As you may know, I entered and competed (with Amy, another beautiful Tucson dancer) in the USA Belly Dance Queen Competition on February 4th, 2012. It was definitely an interesting experience and many people have asked me about it. So, I decided to write a blog about it! Competition is a whole new world for me, and this was definitely a valuable experience that I’d love to share with others who might be interested in seeing what competition is like.
First of all, I just want to give a shout-out to my wonderful husband, who came with me and supported me and waited forever with nothing else to do while I did this. And thank you, too, to all the lovely ladies who came to cheer us on! You rock!
This was my first competition, so I was pretty sure I was not going to win it. But I told myself as long as I made it into the second round, I would be happy.
Since my husband and I live in Tucson, we had to leave pretty early to get there, and then I needed time to put on all my makeup before the photoshoot and dancer’s meeting at 3:00p.m. So we got to the casino at about 12:30, and I immediately started putting on makeup. Soon other ladies started to arrive, and all the primping began! There were about 30 ladies all together: 11 in the pro-soloist category, 9 in the intermediate category, and 3 troupes. But we had a nice, big room to get ready in, with mirrors and music and lots of sparkly stuff!
At 3:00p.m., we had the dancer’s meeting, where we learned how the competition would progress, and then we got up on stage to have our pictures taken. It was also a little intimidating, because we could see just how big the stage was, and how many people would be in the audience. It was a very large venue, and it was sold out! The nerves were setting in by this point, and I was barely able to eat any lunch. I believe a granola bar was the only thing I was able to choke down.
After all that excitement, we had about 2 hours to kill before show-time. We all got out of our costumes, and most of the ladies went out to get dinner. Amy and I were both nervous enough that we needed to blow off some steam, so we went to practice our pieces in the hallway (later Amy would make a lap around the building). I ran mine a few times, getting more and more nervous because I kept missing one part of the choreography where the music is the same as in another part of the piece. I finally nailed it down (I hoped) and went back to the dressing room to chill. I managed to eat most of my sandwich I had brought.
And then it was time to get dressed. Everything after this point was a whirlwind of activity and nerves. I practiced some more, making sure all the parts of my costume would hold up (I was especially concerned about the netting falling off of the bra), touched up my makeup, and then the show was on!
We all crowded backstage, eager to learn how the show would really go. I have to say, I was impressed by how smoothly the show ran. This was a truly professional venue. Everything was on time (a miracle all in itself), there were no (noticeable) glitches, and there was a lot that could have gone wrong. The music was perfect (no one had to dance to the wrong song!), there were photographers and videographers, lights, everything! Since the show ran so fast, we all had to make sure that we were backstage and ready to perform, otherwise we’d miss our chance.
The first round was the longest, and consisted of each dancer and troupe performing a 5 minute piece of their own choosing. The intermediates went first (and Amy did a beautiful job), then the pros. Unfortunately, I was near the end, at #9 out of 11. It was a long, long wait. I decided I didn’t really want to watch much of the other dancers. If I wasn’t going to do well, I didn’t really want to know! I went back and forth from the dressing room to backstage, trying to convince myself that I should not run away. I did catch a few of the dancers’ pieces, but I was so nervous they never registered completely until later. Finally, it was my turn. I danced to a shortened version of Leyali Rouqash by the Henkesh Brothers. I saw my husband and my friends in the audience, which made me smile. I let the music move me, and the nervousness vanished. Always when performing, there is this strange sense of it being an interminable amount of time on stage, yet it’s over before you realize you even began. I didn’t think about the 1300 pairs of eyes on me, I just danced because it was fun, and I love doing it. I danced for my friends and my husband. And I danced my piece perfectly. I didn’t miss a step. I didn’t trip or get my veil wrapped around my head. My posture was good. I did the best damn show I could, and I knew it.
But I still nearly threw up after leaving the stage.
After the shakes went away, I was able to get some water and go out into the crowd for intermission. I sat for awhile with my eyes closed, since by this time I’d had on my false eyelashes for more than 5 hours.
Intermission was seemingly too short, but my second costume was not as complicated to put on as the first, and I was dressed and backstage again in a flash. As I had mentioned, my goal was to make it into the semi-finals. However, I had thought that the semi-finals would consist of perhaps 5 or 6 ladies, narrowed down from the 11 that had begun the competition. Unfortunately, the semi-finals consisted of only 3 ladies, who had to choose their music from unknown CDs and improv a dance to that song. Those 3 ladies were also the finalists. And so I didn’t make it into the semi-finals. But that’s okay! I now have my first competition under my (sparkly) belt, and I danced like I had never danced before in front of the largest audience for me to date. I think that was enough of an accomplishment!
By then I was starving and I gorged myself on M&Ms while I watched the semi-finals and the finals. And then it was time for the winners to be announced, and we all got to go back out on stage. So I did get on stage with my new purple costume!
The winners were lovely dancers, congratulations!
In all, it was a great learning experience, and I definitely feel more prepared for future competitions. Yes, I will be competing again. I know competitions aren’t for everybody, and I had thought they really weren’t for me. And they may not be. I tend not to be competitive in dancing (unless it’s against myself), and I don’t particularly enjoy the stress surrounding a competition. I also feared what the competition would be like…hey, I’ve seen RuPaul’s Drag Race. But this did not feel that way. Even though we were competing against one another, we still got to know all the other dancers, and clapped and cheered when they danced. It was a very supportive environment, and that was a very pleasant surprise.
If you are interested, the competition will be held again next year on January 26th, 2013.