Dance Auditions and Other Life Challenges

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 I sat there staring at the email for a long time. Is this for real?

Hello Etang and Tammy. We will be in San Francisco for one day only this Saturday September 24, 2011 for a showcase audition and I would love to invite you. Please contact me ASAP, I LOVE your energy, dancing, rhythm and charisma!! Looking forward to hearing from you, and give you more insight about it, 90 seconds who could change your life!!

The invitation-only audition email, signed by a casting producer from America’s Got Talent was indeed real. So we quickly began rehearsing our routine to exhaustion. We also combed through the fine print of the contract that covered every aspect of our audition and (if chosen) our appearance on the show. After consulting with those in the know about the legal aspects of the matter, we nervously signed on the dotted line. Etang and I have seen what so-called reality shows have done with the image of women, people of color and full-figured people, and were not impressed with their track record. But if we could use AGT as a platform to promote a very different image, a positive one, it would be worth it. Right?

Days later, we found ourselves standing before a camera and a Hollywood producer in a chilly Hilton conference room. A mini-interview kicked off the session. Why were we wearing dresses and what were those black sparkly wraps that we were carrying? What were our other costumes like? Did we have a compelling back-story? Etang and I took up the challenge of educating them about bellydance: the culture, the people, the history and the different styles of the dance. Then we schooled them about the meaning of body justice in the context of the dance. And then we danced. A couple of broad smiles and one blank stare concluded our audition.

Fast forward to January of 2013. Etang and I are in the final stages of preparations for the San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival Auditions and we are feeling pretty darn good about it. There is no denying that the element of competition has helped us up our dance game. But just as important is the feeling of being a part of a whole, a dance community that honors folk dances from across the globe. We are one of several fine Bay Area bellydance acts, including Shabnam Dance Company, Raks A’Diva, and Oreet, participating in the auditions. And we will also share the stage other dance companies that appreciate a diversity of body types.

Author Jeremy Aldana once said, “It’s not so much the journey that’s important; as is the way that we treat those we encounter and those around us, along the way.” What has become clear to me as I move forward in my dance journey is that demanding and giving respect to others is essential to creating community, and challenging the norms and stereotypes of the broader society. As a central component of culture, dance plays a critical role American society. Dance symbolizes who has the right to move, to take up space and to be seen. So I keep that in mind when Etang and I step into dance spaces that many have never experienced the likes of Raks Africa.

If you are in the California Bay Area, come cheer us on this Sunday at 11:50 at the San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival Auditions. You can find details here.

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