Audiences are the best, because without an audience, there isn’t a performer. But I just couldn’t resist stereotyping some of the typical personalities a dancer runs into in an audience with a little tongue-in-cheek humor. In particular, I’m focusing on a restaurant performance, not a hafla or night club, because restaurants are where you run into the opposite ends of the spectrum and everything in between. Certainly not meant to be all inclusive, but these were the first 10 types that came to mind. Enjoy!
1. The Guy On a Date – “Don’t make eye contact. Don’t make eye contact.” That would be the motto of the man on a date. We know are you trying hard to impress that pretty lady sitting across the table from you, and you certainly wouldn’t want her to get any ideas that you are checking out the belly dancer. So your eyes stay riveted on her, on your food, on the floor, anything but the belly dancer. I can almost see the beads of perspiration starting to form as you wish for me to move along to another table.
2. The Birthday Party Table – Laughing, talking, clapping, you came out tonight to have a good time, and celebrate you shall. Balloons and a bottle of champagne on ice decorate your table. And your friend that you are celebrating tonight? You have no qualms about offering him or her up for sacrifice. Pushing, pulling, another shot; whatever it takes to get your buddy up dancing in front of everyone. Because we all know true friendship is built on the foundation of embarrassment.
3. The Diamond Anniversary Couple – You’ll soon be hitting your 30th, 40th or 50th year of being married. How did you manage it? I think because you don’t take life too seriously and it's demonstrated by the manner in which you watch the show. The husband doesn’t try to hide to fact that he’s making eyes at me and enjoying watching a woman in a midriff baring outfit, while the wife laughs good-naturedly at his silliness. She could care less if he makes a fool out of himself. She shrugs her shoulders, used to it after all these years. Yes, he might be ogling a bit, but it’s only when he looks at her, the woman who’s been at his side for all these decades, that his eyes really light up.
4. The Teenagers – Yeah, we all know it, you are too cool to be sitting at a table with your family, and you are certainly too cool to display any form of enthusiasm in public. God only knows how you got roped into this family shindig when you should be out with your friends. But even you can’t help but sneak some sideways glances when you think my back is turned.
5. The Uninterested Table – You remind me the Anglo-American parents in My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Polite, but unemotional. Well-mannered, but reserved. You aren’t showing much interest in the show, and frankly, you aren’t showing much interest in each other either. Zills, veils, swords; whatever I try I just can't seem to put a crack in that icy demeanor. When your flaming cheese also fails to elicit any type of emotion, I realize a lost cause when I see it, and move on.
6. The Fellow Artist – Maybe it was a belly dance class, maybe another form of dance. Or possibly just an artistic disposition and interest in the performing arts, but you watch with appreciation, acknowledging with your eyes the complexity and difficulty of the moves. Asking me questions about where I learned and how long I’ve been performing. Realizing that there is much more going on than just a sparkly costume and made-up face.
7. The Dad With Three Kids Under Five – Between the late night feedings and never ending diaper changings, it’s amazing that you’ve made it out to a restaurant at all. You’re tired eyes watch, remembering a not so distance past where you recall your wife being more fun and energetic. A time when the two of you, without a caravan of little people, used to still party and stay out late. Maybe someday you will again. Tuning out your family and the chaotic mess that’s become mealtimes, you allow yourself a brief respite from the daily grind, happy to have a women smile at you without making any demands. Now if only you all can get home without any episodes of crying or baby vomit.
8. The Table of American Guys – You are, perhaps surprisingly, quite well-behaved. Maybe being raised in the country of women’s lib, you’ve learned that leering is inappropriate. You’ve been taught that women deserve respect, not objectification. Not waiting to be labeled as a sexist by fellow restaurant patrons, you watch shyly out of the corner of your eyes. Your upbringing comes out in full force when it comes time to tip. “Do I put my money into her costume? No, I must just hand it to her, right? No, maybe the first way was right. Um, no, second way?” Indecisive, your outstretched hand with proffered money is hanging awkwardly a few inches off the table, unsure of what to do next. You look relieved when I solve your dilemma by politely taking your tip from you.
9. The Table of Foreign Guys – You my friends are a different story. You leer, flirt, and stick money in my costume without hesitation. You’re watching the show and don’t care who knows it. The only time you aren’t watching is when you are outside smoking.
10. The Under 10 Set – Oh yes, you are my favorite group. Your eyes light up at the sequins and sparkles when I walk into the room. Your gaze follows me around the floor, intently watching my movements. Surely, I must be some type of magical princess! You tug on your parents’ sleeve, awestruck, telling them they need to look as well. You haven’t yet learned to be “mature” and hold back on unbridled enthusiasm, and you aren’t embarrassed to get up in front of a restaurant full of people and dance along with me. And my, aren’t you cute when you come over with dollar bills from mom and dad?
Alright my fellow dancers, who did I leave out? Who would you add to this list?
Picture Credit: Yours truly, dancing at Enat in Seattle, back when I used to be a blonde!