors far more than its natural beauty. It may come as a surprise that the small tropical country most known for its pristine beaches and Caribbean hospitality also has a vibrant and thriving belly dancing scene.
- 2-16-10 Digital Dancer! Belly Dancing in Second Life by Caitlin McDonald
In Second Life, the dancing is done digitally by applying a computer program that causes one’s avatar, the digital representation of the self online, to move in a prescribed manner. Instead of learning movements and needing time to practice them, they are loaded onto the avatar just like Nero learns Kung Fu in the “Matrix” films.
- 2-16-10 Hot Bellydance Event in Tijuana by Martha Duran
Leila Farid from Cairo Egypt is a sweetheart! She is what many Mexican dancers aspire to look and dance like. Wow! She is gorgeous and mesmerizing – as well as extremely nice, polite and down to earth! My star struck students were amazed to catch her snacking on Mexican Rancheritos (chips) and eating breakfast like a Mexican, with tortillas! She’s so fit that we couldn’t imagine she snacked on chips tortillas like the rest of us. Her master class was magnificent.
- 2-11-10 Paul demonstrates the Oud another Musical Instrument Tour
Paul shows us his instrument, including the tuning he uses, why there are not frets, who his mentors are and the makers of his instrument.
- 2-9-10 Carl’s Camera Captures Dancers from Z to A, Tatseena’s Fantasy Festival 2009, photos by Carl, introduction by Ma*Shuqa
This festival was a festive day of good vibrations with dancers sharing their talents on the raised stage, and on the beautiful wood dance floor. The day was replendent with beautiful dancing, beautiful costumes, and wonderful music – with the bands: Al Azifoon and Light Rain. This is a favorite festival for dancers in the East Bay area.
- 2-3-10 Bellydancer in 21 Days: My Internship with Aunt Delilah by Averill
I am incredibly fortunate to be a junior at a very nice independent school in Toledo, Ohio. One of the programs they offer is called "Winterim". No one goes to their normal classes for a month; instead, all the students embark on some kind of intensive independent study program.