Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Story of My Failed Career as a Dancer


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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.




13 comments:

  1. Yay for funny Tara writing today! You know, I've *always* been a cheerer-upper and I never realized I was having the exact opposite effect until now. This is information I could have used 20 years ago. In my defense, as well as the defense of Pollyannas everywhere, it is not generally borne of pity, but of a sincere desire for the intense introverts among us to lighten their critique on themselves a bit.

    And now I want to go dancing. Maybe in the laundry room.

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    1. Many people enjoy being cheered up, M. I prefer to be either patiently listened to or left alone, which is substantially more work. I think it this is one of my more HM qualities.

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  2. Most of my dancing is done with little kids, who are wonderfully non-judgmental (or at least if they recognize what a dancing goon I am, they aren't yet verbal enough to convey their "what a big doofus" thoughts).

    Oh, and your last sentence made me actually LOL. :OD

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    1. Kids are great for dancing with. I am actually able to get kindergartners to laugh at my lousy sketches however...

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    2. I'm with Beth on this one- I LOVE dancing with my kids, and though I am an extrovert I hate dancing in public. I am very tall and have a personality that draws people in, but dancing is one thing I wish nobody would ever have to see me do. Ever. It makes things very awkward whenever I'm a bridesmaid and have to do it in front of so many people :s

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  3. I dance everyday with exercise as my excuse to profoundly toss my old body around like it had purpose and grace, it has neither.
    When I was younger, I think I was a pretty good dancer. I'm talking bar type dancing on a crowded floor. My thinner and more agile body moved pretty well in time with any music. Now those moves, they feel the same, do not have the same visual effect! Now I look down right pathetic, but the smile on my face surely must distract from the spasm I call dance, right?

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    1. As long as you never know and no one disturbs your self-image, why even worry at all? My problem is that I have built in assholes in my head that say rude things, so I don't require any real ones. Call it a superpower.

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  4. We are kin in this. I blew my college GPA because I got a D in Folk Dancing. I hit some poor girl in the face with a tambourine during the final because I was whirling the wrong way in some Italian gypsy dance. I also dropped my theater major in college because of all the dancing and singing. And the tedious people, but that's a different story.
    I do, however, dance out in public all the time. I just summon my invisibility spell (the one where I shut down my brain to any outside stimuli and pretend I'm invisible) and dance away. I really think that the sight of someone thoroughly enjoying themselves should not be laughable, but inspirational. It is one of the few times when I really don't care who's watching or what they think.

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    1. I am thoroughly amused by this tambourine image...At some point, I stopped enjoying dancing in public. I used to quite like it, as long as there was no memorization of steps. My body has felt wrong for dancing ever since I had kids, like I never got my center of gravity right again...I expect it's all made up. Anyway, I still dance if required to, but I am afraid–without abandon.

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  5. I haven't willing danced "publicly" since fifth grade when for the talent show five friends and I did our version of tinikling, a traditional Phillipine dance. It involved two long poles held parallel, which were tapped to the ground then against one another while two other people danced between and above them. I can no longer remember if I was a dancer or a tapper for the actual performance, but do remember having deep concerns about having my butt directly in someone's face while dancing in practice. Until I read this, I had completely forgotten that there was a time in my life when I was completely okay with getting on stage and moving around.

    Right around puberty, hiding as much as possible became my default and I still struggle with that tendency. As a non-dancer married to a dancer, I can wholly appreciate your feelings on public dancing (and the "helpful" folks you run into out there on the dance floor).

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    1. Holy crap! I had to do tinikling in Folk Dancing in college. That's not dancing, that's a rare form of torture. My shins hurt for weeks afterward.

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    2. I think the whole thing got started because the teacher's daughter had a pen pal from the Philipines so we had an impromptu social studies unit on the culture of the Philipines. Of course, that would never happen these days, as it would be off the standardized curriculum. ;)

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  6. I'm a total spaz when I dance so I try to keep it under wraps in the confines of the Grotto. However, I've been known to (rarely) bust a move at one of the dance clubs we frequent...but only if I can get the darkest dark corner to myself.

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