Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Flow and Gratitude: Blood on the Veil in Orlando -- Part 4 -- Magical Moments and Hidden Helping Hands

When last we saw our heroines (and heroes!) they had survived scheduling insanity, travel travesties, and automotive madness among the mudpies ... and now it was SHOWTIME!!!

Friday, August 8th started as a surprisingly normal day (save for a little weed-whacker-induced sleep deprivation, due to our neighbors' accursed early-to-rise ways ... Oh Florida!).

Cheerful audience members Claudia Selene Smith, Jayne Arrington
(of DanceCraft, who took these lovely photos) and Yvonne McKenna
Mariposa and I got our chi flowing with a little bikram in the tropical garage/studio, then pulled together props and costumes. Unfortunately, Mariposa's shamadan suffered an injury in transit -- but Matt and Leann Drury saved the day by lending us their own gorgeous candelabra.

I banged the programs together and sent them off to Staples for printing, and we were out the door shortly before 6pm.

We swung by Staples to get the programs (which apparently had never been received), but thankfully I had the job on a thumb drive and got them printed within 20 minutes.

And to think I NEARLY left the thumb drive at home.....

Isis wows us with her dumbek stylings in the finale!
This is typical of pretty much every near-disaster that has occurred at so many performances of Blood on the Veil:

Something unexpected and potentially catastrophic happens close to curtain. BUT because someone in or near to the production just so happens to have or know what is needed -- the show goes on!!

To quote Tom Baker's Doctor:  I have a sort of vague faith in the nature of things. Things may look bad, but if you hang on and keep faith, it puts you in a kind of flow, a rhythm, where what is needed either presents itself in the moment -- or beforehand you bring something along which turns out to be the very thing you need... and you have saved yourself.

And so no matter how bad it looks, it can work out. Something, somewhere, will pitch in to help you.

Hardly a day passes when I don't think of Joseph Campbell's exchange with Bill Moyers:
BILL MOYERS: Do you ever have the sense of... being helped by hidden hands?
"I wrapped the veil around me in a peek-a-boo style
when I heard a knock at the door...!"
JOSEPH CAMPBELL: All the time. It is miraculous. I even have a superstition that has grown on me as a result of invisible hands coming all the time - namely, that if you do follow your bliss you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. When you can see that, you begin to meet people who are in your field of bliss, and they open doors to you. I say, follow your bliss and don't be afraid, and doors will open where you didn't know they were going to be. [emphasis added]
And when we got to the theater, programs in hand -- the magic that makes it all worthwhile unfolded spectacularly.

Since we had arrived late, there was no time for a cue-to-cue (this is when you give the tech the line before a cue occurs, and they run the light or sound effect so you can make sure it happens properly).

But our tech, Hannah, was amazing!

She programmed the entire show blind as the eager audience entered... And Melody, our superb stage manager, whipped props and costumes into perfect order.

Showcasing Fan Veils with the divine Phoenicia
The lights went up ... our magnificent emcee, Marc B Lee, introduced the evening and brought up our first two acts -- the oriental stylings of Isis, followed by the sultry Lisa Stern.

And then it was my turn....

At the beginning of each show, I always feel like I am approaching the top of a roller coaster ... I can almost feel my body pitch backwards as the lights begin to rise.

"For most of my life..." the show begins, "I was at war ... with my belly... Because the belly was the enemy of dance, and I wanted to be a dancer!!"

And the story unfolds ... how my beginnings in ballet brought me to love movement ... but to hate the unruly curves of my body. How, like so many women, I'd battled my bulges, and abused my body to the point of collapse.

Stunning Phoenicia enraptures the audience with her fan veil solo.
Two hospitalizations and three herniated discs later, I found bellydance... and with it renewed passion, courage, creativity and love for my soft, rounded body.

"For as long as you dance, this ancient women's
dance will rise and laugh in the face of...attacks."
"My curves flourish in this dance... and in my teachers and fellow dancers I can see the Promised Land:  They are every different age, size, race, background  -- and every single one of them is beautiful!!"

After intermission, our Senior Dancer, Phoenicia, wowed the audience with a riveting karshilama followed by her breathtaking fan veils.

And then the lights went up for Act 2....

But rather than continue on about the show myself, here are some of the thoughts of those who were with me for this remarkable journey!!!

I owe them such a debt of gratitude for their faith and fortitude during this adventure.

And we are all looking forward to doing it again in 2015!!


Winged Mariposa wows the audience in the Parade of Props
Mariposa (Cane Dancer): When Carol told me that she was bringing the show to Orlando, Florida, I was thrilled! She contacted me along with several other local dancers to ask if they could participate in the show. I immediately responded with a resounding, YES!

All dancers performing in the cane dance was given video of the choreography and breakdown of the dance. I enjoyed learning the choreography this way. It was convenient; the video was very detailed and I could do it when I had time.

I performed the Cane Dance as well as other props in a segment at the end of the First Act called the “Parade of Props.” I think that this segment in the show is priceless and highly educational to the audience.

Many do not know much about bellydancing, which Carol lends her expertise throughout her entire performance defining the Art in detail. But the props section takes it a bit further. The props are the dancer's tools to bring another dimension to the Dancer and her performance. The props are the dancer's paint brush, illuminating the stage with various hues and tints and in some cases, vibrant colors as endless as the sea, floating levitating silk veils, leaving the audience gasping at the sheer beauty of it.
Audience member Odalis Ramos joins us
for the cane dance!

Carol’s Blood on the Veil is a priceless piece of art and personal story.

It is provocative, riveting and as comfortable as a Sunday afternoon watching the sunset across the deep blue sea. Carol succeeds at transporting you to her moments in time, her struggle and her own personal victories.

It leaves you inspired and ready to go out and conquer your own dreams and goals.

Phoenicia (Senior Dancer): As a "mature" dancer I have been involved with many groups and individuals with something to say about belly dance and I have performed in countless shows, benefits, haflas, parties, workshops, and conventions over the years.

Dancing for an audience is always a privilege and delight but when I was invited to open the second act of BOTV it became one of the highlights of my dance life. Carol's show is not only entertaining but also empowering and bringing in local dancers when she travels with it makes each performance even more special to that audience.

I hope BOTV runs for decades because there will always be new stars to showcase and yesterday's stars to pass on their love and knowledge of the dance. Well done Carol!

"Seven years earlier an injury had brought me to
this dance... but I had not learned my lesson..."
Leann Drury (Host): What an incredible show! Not at all what I'd expected. The name of the show, initially was challenging as the word "blood" denotes lots of different images, none usually positive, but being a bellydance show aficionado and having attended shows from intimate house parties, to studio haflas, to community run charitable shows, to full stage productions over the last 20 years, I knew there was something different about this show and the appeal of this dancer that I just had to sate my curiosity. Boy did she deliver!

Carol shared her transformative story in a courageous, touching, entertaining way that explored and played with her past, the challenges of healing, politics, perceptions, adventures around the world and stops along the way in a self-effacing manner that draws you in and makes you a part of the journey.

She touched me in a way that left me wanting to hear the next chapter and for this appreciative fan, that's saying something.

Emcee Marc B Lee dances with the cast and audience
members during the finale!
Lisa Stern (Pre-Show Dancer): My first impressions of the show … was that I really didn't understand what it was! The title made no sense to me and I had little interest with my busy schedule. A dear friend of mine asked for dancers and of course that's a big fat yes.

The more I heard about this, watched practice, learned that my friends were dancing, and of course met Carol, the more intrigued I became. After all we all have a story and we all have that one prop we LOVE.

 Well come to find out Carol not only is hilarious, but she is a wonderful dancer, has a huge heart and what a talent! Every single prop she is a master of and basically does a 2 hour one-man show non-stop that she wrote herself! Incredible lady, very entertaining show, and I was very honored to meet her, call her my new friend, and participate in such an amazing event. Thank you Carol!

Hanging out after the show with the lovely
Nicole Palmer and Odalis Ramos.


P.S. Check out the special feature on Blood on the Veil in the next issue of Zaghareet!!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Flow and Gratitude: Blood on the Veil in Orlando -- Part 3 -- Mudpies and Automotive Madness

"It's all going to work out..."

So far I had survived various scheduling and cast-wrangling mishigos, and a few travel hiccups. And after a good night's sleep, I was stoked for my first and last rehearsal with the cast of Orlando's Blood on the Veil.

Our sponsor, Rita, met me for brunch in the early afternoon where we went over some administrative details, briefly rehearsed the trickier parts of the cane dance, then packed up props and technology to head up to Apopka, a suburb to the northwest of Orlando.

Me with two of Lisa's fine horses.
Lisa Stern, a dancer in the show who also runs the gorgeous Trademark Equestrian Center, had generously been letting the cast rehearse in her studio during the weeks leading up to the show. Normally the trip takes under a half-hour. But we were caught in Florida's mid-afternoon monsoon, which slowed the trip down to 90 minutes!

As the rain pattered to a drizzle, we arrived:  Off the beaten path (or what path there was, was beaten by hooves!), and lush with greenery, and kept lively by many four-legged and feathered friends, we drove along the muddy path and parked on higher, firmer ground.

Our senior dancer Phoenicia,  however, was not so lucky.

In Lisa's Studio. L to R: Sarge, Rita, Lisa
Around 10pm, when we had reviewed her part of the show, she asked to leave early as she had a long drive ahead of her. Lisa went with her to unlock the gate, as Rita, Mariposa and I continued to rehearse the cane dance for an hour, figuring Lisa would want her house back at 11pm.

An hour later, as we packed up our props, Lisa burst into the studio.

"Can you guys give me a hand? Phoenicia's car is stuck. I think if we all give it a good push we can get it out." We trundled out to the hapless vehicle, mired in a loamy mixture of mud and horse manure. We braced ourselves against the grill and pushed mightily as Phoenica floored it in reverse. Again and again.

Communing with Gentle Sarge
"I called AAA over an hour ago," sighed Phoenicia. "I'll try them again..."

"Maybe we should try from the back and let me take the wheel?" Mariposa suggested -- which seemed like a good idea since her father had taught her to race stock cars. While Phoenicia gave AAA another nudge, Rita brought her car around and turned on her headlights so we could see what the #$@% we were doing! And we rammed ourselves against the rear bumper as she sped forward.

The wheels spun. Again and again.

Now it was near midnight. Phoenicia said that the AAA driver was down by the airport -- over an hour away!

Lisa disappeared and returned moments later with sheets of cardboard. "Here. Let's try these." We jammed them beneath the front tires and tried again.


She then brought a half-broken chair with flat legs. We ripped the chair apart and jammed the legs beneath the wheels, banging them in fiercely with two shovels.

Still nothing.

It was after 1am. We were muddy and exhausted. "Any news on AAA?" we asked Phoenicia. "The other driver had gone home sick," she sighed, "They are sending someone else."

Lisa brought her truck by, hoping we could nudge it forward -- but her fender was too high and would ride up straight into Phoenicia's hatch.

"What would you like us to do?"

"Just go home," Phoenicia offered, "I'll wait here."

Absolutely not, we decided. The driver was over an hour away -- we had to try every possible option. And we were certainly not going to leave her there.

Digging a path to freedom .... we hoped!!
The front tires were now buried up to the fender. "Let's try digging out the front?" I suggested. So Mariposa and I grabbed our respective shovels, wrenching them into the mud for nearly an hour, flattening over a smooth yard of packed dirt in front of the car. We dug beneath the wheels so the front was completely clear and the wheel bottoms were visible.

Lisa and Rita pulled up slabs of concrete from the driveway and we jammed those beneath the wheels.

Mariposa floored it, while the rest of us pushed and pushed.

And the wheels just spun  ... we began to smell the rubber burning against the concrete.

Now it was after 2am.

Rita was fading -- and she had to get up the next morning to work. "The rest of us can sleep in," I told her, "Please, go home and go to bed. We'll stay until AAA gets here."

So she reluctantly headed home while the rest of us washed off our feet. About 20 minutes later, AAA arrived.

"He's having trouble reaching the hook beneath the car," Phoenica said. Apparently the car had sunk so deeply that the hook beneath the front fender was buried. We dug out a bit more, and Mariposa managed to pull back just enough.

The right-front wheel was dug in nearly a foot.
And the tow was in place!

In moments, the car was free and Phoenicia was on her way!

(Sidenote:  It turned out that the chassis was resting on solid and apparently non-muddy ground, while the wheels flew free!! At right is a photo taken two days later. See where the right-front wheel had dug itself in like a deranged groundhog.)

Mariposa and I said our goodbyes to Lisa and her furry friends and headed south -- aching, exhausted, and ravenously hungry.

"Pancakes?" she suggested as we approached a waffle house. "Yeahhhh!!!!" She swung into the parking lot, and within minutes we were ploughing our forks into syrup-soaked waffley goodness at 2:30am.

Mariposa digs in to well-earned yummies!!

Bellies full, we headed back to the Drury's for some much-needed rest.

After all, tomorrow was showtime!!!

To be continued...