Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Sometimes It Happens Like This


You work a piece with your dancers for two years, polishing, editing, crafting, training.

You take it to a belly dance festival in Seattle. They kill it.

You submit the video to a local collaborative arts event. They like it. But you are a late application, they are out of individual time slots. Would you be willing to dance with the headliners instead? Medium Troy?

Yes. Of course.

Oh, and they will ask RJD2 if he's into having dancers for a song.


You have two weeks. You reset the piece to Medium Troys Balkan Ballers. You do not know if you will dance with RJD2 and if you do, you will find out at the last minute.

That's fine, you say. We are tribal belly dancers. We do synchronized group improvisation. We are trained to be flexible, you say. We can dance to anything.

You remind your dancers they can dance to anything. You make them practice to random RJD2 songs. You tell them not to stress, to work the dance and their technique. It may not even happen. Focus on Medium Troy. You stress for them.

Day of show. Hours go by. Still no word. It was a long shot anyway you tell yourself. The show starts, Medium Troy is about to take the stage, they should have other things on their minds. But Jojo, the mastermind of this huge event, taps you on the should. He has been in make it happen mode all day.

Ruby, this is Ramble John. This is Ruby and her belly dancers. He shakes my hand and leans around me to peer at my dancers who all stand up straighter behind me, in full costume. Looks us over for a minute. Yeah, okay, he says, let me think about the set. He is taking a huge chance on us.

Twenty minutes later, he is playing his set through in his head next to me while I wait to go onstage with Medium Troy. He says, okay, you know The Horror? Not by name I say. But we have 40 minutes and its on my ipod, we will by then. There will be no song breaks, and I know that live, RJD2 sounds totally different than in recording, everything is more complex, looser, and woven into the thing next to it.

We dance. The moment we leave the stage we run backstage, beg a speaker off a group of b-boys getting ready to hit the stage, and huddle around, listening. We gather, dance it once, dance it twice. Call it ready. This is an improvisational form, I tell them. Expect the unexpected. This is what we do.

Half an hour later we are onstage with RJD2. He is in the tail end of an amazing set. At some point we turn to face him. He smiles at us.

This is what we do.

Medium Troy's Balkan Ballers

RJD2's The Horror

Red Moon Rising:

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