Gig: November 14, 2009
The dancers and the drummers performed at a local Belly Dance Variety Show known as Cabaret Beledy. It is an ongoing show, having run bi-annually for ten years now, with many, many very talented dancers and musicians performing through out the years. It is especially popular with the local belly dance community, and is often standing room only for performances, even in the ninety seat theater.
The other acts are all professional dancers and musicians.
This is a big deal, a big show, and there is a goodly amount of pressure on all of us.
STAGE RIGHT: ENTER Nerves.
We arrived about an hour before the curtain was scheduled to raise, and I immediately set off to find the stage manager. She is a wonderfully nice lady who is not only kind and patient, but also decisive and professional.
She quickly let me know when we were on, what our cue was going to be, who we followed, and where we were to sit off stage in the wings while waiting for our turn.
As it turns out, being in the wings off stage to the left is a great seat.
The first act was a student group, most of whom were performing for the first time. They were great. If you have never been onstage, let me give you a quick run down about what the first time is like. It is terror, sheer terror. Time has this trick of rushing past you at dizzying speed and at the same moment dripping around you like molasses. You are confused, the lights are incredibly bright, you have almost certainly gone entirely blank, and you are trusting (praying, beseeching) your practice and rehearsing to kick in and get you through it.
Walking out onstage the first time takes big brass ones. Getting past your first bobble, settling down, smiling, and then performing takes fortitude. These ladies were great.
The drummers (sitting to the left, in the wings, nervous ourselves) were clapping and smiling, making hand gestures like crazy (Big SMILES! Stay calm. CALM! Slow down! SMILE!), and encouraging the lovely ladies to the best of our ability.
They got a huge round of applause, and it was well deserved.
And then the first hiccup of the show. A backstage costume problem, and the stage manager had to juggle acts a bit. Smoothly done, and out came the professional Turkish Instrumentalist Trio. A percussionist, a violin, and an oud, all of them seasoned veterans with decades of performance experience.
They sounded very good, and I watched in awe as the percussionist noticed a microphone problem, increased his volume with his hands while he adjusted the microphone, and then smoothly went back to normal volume once the adjustment was made. All without missing a beat. So awesome.
Two more solo dancers came and went, lovely, graceful, colorful, and gorgeous. We openly admired them from the wings. (Did I mention how great it was to sit where we were?)
And then, curtain down and it was our turn.
Here are the thoughts I had in the order I had them:
Grab drum and stool! Do NOT fall down and make a big boom on the stage. DON”T DROP THE DRUM! Settle all five drummers in, seated and in line. Hands ready. Eye contact. Curtain is being raised. Posture! Smile! Dancers beginning to play their zils. Start the rhythm. Nice and loud.
D t _ t D _ T _ D t _ t D _ T _ D _ t T D _ T _ D t _ D D _ T _
All together? Good, good! Dancers are dancing, no panic. Smile! Relax! Eye contact with the drummers. Nod confidently! Smile.
And… Beledi change!
Umm… Why am I playing a Chobi? Do NOT Panic. Blend in to the Beledi. All right. No problems. We are there.
D D _ t D _ T _ D D _ t D _ T tk D _ tR D _ R _ D t _ t D _ T _
We are there. Groove. Smile!
D _ D _ D _ T _ D _ _ T k k T _ D _ D _ D _ T _ D _ _ T k k T _
Let it breath. Relax. Groove into it. Eye contact and all together. Sounding good. Nod to K and N, get some top work going.
D _ D _ D _ T _ D k k T k k T ktktk D k D k D k T _ D k k T k k T ktktk
Let it breath. Space for K. Space for K. Nice!
And… solo for Shiftitelli!
D _ _ T _ _ T _ D _ D _ T _ _ _
Nice and slow. Open. Eye contact. Drummers are on top of it, nice solid doums! Smile. Relax and watch the solo. Follow her hips. Add in some pops and rolls. Give her a lead and some space.
D _ _ T _ _ T _ D kk D kk T T R K D _ k T _ k T _ D kk D kk T T R K
Listen for the crowd. Clapping and whistling. Very good! Eye contact with C and D. Nod and smile. All together. Nice groove. Let it breath.
And… change to Ayoub for group
D _ _ k D _ T _ D _ _ k D _ T _
Uh oh! Second Solo! That is early and we are in the wrong tempo and beat! Do NOT STOP. Don’t panic. Shout out, “Oh yeah!” and play it faster. Eye contact. Hands to eyes. Drummers following and a good groove. Eye contact with K. Smile and nod, and here we go. Rolls for the fast solo! C, D, and N are holding the Ayoub down nicely. Good tempo. And rolls.
D k t D D k T kk D ktktkDkDktkT DkktkktkDkkTkk D _ _ k D _ T _
Open up for K and his pops and rolls.
D _ _ k D _ T _ D _ _ k D _ T _
Soloist moving back to the group where do we go? Umm…
D _ k D _ k T k D _ k D _ k T k D _ k D _ k T k D _ k D _ k T k
Everyone on groove. Sweet. Sounding good and loud. Smile. Dancers are in the moment, laughing and smiling. Crowd is riveted. Take a quick glance around. Nothing but smiles and clapping in time. Good groove. And here comes the finale.
Nice steady AYOUB!
Loud and strong.
D _ _ k D _ T _ D _ _ k D _ T _ D _ _ k D _ T _ D _ _ k D _ T _
Drummers are dead on. No need to even look at them. Explosions wouldn’t matter.
And the dancers peel off stage…
Eye contact for the finish.
“Last one lads!”
D _ _ k D _ T _
D _ _ k D _ T _
D _ _ k D _ T _
T _ T _ SLAP!
Applause, whistles and cheers.
Smile, breath, and wave bye-bye to the audience as the curtain goes down. Laughter and more cheers.
Once the curtain dropped we grabbed our drums and stools, hustled off stage and headed to the dressing rooms to congratulate the dancers. The whole troupe was a huge bundle of excitement and giddiness. High fives all over the place.
And then we all got a rush of compliments from the other performers, from the stage manager, from the sound guy.
Once my heart rate went down to normal, and my hands stopped pulsing, I walked out to the front mezzanine to grab a drink during the intermission.
And it was great. Every patron I walked by shook my hand, or patted me on the back, or said “Wow that was great!” or “You guys sounded fantastic!” or “That was the best drumming I have heard in a long time!” or some combination of all the above.
The audience was happy. The dancers were happy. And I was happy.
What a great night.