Susan's Blog

Monday, March 19, 2007

A Spell on Me

I feel like I’m on fire! My class tonight was a complete trip! It was not my Tuesday night class; I had to take the Monday night instead because tomorrow night I’m giving a talk at Emerson College.

The Tuesday night class is for people like me, and beyond: experienced beginners and then others who are more than that, who have performed but maybe do not yet consider themselves “Professional Performers” with capital P’s.

The Monday night class is for Professional Performers. I was so over my head, but it was like swimming in a dangerous high tide: totally scary and totally fun.

It started out basically the same, with the traveling step drills (Basic Egyptian, Egyptian Nailed, Hip Clicks, Hip Drop Kick, 3/4 Shimmies, Pivots, Hip M’s, N’s and O’s). But there were also things called “Chantals,” and “Raquias.” And no instructions, just go! With zills, no less. So I went. I did what I could and copied the girls for the rest. My instructor just smiled, happy that I was trying. I felt like Barbara Streisand in the Roller Skate Rag, where she just fakes the whole routine and occasionally gets it right before bringing down all the girls! There was one point where the others were doing these turns and walking in my direction, and suddenly I was just standing there, “Uhhhh.” But it was okay. Some of it I was actually doing correctly and it felt wonderful.

Then we learned how to do flat hip 8’s layered with shimmies, extremely slowly to a Chiftatelli beat, all while turning first clockwise and then counter-clockwise. I did okay by ignoring the shimmy part. Later I was able to add a “shimmer” rather than a “shimmy.” Then she had us improvise to the Chiftatelli, with level changes. She taught us how to do the famous belly dance backbend (lift the chin to the ceiling, then lift the “girls.”) I did a few, and it was okay.

Then one classmate performed a piece she’d been working on. A beautiful Arabic-style rendition of “I Put A Spell On You.” She was mezmerizing. We critiqued her afterwards. Tough stuff, to perform for Performers and then listen to their feedback. I promised the instructor that I would do a short drum solo for my recital (May 12).

Then she did this nutty thing, where she put on some crazy Arabic music, which had no discernible melody to these Western ears, and had us do our “routines.” We wrapped up in our veils, got out our zills, and just danced. Danced to whatever the heck we felt was going on. Sometimes I had nothing. Sometimes I got an idea, and followed through. I seem to do well with torso work, like camels and figure eights, al the sinuous stuff as well as shimmies. Turning drives me nuts. But I can do it now.

I left feeling the way I used to feel in math class, like maybe, just maybe I had it. And maybe I didn’t. Only now, it is okay either way. There’s always next week!

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