This is cross posted from my trip to Tulsa for the Mishaal workshop hosted by Shadia Dahlal and the Purple Roses back in Jan '06.
Heath, (soon to be my husband,) and I headed off to Pittsburg, KS for this gig I "volunteered" myself for. See this guy in Virginia, Mr. Gobar, called wanting a dancer for his father and brothers who would be visiting in Pittsburg. So, not thinking, I took the gig despite the poor planning on my part. Hey, we were headed to Tulsa for the weekend anyway right?...only a 2hr detour. My first problem was when I went on Mapquest and typed in the address and it asked 201 North or 201 South? So I called Mr. Gobar, who assured me in true Middle Eastern style, "North, South, same thing." He gave me landmarks like a gate and a pond and if I drive past 4th st that's too far, etc. I am pretty good at directions as long as I know which way is north. but I didn't really read what I printed out on mapquest until we were on the road.
To give you an idea, we have these cooking directions we saved off of some Asian noodles called "the noodle." They are in English but with a horrible translation. Something like, "...if pan fry, than more taste." And, in all cases where something doesn't make a d*mn bit of sense we refer to it as "the noodle." Turns out Mapquest is the noodle of driving directions. And I quote, "Turn LEFT onto W CENTRAL AVE / US-71 BR S / MO-171 N / MO-571 N / MO-96 W. Continue to follow US-71 BR S / MO-171 N / MO-96 W." My favorite is something about taking a "slight right."
So we didn't get lost a second time until we actually were in Pittsburg. Because, by that time, we had given up on the directions completely. Did I have my atlas? Of course not. We were about 10 mins. late and I was on the phone with Mr. Gobar in Virginia trying to figure out where we were in Kansas. I couldn't call the house I was going to because only Mr. Gobar's mother knew I was coming and we couldn't chance his father answering the phone and spoiling the surprise. By some miracle, we found the place and pulled up a paved drive past an iron gate, through the trees, and around a pond to this impressive house set back from the road. Mrs. Gobar was waiting outside when we arrived. She led us in and I introduced myself to Dr. Gobar. There were 3 couples all together: Dr. Gobar and his wife, his two brothers and their respective significant others. Heath was trying to be inconspicuous through all of this but they insisted he sit with them and have a glass of wine. I did my performance. Not my best. I kept getting hung up on the rug and forgetting parts of the choreography. But I kept smiling and no one noticed and my costume stayed in place and that's all that matters.
Dr. Gobar? Philosophy, Paintings, Wine, "Rap Dance," and a Tip
The Gobar's were very pleased and quizzed me about how I learned to dance, where I was from, the standard questions. Then I was offered wine, which I demurely refused and took a glass of water instead. I also used the excuse that I was driving which seemed to make them happy. Dr. Gobar really enjoyed my music which I said he could have. He kept insisting that he pay me even though I told him it was just a copy. But he insisted upon which I told him $1 and everyone laughed. Heath and I learned that Dr. Gobar's brother, Dr. Gobar was a medical doctor, and his step brother, Dr. Gobar was a retired philosophy professor. AND Dr. Gobar's son, the guy in Virginia who hired me, is a Dr. Gobar as well. So all told, I was hired by Dr. Gobar and danced for Dr. Gobar, Dr. Gobar, and Dr. Gobar. Mrs. Gobar asked from my card and when I gave it to her she insisted I take $50. I assured her I was already paid but she gave it to me anyway.
Meanwhile, Heath and the Dr.s were talking about art and philosophy, " ...have more wine...I love paintings...have you ever been to the DC area?...I love music...like that rap dance, you know, where they talk, 'nah, nah, nah,' they are expressing themselves, it is beautiful!...you should stay for dinner..."
We respectfully declined with the excuse we were headed on to Tulsa and made it out of there all smiles and thank yous, "no, thank you." With a little more confusion on the directions to get from Kansas to Oklahoma we finally rolled in to our hotel around midnight $50 richer.
Mishaal, 9/8, Taxim, and Fish Out of Water
Mishaal arrived tall, thin, and beautiful with her hair done up and cute pants. She didn't teach any technique or combinations or any choreography. She began by showing us some footwork patterns common in Turkey used by the Rom to the 9/8 rhythm (Kalishmar). We spent the first 2hrs just doing this kind of follow me approach becoming more familiar with the rhythm. This sounds kind of boring, but hearing and moving to it for 2hrs really helped it start to sink in. She also spent time talking about her adventures in Turkey and trying to dispel some of the myths that Turkish dancers are trashy.
The next 2hrs were spent on Taxim. Not on taxim movements or song choices or any of that. She put on various taxim pieces and encouraged us to focus on the music and ourselves, to be free and experimental. We spent time sitting on the floor working on our hands, arms, and upper body. Mishaal put on some music and did something almost like guided meditation only while we were dancing. You know, she would talk about the energy in our feet, then calves, and on up a little at a time while we danced our own thing. I was sweating big time. This was our chance to clear our minds and not think about all of the things you normally do, counting, choreography, etc.
During this time, there was one woman who was rolling around on the floor, doing yoga poses, tumbling, spinning, really expressing herself. Every time I would get really focused on myself and the music, I would see her rolling, ROLLING, around in the corner of my eye and break my concentration. I turned into a big challenge to ignore her and use my dance time wisely. Next time there is a frowning face in the audience I should be able to blow it off no problem.
We finished by getting into 2 big circles and each taking turns doing taxim in the round. This sounds kind of intimidating, but I found it oddly informative. In this "forced" environment where we had to improvise to music we didn't know and dance in front of our peers I could really see each woman's personality. Some were relaxed and focused, some nervous and shy, some trying to prove something, some out going, some only able to go fast or slow, some oblivious to the music, and so on. That was pretty much it for the workshop. Low key, relaxed, but I still got a workout and learned more about 9/8.
"Speaking of Hot..."
I only had one weird guy moment. I was on my way back to the room from the workshop minding my own business. I pulled my hair out of its clip right as I passed random dude who was chatting on his cell phone.
"Something, something, speaking of hot...gorgeous hair!" *creepy face*
"Um, thanks." And I retreated to my room.
The Ghost Mall
Heath had cabin fever so we headed off in search of something to do before the show. We had an address for a Funcoland which led us to a big mall. It seemed strangely abandoned on the outside but was open so we went in. Most all the stores were either closed or empty with only half a dozen people wandering the halls. There was a little theater, a bowling alley and maybe 5 other places open in the whole place. Like everyone had just vanished. It was like being in the Matrix and they forgot to finish the building. We stopped at a Magic (the Gathering) store and I asked why the mall was empty and creepy. Apparently, it had recently sold and all of the stores were pulling out. So, we wandered a bit further and found a store full of toys and action figures. You know GI Joe, Teenage Mutant Turtles, He Man, Spawn, Star Wars. Heath found some Aliens figures we had never seen before which were all half price and bought one of each. So the trip wasn't a waste after all. The Funcoland was empty by the way.
"Hey, you in the hallway!"
I got into most of my costume before the show started. I was going to open the 2nd half and there was only a 15 min. intermission between the two acts. I figured it best to take care of any costume malfunctions well before the 15 min. window. During intermission, I went back to my room to touch up before my performance. As I rounded the corner I heard, "Hey you in the hallway!" I peeked back around to see a lone belly dancer holding her costume together against her body. "Can you help me pin my bra?" So off to the rescue I went. And so I met Aleah who I had seen dance in St. Louis at a Vashti workshop.
The Ghawazee Mafia was the local group of guys who drum and play for the dancers. Members include Omar Hassan, Wasim "the terrible", and al-Rashid (Shadia's husband). They played 3 songs as a band which I believe were written by al-Rashid. They were pretty American with a Middle Eastern feeling. Kind of different. However, we were treated by a performance from Shadia to one of these numbers. It is a rare treat to see her perform. I also discovered I knew some of the girls there who I met on one of my trips to Fayetteville, AR. Maya did an impressive sword number. I got to chat with them and hopefully get copies of some of their pictures. The Tribal Roses of course blew everyone out of the water. Their choreography was very modern and very tight. They were dead on and hit all of their cues perfectly. This is the type of inspiration Laleh was using when developing the number for Raqs.
The next to last performer was announced as Z-Helen. And I thought Z-Helen? I didn't know she was here. I had never seen her in person and only read about her online. And then...OMG! it's the lady the rolled around on the floor from the workshop. Her performance was crazy over-the-top! Leaping and dancing all over the place. Her husband, who normally drums for her, was not there. She announced to the audience she would do a zill solo and proceeded to play and dance. She ran around the room tapping out rhythms on chairs and necklaces, and anything that would make noise. She even jumped up and thwacked the rafters and did a summer salt on the stage (like you do as a kid, head on floor and roll over). Throw in some wild belly rolls for good measure. Is she done? NO! Then she read a poem about Shadia wishing her a happy birthday. By the time it was over, I wasn't quite sure what had happened.
Mishaal closed both halves. The first number she came out in this sexy velvety red number with her hair done up and did a Turkish style number. Part way through it, she spun and her hair unfolded out into this long flowing mass around her. It comes down to her butt and has to be about 4ft long. I had to get pictures just to prove it. Her second number was what she called "Oriental Ambient" in which she had a very cool tribal fusion-esque costume. Heath thought this was the coolest costume of the show. Her hair was in braids with lots of long shells and beaded ribbons hanging down. As a finale, Wasim played a 9/8 for her and she danced with some of the footwork we had learned that day.
Little Soraya Breaks a Leg
Soraya was up to perform after me and while we were waiting to go on she explained that the term "break a leg" comes from the bow at the end of a stage performance, the bent knee. Turns out little Soraya is a pretty interesting lady. Heath and I got to sit with her at Denny's after the show and listen to her tell stories. She has traveled all over the world, one of her favorite places being St Petersburg, has a fine arts degree and is into antiquities. Her mother died in her 40's when Soraya was 19yrs old. She is a member of more societies than you can shake a stick at, (daughters of the American Revolution, Cherokee Nation, etc.) She hands out US flags and certificates when foreigners become US citizens in the Oklahoma City area, was a member of a Japanese dance troupe in OK city, was a ballerina as a child, is married to a lawyer, knows many gay men, likes a good drink once in a while, her real name is Phyllis and she is 77 years old...just to sum it up. She says she always try to give people a smile, it might just make their day.
Frozen Emotion...it only happens to Heath
We slept in the next morning and leisurely packed up the Jeep. We picked a direction and went in search of another game store. We didn't find it but found another mall, one with people and stores! We shopped around a bit and then stopped at the food court for lunch. Heath stepped outside for a smoke while I finished eating. I sat and watched birds fly back and forth from the tables to the rafters stealing crumbs. He had been gone a little longer then it should take to smoke a cig when he came walking back with a goth kid he met outside. This kid says he recognizes Heath from myspace. However, he also says he stayed up all night with his fiance drinking Everclear. His name is Michael, his friends call him Kyle, but we can find him on myspace as "frozenemotion," (his sister helped him pick it out.) He is 19 and his fiance is only 18! Heath attracts strangers who love to tell him their life stories. Only Heath... We made it home unscathed after a slight detour to a friend's house. We got some Papa Murphy's and vegged out on the couch until bedtime. What a weekend.