Essay Contest Winner - 3rd Place
My Most Memorable Belly Dance Moment
Balloon Hats and Fezs
Everything about it was weird. It was 8:45 in the morning when I pulled into the parking lot. Standing in the parking lot was a clown donning a striped rainbow top hat with a matching suit and Ronald McDonald shoes. A few old men loitered about smoking cigars in the fresh morning air.
One of the old men walked over to me and asked, “Are you the belly dancer?” After affirming my purpose at this mysterious gathering, the old man escorted me into a large building to find the guy in charge. As we passed through its narrow halls, I curiously observed throngs of older men milling about in Disney-style Aladdin costumes with bulbous sultan hats, poofy pants and gigantic genie shoes whose tips curled up on themselves. Those that were not clothed in the full sultan regalia were at least sporting the ubiquitous fez with an enigmatic crescent emblem embroidered in it. There was not a woman in sight.
Finally we found the man I had talked to on the phone. I gave the man my CD for the DJ to play and exited the masculine commotion of the slim halls to change in the quiet serenity of an empty ladies room.
I emerged from my restroom refuge in my new purple costume with long beaded fringe. After engaging in some strained small talk with a couple of old men who were waiting in the halls for something important to do, I was finally escorted into the main hall to perform.
I followed a fez-headed man to the stark spot lit stage. On stage, a few sultans were conversing in loud exaggerated voices around a fake campfire.
Standing awkwardly on the edge of the stage waiting for my music to start, I gazed out at my pitch black audience. I could barely make out the first few rows of men. On stage left, the men in the audience were all wearing balloon animal hats that were evidently made by the clown I had seen in the parking lot. The men seated on stage right seemed a little bit older then the balloon-headed men and were instead wearing the highly-regarded fez.
My music came on after the sultans stopped talking. I then proceeded to belly dance through the most excruciating five minutes of my dance career. The music skipped continuously throughout the entire song while I smiled anxiously at the DJ to do something! He never came to my rescue, so I was forced to grin and bear it while I danced off-rhythm to a stone-cold audience of frozen faces wearing balloon hats and fezs.
There was no clapping along, no smiles, no shouts of “Whoo hoo!” Not a bump of the hip nor a shimmy of the shoulders could elicit a modicum of response from this group of solemn men crowned with silly hats.
At last, the finale of the music was approaching. Spin, spin, spin and freeze, arms up and smiling triumphantly like an ice skater. Normally my finale pose is followed by a “Yay, and the crowd goes wild! Whoo!” but not with this winner of a gig. No applause ever came my way as I looked blankly at the audience with my arms reaching for the sky. The sultans resumed their important ceremonious conversation. I took this as my cue to glide daintily offstage like a fairy princess and get the hell out of there.
I made my way back to the ladies room and changed out of my costume as quickly as I could. It was time to pick up my moola, grab my CD from that incompetent DJ and put this Twilight Zone Saturday morning behind me.
The man in charge found me by the exit door and handed me a white envelope. I thanked him and apologized for the skipping music during my performance. The either very kind or very deaf man replied that he hadn't even noticed the music skipping and led me to the DJ to get my CD. The DJ immediately apologized for his faulty equipment and returned my CD.
Relieved to be cleared of any technical wrong doing with a check in my hand, I happily left the pungent cigar rich stench of the Ben Ali Shrine and once again breathed in the refreshing morning air. I got into my car and opened my white envelope to find a check written out to me from the Sacramento Shriners. I put the check in my purse and turned on the ignition. “God bless them for funding children's hospitals,” I thought to myself as I backed up and headed for the open road, “but there is no way I'm ever doing that again.”
Written by Adriane
Photo of Kaya by Brittany Oliphant