“What is the event, actually?”
I shrugged. “The anniversary of the office, I think?” At least that was what I’d been told when I was asked to dance at said event. However, the person who asked me—one of the people from ISI’s international office—hadn’t been absolutely certain, since it wasn’t his office sponsoring it but the office of one of his neighbors. As we quickly found out, he was wrong. This was no office anniversary, but instead an Islamic event of sorts. (Exactly what kind of Islamic event was never really explained to me.)
My one friend, the sister of the person I was dancing with, had serendipitously decided to wear a headscarf. I, however, was not so lucky, as quickly became amply clear.
“What does you costume look like?”
I answered with the name of the standard, strapless costume.
“You don’t have anything else?”
Obviously, this would not do. It was beginning to dawn on me that this, despite all the mixing and blurred lines between Javanese and Islamic culture, was actually a serious Islamic event. One where bare shoulders would probably not be okay. I was already worried, because the dance was hard and because I was worried about being with the music when I danced by myself and this revelation only served to ratchet up my nerves.
By the time I was squinting at my reflection in the mirror and trying to apply eyeliner, I had already developed a system of deep breathing that in theory was supposed to calm me down. It wasn’t helping much, but I had already acknowledged that I probably wouldn’t calm down until after I had danced.
Luckily for me, my dance partner’s sister came into the dressing room at this point and, possibly noticing the shakiness of my eyeliner, consented to doing my makeup for me. This gave me the chance to sit with my eyes closed and focus on gossip instead of impending doom. She ultimately helped me with my costume as well, so that the bulk of what I had to do was stand in one place and occasionally move my arms out of the way. Best of all, she rigged up a partial cover for my shoulders out of a piece of cloth that she stole from her brother’s costume, so even my shoulders were fit to be seen.
The dance, ultimately, was what I would (and did) refer to in Indonesian as lumayan–adequate, but not amazing. I have many critiques, but instead I will let the video speak for itself: