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The Fates- The Greek goddesses of destiny. In Greek mythology, the three goddesses, Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos,, were believed to decree the events in and duration of someone’s life. The Greeks believed that Clotho spun the thread that represented a person’s life, Lachesis decided the extent (or length) of it, and Atropos was the one who cut it at the determined span of time.
Gilded Serpent presents...
Rhythm and Reason Series, Article 6
Unexpected Mishaps
by Mary Ellen Donald
Originally published in Bellydancer Magazine in 1978 as part of an ongoing column. This magazine was published by Yasmine Samra in Palo Alto, California.

 Do you like to make exciting things happen in your life, pushing hard to make things turn out just right – first class?  Do you put a lot of energy into planning and organizing to ensure such results?  “Yes!” you answer proudly.  Well, then maybe you are like me: that which is out of your control, the unforeseen, drives you nuts.

In an earlier article, I remember stating that I had grown up a bit because I had begun to ask myself before a planned event: What are the things that possibly could go wrong, psychologically preparing myself for the unexpected and readying myself to improvise?  Looking back at 1979, I’m presumptuous enough to think that the gods were testing me because of that slight boast.  At the moment of a mishap, certainly, I do not philosophize.  However, hours, days, or sometimes weeks later, I certainly do have a good laugh about Fate’s trickery.  Perhaps the challenge lies in bringing the laughter closer to the mishap.  Maybe one could even learn to laugh before something goes wrong. 

I invite you to chuckle with me as I retell several gems of last year.  I wouldn’t dare to boast of any lesson you must learn from all of this, and discovery of a meaning is up to you!

My first story is about the time that Mahmoud Reda was here (in the S. F. Bay Area).  We had worked for months on our music and dance to show off to our Egyptian guest.  We musicians arrived on stage two hours before show time.  Having learned from difficulties in the past, I had planned this early gathering so we could have an elaborate sound check and rehearse much of the music for the show.  While the sound equipment was assembled for us, we patiently waited, but it proved to be a wait somewhat longer than anyone had anticipated.  Then came the news... 

One hour before our designated show time, someone informed me that we had no amplification.  The inputs on the public address system that we rented did not fit the connectors on our microphones. 

Usually, that’s not a problem because adaptors can be purchased at any electronics store for less than two dollars.  Nevertheless, this particular PA system was so ancient that adaptors were no longer available for it, and the place that rented us the equipment had closed for the night.  We frantically called around and found one rental place open that was not too far away.  A half an hour before show time, I received a call from our sound man (my husband) from the rental place, saying that they wouldn’t rent him the necessary equipment because he didn’t have a credit card with him.  However, they consented to rent the system if someone with me would give his credit card number to the sales person over the phone.  We raced around and finally came up with someone with such a magic number.  Ten minutes before show time, the sound system was ready!  Our sound check was brief, and our rehearsal was even briefer.

The ironic part of this story is that as it turned out, Mahmoud Reda might not even have noticed our lack of amplification. He arrived in San Francisco only hours before the show after the sleepless night and day traveling in a motor home.  Therefore, understandably, he could hardly keep his eyes open during our dazzling production.

My second story happened toward the end of March of the same year. I had just spent two lovely days in New York providing drum accompaniment for dance classes and sitting in with Middle Eastern bands at the clubs, oblivious to the outside world.

I arrived at the airport on a Friday morning, eager for the next leg of my journey, to Pennsylvania.  I went to check my bags and was startled to find out that the flight, on which I was supposedly booked, didn’t exist… and hadn’t existed for weeks! 

I sadly learned that my travel would have to be re-routed through Pittsburgh, and I would have to re-arrange my afternoon plan.  “Oh well,” I thought.  A seasoned traveler like me could digest easily such an unexpected shift!  I would only have to call Jadaya and let her know my new flight plans. 

Then I found out the big news.  Whether I was coming from New York, Pittsburgh, or the moon did not matter: the Harrisburg Airport had closed. Yes, the Three Mile Island nuclear reactor disaster had taken place several days before only twelve miles from where I was on the schedule to give a two-day seminar—along with the Egyptian percussionist, Sayed Anany

Over one hundred people had registered for the seminar!  Approximately twenty appearedNevertheless, we actually taught the seminar, and improvisation was the watchword of our weekend.  (I must comment that the gods went a little bit overboard on that one!)

I cannot resist telling you one final story that happened in the fall of the year: I was eating dinner at an ethnic restaurant owned by an acquaintance of mine.  The food was great, but there were no other diners in the restaurant.  There on the spot, good old helpful Mary Ellen hatched a splendid plan!  I told the owner I would like to organize a belly dance show for his place to bring him some business, to give my band an opportunity to perform, and to spotlight the talents of local dance instructors and performers.  I assured the owner that we would be able to sell out the place, one hundred paying guests, for dinner and a show, and we did.

Because of the embarrassing service provided by an inebriated chef at a previous banquet that I had sponsored also, I had vowed never again to rave about the food that guests should expect.  This time, I had experienced the food myself.  I knew the owner prided himself on his gourmet meals, so I put aside my vow and told everyone that they could count on excellent food.  However, as it turned out, that night there were not enough tables, chairs, or dishes for the guests.  There was only one waiter.  Many people didn’t even have a drop of water while they waited for one hour.  The food was fair but scant.  I asked myself in private: “Is the world simply full of bunglers, or could it be that I have a special knack for finding them?  Am I the biggest bungler of them all?" I wondered. (No comment is necessary.) Even considering all of this, the show we put on that night everyone declared to be among our best.

So I ask you: what is the lesson one could learn from these stories?  Perhaps, it is that whatever can go wrong may; so remember that entertainers must be not only prepared, but flexible, and that the show must go on!

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Ready for more?
10-7-05 Rhythm and Reason Series, Article 5, Cymbals & the Music by Mary Ellen Donald
But that’s not the rhythm. As I say at the beginning of each workshop, “Rhythm is the patterned arrangement of sound and silent.”

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11-8-05 My Adventure Begins! by Asmahan
At last, another North Beach Memory! "I was creating my life as an adventure, I was making my own destiny; this was Kismet!"

11-2-05 The Divine & Fusion Categories of The Belly Dancer of the Universe Competition, report by Amy Bonham
held February 19-20, 2005 in Long Beach, California, photos by GS staff

10-26-05 Interview with Mahmoud Reda Part 3: Film & Future by Morocco
If you know about photography, then it will help performing for the movies or for television because usually the choreographer stands beside the director of the movie.

10-17-05 How MECDA Began by Feiruz Aram
M.E.C.D.A., (Middle Eastern Culture and Dance Association) is a nationwide organization which began in 1977 for the purpose of organizing working dancers, sharing information between teachers...


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