Essay Contest Winner - 1st Place
My Most Memorable Belly Dance Moment
Location: Castroville Artichoke Festival in Castroville, CA
Time: Saturday afternoon
Weather Conditions: Sunny and very windy
Stage Conditions: Elevated stage approximately four feet high, slanted in all sorts of directions, covered with canopy, canvas walls on two sides
Audience: Families happily sitting on bales of hay, eating cotton candy and kettle korn
Our troupe danced at the Artichoke Festival every year, and it’s usually a good time. Who doesn’t enjoy noshing some fried artichoke hearts? Being a small-ish local festival, performance area conditions were usually less than stellar. For our set, we would do a combination of troupe choreographies and solos, although my troupe leader had a tendency to change things on the fly.
The show was happily rolling along, although everyone was having issues with the wind and the uneven stage. The wind gusts were bad, but made even worse by the canvas walls on the stage. They seemed to create a swirling vortex of wind in the back left corner that was very unpredictable.
My troupe leader had planned to do a drum solo with sword, but given the wind opted to do a group improv drum solo, sort of round-robin turn-taking affair. A few us got up on stage, taking turns and following the verbal instructions from the troupe leader. Towards the end, myself and another dancer (we’ll call her Kelly) were near that tornado corner of the stage. During the final drum roll of the song, my troupe leader hollers “Everybody, spin!” So, we all start spinning. As I’m spinning on the slanty stage in the wind vortex, I see Kelly creeping closer to the edge of the stage. A huge gust of wind and then she’s gone. Smacked into the canvas wall, and fell under the stage. No one onstage noticed but me.
I thought to myself, “Gracefully glide off stage and go help her”. So I turned smiling, arms aloft in 2nd position and cross to the opposite side of the stage… where the stairs are. Once I got behind the stage, I saw Kelly slowly crawling out from underneath it. She was fine for the most part, a bruised foot and in generally good spirits. Her spirits were made even better by the cute paramedic that checked her out.
Lucky for her and me, the troupe leader’s friend was filming the whole show!
My troupe leader was aghast when she learned that Kelly fell off the stage, apologized a lot and generally felt really bad about it. Kelly was a great sport and made a joke or two. We all had a good laugh and then tromped off to eat some fried food.
The following week in class, there was more gentle teasing and story-telling about Kelly’s trip off the stage. Then my troupe leader says to me, “But the best part was your reaction.”
“What reaction?” I ask… imaging my gentle, calm glide off stage. Later, I saw the video.
What I actually did was almost as bad as Kelly’s fall. I came to a dead stop, threw my hands up in the air, covered my mouth, turned and ran off stage. No gliding, no graceful arms, no composed smile. Just a shocked face, a covered mouth, and hunched over sort of run (maybe I was running into the wind). I was embarrassed and surprised. How could my brain say to do one thing, and my body do something completely different? I’ve since learned this happens all the time in dance! I learned a lot of other things from this experience too:
When something unexpected happens, take a moment to compose yourself.
Don’t spin wildly on a slanted stage in a wind vortex.
Always assume someone is filming.
Cute paramedics work small festivals.
Fried artichoke hearts will temporarily cure most injuries.
We admire those who can laugh at themselves, so always keep a good sense of humor.
Photo of Kaya by Brittany Oliphant