I was booked to dance at Hanover Hill Health Care in Manchester, NH, for Father’s Day. A bit of a drive from Arlington, especially with the work being done on I93, but we (Mike graciously agreed to come act as my assistant) made it in time to set up and get changed for a 2:00pm show.
I’m not sure what the residents and their families were expecting, but when the music began and I came out playing my finger cymbals, I got every thing from shy smiles to big grins. I heard murmurs during my veil number – surely admiring the work of SilkDancer, who dyed my colorful silk veil – and during the middle of my set I made sure to spend some time out in the audience, even getting a couple of folks to dance with me. There was rhythmic clapping during my drum solo, and more big grins for my lively finale. I took my bow to applause, gathered up my veil, and exited to the changing room set aside for me just off the dining hall where I was performing.
I shut the door and took a big swallow of water. And then – I heard the unmistakeable strains of “Miserlou” being picked out on the piano just outside the door. I couldn’t let this pass, could I? I dabbed my brow with a towel, and slipped back out of the room next to the surprised piano player. I danced a bit next to him, then headed back out to the open performance area. Most dancers know “Miserlou” as a piece for veil dancing, but it’s also a Greek line dance; I spent a few measures dancing the steps. When the piano player launched into “Hava Nagila” one of the residents came out on to the floor, stepping her feet side to side like the lively line dance. I took her hand, and we began gently circling to the right. A couple of visiting ladies came and joined the line, and we were off. Photos were snapped, hands clapped, folks grinned ear-to-ear. When the song came to a close I gave both my dance partner and the pianist a kiss on the cheek before heading off to get changed.
Moments like these are why I perform. Oriental dance has moved on to the big stage, developed theatrical styles, and really allowed artists to evolve some amazing visions, but it’s still here, as an interactive entertainer spreading joy and acting spontaneously, that I see the great beauty in being an Oriental dancer. These unscripted moments are the ones I treasure.