It was a given that I would be the only male in the weekly belly dancing class that I took off and on for years. Being a gay man, you would think that I would be put off by the incredible lack of testosterone. It actually was a blessing because I didn’t have the distraction of watching gorgeous men moving their muscular bodies. Therefore, I paid closer attention to the instructor and learned how to do the many tribal movements with grace and ease. Who knew that eventually I would get the chance to wiggle my hips in a far away, exotic land.
One of my closest friends, Alan Oken, an astrologer of international acclaim, invited me to attend a seminar that he was giving in Bali. If there is one thing that I love as much as belly dancing it is astrology. Just so you know that I’m not that easily influenced, my passion evolved years prior to Eat, Pray, Love. The only thing that I wasn’t physically or emotionally prepared for was the unbelievably long seventeen and one-half hour flight from Los Angeles to Singapore. If that wasn’t enough, I had to log two more airbound hours to get to Denpasar, Bali. OMG!!! with that amount of suffering, I could have given birth. At least when a woman is in labor for so long, she comes out of all that pain with the gift of a beautiful child. All I was rewarded with were leg cramps and hemorrhoids!!!!!! I know I sound like a whiny Queen, but I watched a lot of “Star Trek...The Next Generation” so after the aerial schlepp I was ready to be beamed up!!! It had only been a few months, since my prostate surgery or, as I like to call it, my male hysterectomy. So I had to pee very frequently which didn’t go well with the very conservative, not-so-friendly business man sitting next to me. I think I drove him to take an ambien because he fell into a deep sleep for hours as I sat there, bug-eyed and ready to explode. I tried to tap him gently on the shoulder but he didn’t budge so I stumbled over his long legs more times than you can count. I felt as though I were in an episode of “Three’s Company”. Memo to self: next time, get an aisle seat.
Deja vu came over me as I passed the rice fields on the way to my hotel, which was just a few blocks from the Indian Ocean. It was so familiar I was sure I had lived here in a past life. The only place that felt even more like I was putting on an old shoe was Paris.
It took a few days to recover from the long journey and then I was ready to meet the other students of astrology who were from every continent on the globe except, of course, Antartica. I don’t think penguins need to know were the planet Mars was at the time they were hatched.
After we finished the first week of our seminar, we were taken to a village that tourist never get a chance to visit. Komang, a friend of Alan’s and a local Shaman, arranged a special treat: The Cow Dance. It’s a ritual that the villagers perform every year and involves beautiful Balinese men dancing with hugh cow bells around their necks. This made up for all my belly dancing classes sans men!!!
Let’s just say that I was feeling frisky, so I began flirting with some of the dancers and responded with raucous laughter. One of the buff boys took his bells off and put them around my neck. They were so heavy that I cried out for a local chiropractor. “There is no way I’m doing this”, I screamed. “You can do it, come on, Artemes, dance for us”, Alan yelled, and the rest of the westerners picked up the refrain. My belly dancing lessons finally paid off because the more they chanted, the more I gyrated my hips. You should have seen the faces on the Balinese, especially the children. They looked mesmerized as I twirled around the dancers and caused quite the commotion. The entire crowd roared as the music hit its crescendo and I leaped into the unsuspecting arms of the biggest and most muscular young dancer. He was guffawing so hard that he dropped me to the ground and then fell on top of me. That was more yummy then the black rice pudding that was served at the big feast after the dance.
Belly Dancing in Bali will always be up there as one of my life’s most unforgettable moments. Who knows, maybe on my next trip I can do the Can-Can.
Artemes C. Turchi started his career as a nightclub singer in New York City. Writing and performing one-man shows has been his passion for the past 30 years. The most recent being “Man From Venus” performed at the James A. Little Theater in Santa Fe, New Mexico where he lives and enjoys eating hot green chiles. Not that he needs the extra heat! An audience bursting with laughter is his greatest joy along with gender bending, astrology, cooking, dancing and visiting exotic lands.