Leave it to the highly energetic Diana Soto to catch my 8 counts of unbridled exuberance in the Ghafour Brothers rendition of “Zay al Asal” at this past weekend’s “performahearsal” at Soltan in Houston. It really made me think.
In the mid-eighties, thanks to an establishment called “Cedars of Lebanon”, I fell in love with an extremely good-looking Arab, Muslim singer who lived in Houston. Let’s call him “Al”. My proud American, staunch Roman Catholic, native-San Antonian mother was not impressed.
My father passed away in 1991; but he had a chance to meet Al a few times.
They drank beer and talked about sports together. lol. Daddy liked him.
But Mom was concerned.
In the spring of 1991, shortly after Daddy’s death, Al’s brother and sister-in-law
hosted a “meet-and-greet” of sorts at their home for our two families to meet.
My mother and my sister (the one who got me into dancing!) traveled to Houston to
represent my family. I felt certain that, on the other side of this occasion, my mom would
feel more comfortable with things.
On the way home from that weekend, we talked about it. She assured me that she thought they were a beautiful family, very kind, very hospitable, and that they all obviously thought a lot of me. BUT, she said “I’m concerned that when life gets emotionally charged – and it will – you two will resort to your deepest training that has been with you since you were children. And that’s where you differ.”
Well, the rest of the story about Al is a book in and of itself. THIS story will now turn to a discussion of “things that are deep within us from childhood” and “emotionally charged moments”.
“There are impersonators and there are creators.” This is perhaps my favorite line (spoken by Michael Ibrahim) out of the many discussions, workshops, conversations, debriefing sessions, etc. from the GoLive event this past October.
I hate impersonating. So I guess the rest just fills in.
Anyway, back to Diana’s video clip.
Some would think I was so wrong to take that wide stance and practically “head bang” my way through the phrase.
I recall the words of a very well-known dancer who, in the early 90s, told me that she was shocked that Arab clubs
would hire me given my obvious American style. I think about the unchallengeable Ibrahim Farrah calling my
16-year-old self out in a workshop for my stance, sarcastically asking me if I’d taken a lot of jazz dance classes.
But that’s who I am: someone who was in jazz and ballet dance classes from age 5 until I was 17.
I also remember meeting Mahmoud Reda when I was 16. He loved me for all of that dance training. Hmmm. I can’t be all that bad.
I’ve been studying, practicing, mimicking, analyzing, rehearsing the dance styles of the Arab world for fifty years.
I embody what I can based on what feels right on this 5’8” German-American frame. I'm doing my best to be respectful AND real.
I’ve also joyfully and courageously added into my Project Band Live Music Curriculum exercises for ALL participants and teachers to do.
We work with more familiar “American” music and instruments in an effort to remember the range of movement that our minds and bodies
make available when we aren’t guarding out of a fear of misrepresentation. (Or perhaps the word is “misimpersonating”).
Again, doing my best to be respectful AND real. :-)
Anyway, back to Diana's video clip again.
I say “screw it”. It was an emotionally charged moment and, just like Mom predicted, I dropped back to my deepest training.
Oh, I know it’s a fine line! But in this instance, I think that (to my credit), I reigned it back in rather smoothly and quickly. I probably recovered, to be completely honest, smoother and quicker than I would have in an emotionally-charged argument over finances or the kids or some other hot topic that could have taken place with Al had that all worked out. :-). Also, if you look at my face at about 43 seconds, you can see my fear that it's going to happen again! ha ha. My dynamics in this section of the music are a wee bit tamer (and MUCH more organized) than what happened before.
So thanks Mom.
For the unsolicited relationship advice.
And, even more, for all of those dance classes.
And thanks Diana!
For making me think through all of this one more time.
It's always a fun reminiscence.
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