How Was My First Time? Oh Behave…

 Belly Dance Solo YouTube Video

Friday Funnies: OUR BELLY DANCE TROUPE IS UP FIRST and before I can say “shimmy this”, the next troupe is already on stage and halfway through an aerobic Macedonian jig.  We’re doing a benefit for the Martin Luther King Diversity Day show at a church and I’m enjoying the show when a very significant fact hits me… Immediately I lean over to Sheva the sword dancer, sitting next to me on the church bench and excitedly whisper at the top of my lungs, “Sheva, that’s the first time I’ve ever performed our group numbers and my solo without screwing it up!!”

firstNaturally everyone in the vicinity turns around to look at us, I look down red-faced and pray I’m not the first to get the giggles. You know how I am about behaving myself in solemn places. You can dress me up but you can’t take me out.

Sheva, the gal responsible for getting me into belly dancing is squelching her own giggles. Usually I can get her to burst out laughing in three seconds flat with my Lucille Ball routine but she is resisting remarkably well.

The first time I saw her perform, Sheva was dressed in a magnificent bejeweled red costume and held her composure perfectly as she balanced two swords on her head whilst gyrating her hips to a suspenseful Middle Eastern ditty.

Like a cobra winding its way up out of its basket to a snake charmer’s hypnotic movements I was instantly mesmerized… and hooked. I signed up for belly dance class first thing the following day.

Sheva’s been dancing for about twenty years and she didn’t start early either, she’s got mad sword skills and its obvious she loves what she does. When I tell her how positively exhilarated I feel after hearing the applause at our first show together despite my screw-ups  she imparts the following words of wisdom to me: ‘There’s an audience for everybody, Esmée.”


The audiences, no matter who they are play a significant part in my experience as a performer. They can be the difference between a spectacular dance rush and a regrettable one pour moi. Which leads me to one time when I was a not-so-good audience at a Rudolph Nureyev performance…

Sergei, my muscle-bound 6’5” Russian athlete friend and I have procured very expensive rock star seats since he personally knows and has worked with Nureyev. We’ve readied ourselves for the much anticipated show by downing a couple of (well, a few…) delicious vodka martinis, up with a twist accompanied by a dozen raw oysters. Great combo.

The lights have dimmed and an aging Nureyev is beautifully, albeit it a tad heavily dancing his heart out when Sergei decides to critique the performance. “Yesmeh (this is how you say my name in Russian apparently), ghhe is denncing verry ‘plonk’”.

Whoopsh… my martini buzz takes possession of me and I emit a very loud “HAHAHA!” before I can clap my hand over my mouth. Our frowning fellow patrons shush us and a nanno-second later the usher appears, threatening expulsion.


“I’m so shorry, sir, was an accident. Won’t happen again” is all I can manage. No sooner has our irritated usher ushed off than I hear Rudolph landing audibly from a grand jetté with a resounding ‘plonk’.

“Yesmeh”, Sergei hoarsely whispers with vodka soaked breath and his eyes on fire, “This perrforrrmance is called…. ‘The Dance of the Yelephant’”.

“AAAA-aaah-haha-ha-HAAAHHhhh!!!” Our squashed peals of tandem laughter are hopelessly unstoppable, tears are streaming down our cheeks as we are quickly ushered out of the theatre. Poor Rudolph, he really was doing his marvelous best, I hope he didn’t notice us.

First time I ever got the bum’s rush.

I missed seeing one of the world’s greatest dancers and now the ballet slipper is on the other foot. Good thing I can’t be my own audience, I am my own worst critic.


Esmée St James

 “If you listen to your fears, you will die never knowing what a great person you might have been.” – Robert H. Schuller