Thursday, December 6, 2012

Happy Feet in the Desert

Even though in the Capitol things like dancing are frowned upon (especially in public), I have been attending more dance lessons than I ever have in my life. Before coming here, the closest I'd ever come to a dance class was watching Center Stage over and over again for a year in University.
But here, I have four dance classes a week. Four.

On Monday, the middle of the week, we start off with Tango. This is a small class held in a room in the basement of what I guess is a compound rec center. This is taught by Hamdi who is known for shouting things like "Give her gancho!" ('gancho' apparently being the little leg flick you do in tango) and "Control the Women!"

The last time he shouted this, my partner, an Australian man who was new, shouted back: "I can't, I think this one's American!" 

The American Bashing never really stops over here, but it's mostly good-natured. It's because Kingdomites like us better. And we're just plain cooler.

A wide variety of people attend, and friend Shelly and I gossip about the people and their dancing abilities. The one we talk about most is this guy who is terrible at dancing, but thinks he's awesome. In fact, he's so sure he's awesome, if he makes a mistake; it's obviously your fault.

Just to be clear, it's never the woman's fault in tango. Tango is all male directed. All the woman has to do is follow what the man does. This dude will stop dancing just to tell you sorrowfully: "you really don't get it, do you?" He'll ask the instructor to come and observe his partner, just to make sure she's doing it right, and Hamdi will inevitably tell him something harsh in Arabic and dude will say nothing else to you about it.

On Tuesday, there's Salsa. Salsa was the first class I took in Riyadh and it got me to thinking I wasn't as bad at dancing as I thought I was. For anyone who has always wanted to try a dance class, but thinks they will make a fool of themselves, I tell you this: It is not as hard as you think it is. For women especially, it's easier than it looks. The first day I was doing twirls and whirls that made it look like I knew what I was doing. Like in Tango, it's all in the partner.

This is a big class with about sixty, seventy people, held in an aerobics room on another compound farther away. There are several teachers there: a severe New Zealander (I didn't know they came in severe), a large Lebanese fellow, and some other various people – most of whom come to Tango.

A couple weeks ago we had a visit from a Lebanese woman who was a professional salsa dancer. She gave some lessons that were fantastic - she made us look like professionals. Even though I am still a beginner, it was easy to follow.

As an interesting side note, that weekend, we went camping with the Hash House Harriers (more on them later) and all of the people who were in charge of salsa showed up with strobe lights and Lebanese music, turning our camp into a raving party spot.

It made me think there was about three foreigners in the Kingdom and I knew them all.

Finally, on Friday and Wednesday I have Belly Dancing, taught by one of my co-workers, Natalie, in the play room at our accommodation. (Yes, we have a playroom).

This is a lot of fun in general even when Mary – who was barred from the class because she is what us teachers call a 'behavior problem' – comes into the back of the class and starts hip thrusting wildly in every direction.

Going to and from these classes requires being secretive about our destination when it comes to our doorman and I occasionally feel like I live in Footloose. Maybe we should find somewhere to play chicken with some tractors. Except that women on tractors would be HARAM.

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