Video: Breezeblocks

Advertisements

New Year’s Eve

I’ve never been much of a Christmas person, but I’ve always had an interest in New Year’s Eve for some reason.

I’m not quite sure why it is — possibly because of the promise of self-reinvention that seems to accompany it, or perhaps because of that old adage I heard years ago that however you spend your New Year’s Eve is indicative of how you spend the rest of your year.

That last part is so delightfully “When Harry Met Sally” and it appeals to the romantic in me. If I could only design the perfect night, with the perfect person to smooch at the stroke of 12! Guaranteed bliss for 2013!

But life doesn’t always work out quite that cleanly. When I look back to last year, I spent New Year’s Eve stressed about my job and commuting to St. Louis to perform with the phenomenal Beggar’s Carnivale. The man I kissed at the stroke of 12 didn’t end up being the Harry to my Sally, and later on we parted ways. I lost many people I hold close due to death and it hardened me for awhile.  I got a new job midway through the year, and I began pursuing new leads and branching out to work with new dancers and learn new styles.

I learned a lot, I endured a lot, and I emerge at the end of this year a little battle-worn and scarred but pleased with the work I’ve done so far. I feel much more focused on what I want, and more driven to create the year I want to live.

I go into this New Year’s Eve negotiating contracts, trying to be a smarter and more driven dancer. This show will be the largest show I’ve performed in and is proving to be a lot of work — in addition to belly dance, I’ll be dancing back-up for Bollywood celebrity, which is a bit daunting. But I’m so ready for the challenge.

I’m going into this year prioritizing my health and my training. I’ve been working hard these past few months, and I want to enter the new year with momentum as opposed to getting the ball rolling beginning January 1.

And I can’t really afford to NOT prioritize these things, since in the first three months of 2013, I already have I have 3 out-of-town dance trips planned, 15 Chicago shows confirmed and 2 being solidified, and a TV appearance on the docket.

It’s gonna be one hell of a year…

Hires, Pliers, and Nose Rings

She screwed her eyes tight, shutting out the light, trying to shut out
the realization…

SNAP.

“There. Take a look.”

She opened her eyes.

Blue eyes she didn’t recognize stared dully back into her own. It was
a cleverly painted face, individuality concealed under a thick
shellack of conservative pale foundation, Feminine and Sexy all
covered up with non-offensive and subtle tones. Nondescript earrings
and a slick, severe bun, meant to be noticed and then promptly
forgotten… Gingerly, she fished the broken half of her nose ring from
her face. The empty hole glared at her.

Her eyes dropped to her suit: pressed, starched, crisp, corporate
and fresh from its plastic garment bag. She didn’t know the child in
this costume, this bland business face…

His arm around her shoulders jolted her out of her reverie. “You look
so grown-up!” he said with a proud laugh, his smiling face appearing
behind hers in the mirror.

She turned to her father, holding the wire cutters in his hand and the
other half of her nose ring.

Déjà vu hit her in the form of another face, another tool, another
state, and another state of mind…

***

A dusting of freckles lay sprinkled across her tanned nose, and her
face was screwed up in a look of intense concentration, willing the
pliers not to slip…

There.

She stepped back to survey the results. She turned her head from side
to side, examining her nose ring that she had just pinched closed, her
uncontrollable curls fanning out in all directions. It was July in
South Carolina, and the heat hung on the air like a shroud… any
attempt to control her hair was simply an exercise in futility.

She sighed and smoothed her vintage apron over her cloth skirt.

Kind of a wild outfit, but what the hell. Fashion is negligible, I’m living amongst a damn circus, she thought wryly.

The thought made her breath catch in her throat for a moment.

I can’t believe I’m here, I can’t believe I’m doing this. I’m so lucky. I’m so
damn lucky…

***

“—Lucky.”

“Huh?”

“Spacing out already, nice. Try not to do that in your interview,” he kidded.

“Sorry,” she said, forcing a grin, “I was a million miles away for a
minute there.”

“I said, ‘You sure are lucky.’ I can’t believe you got an interview
in Chicago in a field you’re not experienced in,” he said, shaking his head. He clapped her on the shoulder. “Welcome to the working world.”

With a teasing grin and another shake of his head, he headed for the
garage, wire cutters and the twisted metal remnants of a gypsy
identity she knew and loved in hand.

“I just wish I knew what I was working toward,” she said to the empty
house and the warring factions of her mind.

Altars

I came from a country where for many people, Easter is a commercial holiday that gives people an excuse to hard-boil some eggs, gorge on chocolate, and rediscover that Peeps (even in small quantities) really are a terrible idea.

In Málaga, things are different.

There are four to six parades daily – I repeat, DAILY – to honor Jesus and the Virgin Mary. There are marching bands and soldiers decked in their full gear. Women march in black dresses and veils to symbolize their mourning, and hundreds of people march dressed as Nazareños, people from Nazareth (wearing tunics that are very jarring to watch as an American, since they are reminiscent of the garb worn by Klu Klux Klan members).

If it rains, the parades are canceled. “If that happens, you will see grown men cry in the streets,” one of my English students warned me when describing how passionately this celebration is practiced in Southern Spain and how devastating it is to lose the ability to carry out the ritual.

But by far the most important custom practiced during Semana Santa is the carrying of altars. Usually around 100 men carry two massive and ornate altars – one for Jesus, one for Mary – on their necks and shoulders, swaying back and forth as they carry the heavy weight down the street. It is such an important part of Semana Santa that when a cholera outbreak crippled the population in 1759 and left too few healthy men to carry the altars, a group of inmates actually escaped from prison to carry the sacred statues — and also willingly turned themselves in after the procession (and interestingly enough, to this day one prisoner is pardoned every Semana Santa as a tribute).

I noticed that many of the Semana Santa rituals — wearing black, carrying a heavy load, dressing in traditional clothing — have one goal in mind — to foster empathy by relying on the power of shared experience. Regardless of what faith you subscribe to (if any), I dare you not to be affected when you see hundreds of people coming together to willingly carry a heavy and ornate altars on their necks and shoulders. I thought about what a powerful symbol it truly was.

Because we all are shouldering our own personal altars, aren’t we? Some are monuments to perpetual worry, piled higher daily with verbal bricks from a mental narrator. Some create shrines for ego, interested only in the people willing to add more to an already gaudy, overdeveloped structure. Some people put a particular lifestyle up on a pedestal; some opt for people. Some create altars to lovers, to jobs, to children, to pets.

I’m not always happy with the monuments I create for myself. I start with a framework of unreasonable expectation and worry and then slowly invest my time, energy, money, and passion into structures that I’m not comfortable carrying.

But I’ll continue to rebuild, remap, rework, and retry…

Happy Easter!