This week Miss K will be interviewed on two local news shows to talk about the recital. On one of those shows, we “Jemilets,” as she calls us, will be performing Jemileh on live TV. Yikes! Miss K told us to wear our costumes and “glam it up.” Finally I can wear my gorgeous, Egyptian costume. It's been languishing in a drawer for more than a year, just waiting for this moment. I can’t wear it for the recital-- the skirt is too heavy for the Elsekka dance, and there’s no time to change costumes. So I had to bench it for the recital and call in my second string outfit, which is pretty, too, just not as pretty. Wearing my best costume is the good part. The bad part is: more stage fright.
It gets worse.
Last week we went to a birthday party for one of our neighbors (Susan, the one who feeds tortillas to deer), and the topic of the recital came up. Several of my neighbors said they'd like to go. As I sat there munching on barbecued chicken, I was reminded by something my daughter said many years ago, when one evening she got up from the dinner table and calmly asked, “May I be excused to totally freak out?” I felt a sudden urge to push away from the table and make a similar request.
Susan pointed out that I had posted a recital flyer on the bulletin board at the neighborhood post boxes. True, I did that because Miss K urged us to distribute some flyers, so with that I felt I had done my duty. I didn't think anybody would actually pay attention to it. I mean, who's going to drive 30 miles into South San Antonio to watch an obscure theatrical event? (Although the fact there's a micro-brewery next door to the theater was a drawing card for the men at the party.)
Besides, I don't care if people I don't know come to watch. It’s much more stressful when you know the audience members. Then you worry about what they might think or, worse, discuss amongst themselves, behind your back, of course.
“Can you imagine wearing that at her age?”
“I wouldn’t be caught dead….”
I can hear it now. But those fears are probably ungrounded. Women are pretty open to the idea. When they find out I take belly dance lessons, their usual response is, "How fun!" It's the men who are uncomfortable with the idea.
After all, belly dance has a certain image, mostly created by Hollywood. Yes, the costumes usually bare the midriff. You also might see a flash of leg, maybe some cleavage. Big deal. You expose a lot more flesh in your average swimsuit.
But what about those sexy moves, the swaying hips, the undulating torso? Again, big deal. It's nothing worse than what you see on Dancing with the Stars. Yet, belly dancing still inspires raised eyebrows and pursed lips. Maybe because people think it's a dance of seduction, you know, the harem girls competing for the attentions of the sultan. Again, a complete Hollywood fabrication.
I won't get into the whole history of it now, but just know that belly dance was not a seduction maneuver. It dates back hundreds of years, so nobody knows for sure how it started. The general consensus is that it originated in Northern Africa, perhaps as an entertainment among women, for women and by women, even as a preparation for childbirth. Or maybe it was a temple dance for religious ceremonies. Or perhaps it was a dance that everybody took part in at celebrations like weddings (yes, even men, although their moves are not quite the same as women's). In fact, it is still danced spontaneously at gatherings.
Anyway, back to the stage fright problem. I remind myself that in the grand scheme of things, this recital and my small part in it doesn’t amount to a hill of beans. What is the worst that could happen? I could make a mistake, forget the whole dance, trip and fall. Whatever. It just makes for a more interesting spectacle for the audience.
So, I’m back to the old Kirstie-Alley-on-DWTS mantra. My rules for coping with stage jitters are still:
Rule No. 1: Just Have Fun.
Rule No. 2: Think about style over substance, flair over finesse, panache over perfection.
Rule No. 3: I don’t remember this rule, but that’s OK. At this late stage it’s better to keep things simple.
So, “Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!”*
* The actual quotation, by Admiral David Farragut in the Civil War, was “Damn the torpedoes! Four bells. Captain Drayton, go ahead! Jouett, full speed!” You can see why people employ the shorter version.