Saturday, September 4, 2010
Belly Dancing and Nationals
What do belly dancing and going to Nationals have in common? Nothing on the surface, I wanted to do both and felt I was too old to do either. There are times I look at younger, published writers and wonder if it is too late? I look at younger dancers and think how I used to have abs that flat.
Both writing and belly dancing require instruction and practice to get better. My goal was to practice every day, although I didn’t always. That’s why weekly dance classes, chapter meetings and writer challenges kept me moving forward. My dance teacher would chide me if she could see I hadn’t practiced appropriately. My critique pals were more gentle. In the end, I was working toward a goal in both.
In writing, it is getting published. Nationals would be my foot in the door since I had an interview with an editor. In belly dancing, I had to dance in full costume in public with my last dance occurring in an Egyptian restaurant. It was also an improv class, which meant I didn’t know what I was going to do until I heard the music. It was a form of thinking on your feet, which I think a pitch session is.
You go in knowing you are going to talk about your book, but you don’t know what type of response you might get. The restaurant patrons can have various reactions, not unlike editors. Some are excited to see you that’s the whole reason they came. Others are clearly bored, while others act annoyed. In dancing, you keep smiling never let them know how you feel about their reaction, but move on to a more receptive audience. I think that is a good advice for everything.
It’s funny that I thought I was too old for both writing and dancing. I’ve been dancing for about two years now and have seen many young women eagerly join, but quit a few weeks later when they realize how hard it really is. There were an equal number of middle age women quitting too. It isn’t about age. I’ve heard the oldest belly dancer is 92 and she’s still dancing and teaching. It is more about determination and trying. Currently, I am dancing with ladies from 19 to 67. The one factor they all have in common is they love dancing. Writing is like that.
Next year, I will be fifty. I find this hard to believe unsure how I lived this long, but it is a signpost age for me. A signal to do the things I always wanted to do, but only talked about that’s why I decided to spend the money to fly to Orlando. That’s why I signed up for a dance class that was so far out of my comfort zone that it was in the next galaxy. Without conflict, our characters don’t grow and neither do we.
As for Nationals, they were wonderful. I saw many writers I knew, made new friends, and gathered up lots of books. My pitch went well and the editor asked for a partial, first pre-pub step. After that massive high, it was time for my belly dance graduation.
The dancers attired in heavy makeup, coin belts and veils were ready. To compensate Samir, the restaurant owner, we ordered food and drink. My fellow dancers and I knocked back drinks hoping the patrons would leave. They didn't. We warmed up with a group dance. All the dancers whirled and shimmied around the tables. That wasn’t too bad, but I knew my solo was coming, my graduation solo.
Assuming the position, I waited for the first notes of the song, smiling at my fellow dancers while wondering why I put myself through this kind of hell. Some of my fellow dancers chose to pass on graduating. Many were too self-conscious. They spent weeks working up to the restaurant dance only to bail at the last minute. Many writers slave over a manuscript they never submit because they’re afraid. Don’t think I wasn’t self-conscious, especially with the owner staring at me, he was used to professional dancers.
Mentally, I told myself to work the audience. Most of the steps came as I heard the music, a few I threw in as my teacher yelled encouragement. I had to sidle by the owner to make my circle of all the tables. My teacher encouraged me to stay with the owner and dance for him. Are you crazy I wanted to yell at her. In truth, I guess it was no worse than pitching to an editor. The song lasted forever, but there were many encouraging yells from fellow dancers and their husbands.
I did it. I pushed myself into public performance in both writing and dancing. Hard work involved in both, and even more hard work to come. Belly dancing and romance writing are such a perfect combo in my humble opinion. What hobbies or pastimes do you have that compliment or enhance your writing? If you're wondering, that's not me in the photo. Wish it was. :)