Saturday, January 28, 2006


Saw my sister in a dance show tonight.  (Go Joyce!  Wooo!)

Driving home, I listened to one of those 80s shows on the radio, and it took me back.

In the 80s, I was in this summer program called Teenage Drama Workshop, for all us little Theatre Geeks.  The program was geared to High School students and took place at a nearby college campus.  We'd rehearse all summer and perform children's theatre shows at the end of the year.  We got the chance to perform (on a real college stage in front of a real paying audience!) and the little kids got some (semi-)decent entertainment.  Win/win.

But the Workshop wasn't all rehearsal -- it was also CLASSES.  Every morning, we'd have classes in Drama, Improvisation ... and Dance.

I am not a dancer.  My sister is the dancer.  (I'm the lawyer.  We decided early on how to divvy up the tasks.)  But Dance was a mandatory class.  So (this being the 80s) I showed up every day in one of them leotards that was kinda half-suspenders so you wore it over a shirt, and some stirrup tights, and I put on my dancin' shoes.

The dance class took place on the stage of the big theatre at the college.  We all lined up on the stage -- there were four rows of us.  (I guess this is traditional in dance classes.)  Every once in awhile, the instructor would assign us into rows, but it never stayed that way for long.  Even when she'd purposely tell two lines to switch places (to bring the kids in back to the front, and vice-versa), we'd eventually settle back down into our favorite positions.  People had places they liked to dance, and there really wasn't much the teacher could do about it.

I fell naturally into the second line.  I wasn't a good enough dancer to be in the first line -- and even if I was, I wasn't confident enough to dance in the front line -- which, when you think about it, means I wasn't a good enough dancer, because confidence is surely a part of dance.  But I was never sure that I knew the routine well enough, and I always wanted to be behind someone who DID.  Besides, when I was in the second row, I was behind the really GOOD dancers, and I could actually learn something from them.

When I joined the class, my teacher -- to my great annoyance -- put me in the fourth row.  I'm useless in the fourth row.  There are three rows of people between me and the teacher, so I can't see her well enough to learn the combination.  And there are two rows of people between me and the good dancers, so I can't see them well enough to pick anything up.  When you're in the fourth row, you've really only got a good view of the third row of dancers, and they don't know what they're doing either.  Basically, if you put me in the fourth row, I will become a fourth row dancer, which isn't any good for either of us.

So, the teacher would generally assign me to the fourth row, and by about ten minutes into class I would have woven my way back up to the second row.  It was never difficult to do -- there were kids in the second row who preferred to be farther back, so the rearrangement happened sort of naturally.  (Nobody ever said a word; we just danced on over to where we thought we belonged.)

And then, one day, we were taught a combination to a particular song (which I just heard on the radio driving home from my sister's show tonight).  And it was a bit of a lengthy combination, but I got it and -- unlike nearly every other combination -- I knew I got this one.  As it turned out, I was one of the only people in the class who did, and as the music played, the six girls in the front line missed beats, stumbled, and otherwise dropped out.  Usually, when this happened (as it did, from time to time), everyone else stopped too, because we were all following those six.  This time, I didn't stop.  Like I said, I knew this combination and I knew I knew it, so I didn't really see any reason to stop dancing, even though I was pretty much the only one who still was.

The combination ended, and I stopped on the beat.  My teacher -- my freakin' teacher, who had taught me for something like six weeks by now, looked at me with surprise and said, "[NZ], I didn't know you could dance."

She put me in the second row for the rest of the summer.


lv2trnscrb said...

I enjoyed this; I have two left feet and am married to a musician so we never danced together much.

But I enjoyed reading your experience with it. I think its an awesome talent to have and a joy to watch.


helmswondermom said...

Great story!