or, "my favetest bitches"
(photos when blogger ain't feelin' so arthritic!!)
(soundtrack: aladdin's alibabba song)
the last night i had on that side of the continent before i jumped the plane to return to my promisedland: the brer white and i had such a good vibe going, i looked forward to one last evening of fellowship with him and the cats--maybe creative, maybe imbibelicious--it was sure to include laughter and a few tears.
finishing up my (purposefully) whirlwind visit with mon frer and fam, we ate at sonny's bar-b-q, in the spreading sprawl of nicholasville--a 15 minutes drive into the country from lex-town. a phonecall from brer says, "whatta ya think about going to nema's tonight?" my heart was sent to spinning. i'd confer with him post-feast.
a homey persian restaurant snugged onto "the brick alley" of otherwise sleepy (yet still picturesque--thus runs a theme of the K-Y experience) downtown state capital frankfort. large, original murals decorate the walls, classic molding lines the high ceilings, persian-style rugs cover the floors, and the wall menu has back-lit photos of each dish--american hamburgers and traditional kabobs alike. it is the much-frequented unofficial meeting place for all kentucky-landed persians. jack (the ONLY persian with a kentucky accent!) and neeta, the owners, run themselves ragged to keep the place going, smoke their own hookah when they have a free moment, and treat their weekly bellydancers like princesses. the first night they hosted dancers was my second gig as an Official Member of Rakadu Gypsy Dance. over the years, these weekly gigs have grown to feel like cutting the rug in our own living room, with family.
after having to take a break from the troupe for "personal reasons" there toward the end of my life in lex-town, visiting nema's and seeing the ladies dance promised to be an emotional rush. being that it was on my way between lex and louisville, where i'd hop the plane, and being that the three most original dancers (t-tessa, mel-lovely, and queeniequeen--all much-loved and much-skilled and -admired) would be dancing, it seemed to me my path led to nema's that night.
the brer opted to stay in lex to prepare for an early wake-up. i needed to hustle to get to nema's in time to see some dancing. this gave us the perfect excuse not to drag out what would unquestionably be a painful parting. rubs on the cats, stuffing the suitcases, a care-package from brer (which--don't you know--included beer), a lump in the throat that sprouted tears and a deep, loving hug.
"see you soon."
walking into nema's, indeed, feels like walking into the home of family. i feel a fluttery-flitting in my chest as i shove through the back door (the "dancers' entrance!"). the ladies are taking a break; they collect themselves in the front corner, right behind the storefront window displaying a blinking christmas tree, and a hookah (my place to be, fer sher). the musicians (PHENOMENAL performers in their own right, and skilled artists in musician-dancer collaborative improv) are absent. in their stead, aladdin's boisterous alibabba soundtrack fills the air. patrons eat at every table. twinkley christmas lights, fragrant hookah smoke, and bustling staff. this is the place to be. happy huggings with the goddesses, i tuck myself into a corner and order a "cappuccino" flavored hookah and pot of tea. who else is in attendance across the way--one of my oldest dancing sisters--andri--surrounded by a tablefull of her own bellydance students, on a girls'-night-out from berea (where she now lives with her partner and their toddler, Phoenix). my cup overfloweth!! what blessings!!
the ladies commence to dancing--whirling and gyrating and jiggling in the center of the room on their persian-rug-stage. andri and i agree that, even after the years, the familiarity, and training, witnessing these ladies make magic through movement still gives us chills. i might as well not order food, because i'm too fascinated to pick up my fork--and don't even try to tell me nothin' cuz i too bizzy watchin' them girls shake they thang! even in the short time i've been gone, i can tell that these goddesses have been practicing and working and creating. hard to imagine, but they just keep getting more mesmerizing and skilled. they entwine grace, sensuality, mystery, elegance, humor, and astonishing technical skill and coordination into each piece, solo or together. and i have yet to see a bellydance company that seamlessly interestingly easily improvises as well as this troupe. period. delightful, illuminating, impeccable and inspiring! the permagrin abounds! as their "outro" t and mel shenaniganize, broadway-cheese style, the alibabba song for us all. as we crowd around the table with hummus and girltalk, i feel like the Same Ol' Tif (tiftif) who has danced with these goddesses for years, now. it feels like home, and they are my family.
finally, as jack, neeta, and the crew roll up the rugs and turn of the lights, we scurry out into the cold (!) and into our separate cars. upon request (yea!) they leave with cookies from Barb and Tif's Annual Christmastime Bakefest (for details, staytuned!).