December 4, 2023


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I Want One Word On My Tombstone – Dancer

The past 26 years of my dancing have been directionally challenged at times but the adventures always seemed to make the uncertainty exciting or at least interesting. There seems to be an irony that comes along with belly dancing that makes even the most well thought out road trips or dance events a circus sideshow. Not only does the unthinkable happen but sometimes the unthinkable ends up being the perfect answer and or result.

A Cup of Bayou Humility
Years ago I went on a road trip with a band called the Arabic band and we traveled from Dallas to a small town in Arkansas to perform for a black tie event. The band was in one car and I was in another with the unfortunate task of trying to read a road map and follow directions. Adding to the fact that I was slightly lost, every thirty miles or so the second car would change lanes pass me because the band kept getting into arguments and yelling at each other. Obviously they were oblivious to me or the fact they didn’t know where they were going. They got so far ahead of me at one point that they finally lost me and even with my phone calls to them they ended up on a dirt road by a bayou. It was getting dark and I have to say as a woman who tried to tell them, “I told you so,” it felt good that they finally learned their lesson. They could no longer say I was the one lost.

The band arrived hours later at the hotel a little more humble, exhausted with no one uttering a word. Thank Heavens they had finally stopped fighting amongst themselves! (Just so you know I never knew what they were arguing about). But I must say the Arkansas back roads have a very unique way of teaching anyone who straggles behind that they aren’t in Kansas anymore! They didn’t want to talk to me about being lost and even to this day I have to laugh because on the way back from our gig, they stayed right behind me without a peep!

Twilight Restaurant
The wrong restaurant can really be a problem especially when the restaurant owner thinks you are another dancer. It never occurred to me until I was on stage being introduced as Neenah that something was definitely askew! I was at the point of no return when my music started so I had no choice but to forge ahead, do my show and pray. After my show was over I came out of the dressing room and sheepishly looked for the “real” Neenah which to my relief was nowhere to be seen. Now, just imagine how on earth you would approach the restaurant owner and explain to him that you are not who he thinks you are. How do you explain you made a wrong turn or in this case came to the wrong restaurant? To make matters worse after I told him he felt he really didn’t need to pay me since I was not who he hired. I had to agree that I was not who he hired but that I did do one complete show for him. So he paid me begrudgingly and with my tips added in I made a decent amount of money. As I was ready to leave the restaurant and brave the unknown written directions in my car the owner talked with me and told me he liked me and would call me for future work. To his word he did call me for a few more gigs but unfortunately when the gal I had been mistaken for found out who I was she was not a happy camper.

So here is my thoughts on what I call my twilight zone experience. She was 90 pounds, I was 125 pounds, she was an A cup I was ample bosomed or in this case she made me look like D cups. Her hair was light brown and shoulder length; mine was down to my waist and black. I’m a no sun Italian and she was a Hispanic gal with a dark tan…so how in the hell did he not know I was not her? uh…ahhh…no answer, well join the off the wall club.

An Evening of Word and Dance
One of the first shows I did years ago in N.M. was a poetry and dance show to the hypnotic words of George Lammam. It was in my mind a great idea and I held it at an Italian American club that my parents belong to. I invited dancers from various studios in town to participate and I think a majority of the dancers liked the idea of bringing the two art forms together. Others felt I was out in left field and the night of the show as one of the troupes was performing their show, one member just flat out quit and walked off the stage. But that didn’t bother the audience one bit because to the utter joy of many husbands, boyfriends and significant others, liquor was also available. By the end of the evening we had a very enthusiastic audience that was loud, zaghareeting us every chance they got and ending each performance with a thunderous applause. To this day, they are the best audience I have ever experienced but unfortunately not exactly for the right reasons. Many of my friend’s husbands to this day tell them that they did the best dancing they had ever seen them do…that night!

The journey of life can take a lot of twists and turns never expected but when you can take each experience laughing and smiling you know it doesn’t matter. “The artist never entirely knows. We guess. We may be wrong, but we take leap after leap in the dark.” Agnes de Mille

So I too take leaps and somehow always land either on my feet or that part of me that keeps getting up. After all if I knew the end result it wouldn’t be the same and as Agnes de Mille says so well, “Living is a form of not being sure, not knowing what next or how. The moment you know how, you begin to die a little.” May we live as dancers and die as dancers who follow their inspired dance never asking why!