I practiced and practiced for hours every day to prepare for the bellydance showcase at Marrakech. Bellydance has become a major force in my life, and since performing is the natural outcome of all this preparation, it is the one unmissable step. Being a performer for a living doesn’t exactly help me as a dancer. My work is all about words, saying them at the right time, in precise combinations and intricate meanings. Without speaking, I don’t know what to do. When I don’t talk, I don’t know who I am. Dancing is terrifying because for those minutes I am unable to say anything. I have to dance my message, sweat my prayers, and that is the ultimate challenge for a personality monster like me.
I played my song over and over, a pretty live recording of a familiar dance class tune with loud audience applause at the beginning and at the end to make me feel right at home. My costume was from Mamoud’s in Cairo, deep within the winding streets of the Khan. I unearthed it from the rubble of sequins and appliques. It was covered in glitter debris, and with my trained “shiny” eye, I could see it was a true masterpiece. In my never-ending search for dance costumes, I am like a pig turning over the soil for truffles. After purchasing this treasure, I mended all the tassels and bleeding bugle beads, restoring the glorious embellishment that took some poor Bedouin woman weeks to create. It was fairly expensive, but not as expensive as the back surgery it would take for me to have done the beadwork myself. I just hope that the Bedouin woman had proper overhead lighting and a high backed chair, and also had the idea to get up and stretch every other hour. I also altered the costume extensively, shortening it with complicated ruching rather than hemming, as not to disturb the elaborate beadwork along the bottom. I coated all the tassels in clear nail polish, so I would have some insurance that I would not lose any of those hard won beads. I made doubly sure that all the hooks and closures were secure, even though the thick thread now made the strap around my neck very difficult to put on, because I wanted to be safe. I should have realized we are never safe in this world, that all our precautions and our preparation can put us even more squarely in harm’s way.
After extra careful makeup preparation, a visit to the false eyelash farm, (a large plastic container where I put all my false eyelashes after they have been worn, so they are all mismatched with different degrees of wear, creating an ideal environment for eye bacteria) AND shaving, which I never do unless my underarms are to be on display (rare), I went to the restaurant. The showcase was hosted by a teacher of mine, Anisa, and there were lots of pretty dancers wrapped in veils, waiting in the back to go on. Of course, I was completely nervous and I went into the dressing room to get my spangled confection on quickly. Also, I painted copious amounts of reddish brown blush onto my belly, creating the illusion of muscles. I wish I had spent more time putting on my costume than trying to make people think I had abs.
The first dancer went on, and I heard the familiar applause. She was dancing to my music! I was on next, so I started panicking. Another friendly dancer offered me another cd, and then said she would go on in my place, so there would be a break before the audience heard the same music again. I thanked her and then sat and stewed in my own juices for another number. Finally, it was my turn. I swept into the room with my gorgeous pink veil I had spent so much time learning how to twirl. My house is a great place to practice veilwork since my 5 month old Chihuahua, Gudrun, is teething and will grab anything that is on her level. This forces me to keep the veil in the air to keep her from biting it. It is kind of like practicing on hot lava. I expertly twirled the veil all around me like a thought bubble saying “Look. I am so beautiful! Get a loada me!!!”
Just as I was really starting to lose myself in the music, I felt an unmistakable snap. My neck strap from my bra had come undone, and the whole bra was starting to slide down my ribcage. I started to panic and then considered running offstage but I steeled myself and kept dancing. Keeping my chest high and lifted, I continued dancing, making sure not to tilt down at all. Even though I could barely move, I remained focused on my hips and arms, and tried to hold the bra onto my chest with telekinesis. The bra straps magically stayed around my neck, even though they were literally floating in my hair, and I kept moving, waiting for the end of the song. Patrons held up dollar bills for me and I walked over as gently as I could to collect them in my skirt. I nearly had a headache trying to hold the bra on with my mind. Finally, the applause on the cd signaled the end of the song. I ran off and put on my big red robe. When I got back to the showroom, my friend Lia said, “Wow! You had really good posture! And your movements were so subtle. Very Egyptian!”