Thursday, April 5, 2012
The Story of My Failed Career as a Dancer
Here is my six year-old dancing in a little cramped corner of my kitchen. He's actually pretty good. A couple of months after this was taken, we enrolled him in a very expensive hip hop dance class so that he can continue to explore this passion and talent that he has for dance. We are nothing if not encouraging of passions around here.
Our GBE2 topic this week is dancing, and I would very much like to use this to write a long-winded, highly metaphorical exploration of something important. However, I have spent a good deal of time recently showering you all with love poems for my asparagus, and so I think it is time for me to write something funny again. In my case, dance would then make the perfect topic.
I too wanted to be a dancer, as a child. Any girl child who spends her youth with her nose inside one classic children's book after another is bound to decide to become a ballerina. I was struck continually with visions of myself, suffused with the grace of the celestials and scattering rose petals in my wake, as I spun effortless pirouettes across the playground. Besides, everyone was doing it. It was the thing to do. This is where I first remember my vision of myself running headlong into the brick wall of reality at full force.
Apparently, I have problems learning to follow "steps." My memory of this is congealed into a lump of unpleasantness in third grade wherein two friends of mine who both studied ballet were trying to instruct me in some steps for a "show" we had all created. Their frustration with me was palpable as I kept putting up the wrong arm in the wrong way followed by moving my feet incorrectly and so on. There was a decided absence of the presence of rose petals scattering pleasantly about in my wake. The part I remember most vividly was their recognition of my dismay, which was followed by their trying, with the characteristic transparency of eight year-old girls, to make me feel better. Perhaps this was the moment in life when I first developed the relationship I still maintain to being cheered up, which I rank right with being made fun of in terms of being enlivening to the human spirit. I didn't feel better. I felt like the object of pity. So, there, in the shadow of a portable, on a playground in San Anselmo, died my grandiose dreams of ballet, never to be kindled again.
I continued, however, to be dogged by dance. I liked to act, something that I in fact did quite well and with confidence. For reasons that perhaps only Satan knows, this required that I also be something of a performing poodle. Over the summer break of my sixth to seventh grade year, I participated in a week-long acting camp which performed the musical Guys and Dolls. I was cast in the chorus line, which was an abysmal use of me, in particular, since I could act quite well but danced poorly. We were required to learn a tap step known as "the Irish" and I could just not get it. I muddled through two performances, faking this movement incorrectly, only to somehow master it just after the last performance. I still remember exactly how to do the Irish, in case anyone wants to know. A very useful skill, that.
In adulthood, dance continues to plague me. My husband studied dance for years, and periodically I find myself having to dance with him in public, which is wretched because it makes such marked evidence of my inferior ability. One is supposed to enjoy dancing with one's husband, but I can't say I ever have. I almost want to partner him with a more competent consort so that he would continue to have some avenue to enjoy his hard-won skill in this arena. Instead, I grin thinly, as if I have terrible tooth pain and cause everyone around me to flock over and try to force me somehow to enjoy myself by showering me with unwanted attention. (Word to the wise: Never cheer introverts up by drawing attention to their shortcomings publicly.)
I do like to dance in private. When I have a day with some physical energy, and music is playing, I find myself dancing around my living room, happy as a clam, to things like Kid Rock. My natural style of dance is very much like that of a pole dancer. This used to be some fun to pull out in public–no steps required–when I was a cute looking nineteen or twenty, but it suffers somewhat as performed by the pain-ridden thirty-six year-old mother of three.
I guess that the gist is, for me, dancing like nobody's watching requires that nobody is actually fucking watching me.
Faith in Ambiguity by Tara Adams is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License