I’ve lived in the Middle East for awhile now. I have studied the language, learned to play the music, and appreciate the art. Oriental dancing, however, alludes me. I grew up in America, so I never learned to make my hips do whatever it is that they’re supposed to do in oriental style dancing. My Sicilian heritage failed me for I have surprisingly short legs. Makes dancing of any type awkward.
As I was making a fool of myself today in a dance aerobic class, I was reminded of a time early on in my time in this part of the planet. I had been spending a lot of time with a group of girls. Their favorite pastime, aside from watching Turkish dramas dubbed into Arabic, was to put on some music and dance. I would get up from the cushion on the floor, try to wake up my sleeping leg and shake various parts of myself, mimicking what I thought they were doing. They would fall down laughing as tears rolled down their smiling faces at my futile attempts to assimilate into this part of their culture.
One particular day stands out in my memory. My friend’s brother was getting married and I would be invited to the female reception (they have two – one for guys and one for girls). After quizzing her on the particulars regarding what to wear, what to bring, etc., she informed me that I needed to improve my dancing skills. I begrudgingly got up as the music started. Ceremoniously raising one hand to “change the light bulb” and then lowering the other to “pat the dog,” I began to try to dance. This time, however, my friend placed her hands on my hips, telling me, “shake like this!” I tried. I kept trying. Finally, I looked at her and said, “It’s no use. I’m a foreigner. Our bodies just don’t do that.” She shrugged and said, “Keep doing that with your hands and maybe no one will notice.”