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Thursday, May 26, 2011

Dancing Debut at Demo's

I did it.  I danced in public.  At Demo’s on St. Mary’s Street.  The original Demo’s with the bougainvillea mural and blue mosaic on the floor.  I didn’t blog the last two days because I was feverishly preparing for this debut, the getting-our-feet wet practice session before the big performance in July.   

So, how was it?  It wasn’t bad.  In fact, it was fun.  I was nervous, yes, but not as nervous as I thought I’d be.  Why?  Because I felt ready.  I was as prepared as I was going to be, both physically and mentally.  This calls for a short list: 

Steps to Combat (Dance) Performance Anxiety: 

(1)    Practice, practice, practice.  My “writing room” has become my dance room as well, complete with mirrors covering one wall.  That’s where I practiced.  Over and over.  With mirrors, without mirrors.  With costume, without costume. 

The costume step is important.  Many a wardrobe malfunction could have been avoided had the dancer done this one simple thing.  This is when you discover that your skirt slips down as you dance.  Or the top fastener pops open.  Less disastrous things can be avoided as well.  For instance, I discovered that the nifty coin belt I got to accessorize my skirt was too heavy to hop around in, as we do in “Elsekka.”  Plus the coins were flying off in all directions.  So I had to go with a plainer, lighter belt, one with firmly attached coins.   

The next component is even more important:  

(2)    Mental attitude.  I picked up two valuable tips from watching “Dancing with the Stars.”  One is the mantra every pro dancer chirps to his or her celebrity partner just before they face the audience:  “Just have fun!”  The second piece of advice came from one of the celeb dancers from a past season.  He was not a great dancer, yet he always scored high.  He said, “It’s all about attitude.”  Chutzpah.  Pizzazz.  Mojo.  Style, in other words, hopefully in addition to a certain degree of substance. 

Style goes a long way on DWTS.  I mean, look at Kirstie Alley.  She made mistakes in every single dance she did, but she had attitude and moxy and threw herself into her dance personas.  That mattered more than getting the steps perfect.  So I decided to do the same.  Instead of fretting about the next step and what could go wrong, I would concentrate on the role I was dancing and just try to enjoy it.   

So, what actually happened last night?  Here’s how it went down.  I put on my costume at home.  At the last minute I added a multi-strand of gold beads and matching earrings.  (It’s impossible to overdo it with a belly dance costume.)  With the addition of the beads, I decided I resembled an African princess, only they don’t usually wear gold lamé.  Some of us met at the studio for a quick run through of “Jemileh.”  Then we made the 3-minute drive  from there to Demo’s.  I joined the dancers’ table.  I was one of them now. 

Then everything happened fast.  There was a freestyle improvisational number that started it off.  The floor swarmed with belly dancers.  The next dance was a choreographed number.  Then it was time for “Jemileh.”   About a dozen of us hastily assembled on the floor and spaced ourselves.  We assumed the beginning pose, and the music started.  I forgot about everything else and just danced.  In a flash it was over, and we went back to the dance table.  A couple of dances later, it was time for “Elsekka,” the dance I was most worried about.  This time there were only four of us out there, including Miss K.  Again, I just thought about throwing myself into the role.  At some point I realized I was actually enjoying it.  I may have even smiled.     

After it was all over, we gathered for a final group bow.  Then I headed over to join my fans (husband, daughter, and her friend) and quickly tossed back three glasses of wine.  It was cause for celebration.  I feel as if I’ve crossed a threshold, achieved something, faced down a fear.   I survived the Demo’s debut. 

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