My dancing career Part 1

My dancing career started when I was about seven years old. I don’t think that ballet was a very accurate name for the classes I attended, since the most difficult thing we did was stand still with our arms over our heads (although standing still is actually quite challenging for primary schoolers.) The highlight of the year was the recital, the most exciting part of which was getting to dress up in a costume. Much to our chagrin, tutus were reserved for the big kids who actually knew real ballet steps, but any costume was a good costume. Of course our mothers had to sew the designated outfits, which were as elaborate as a portable Singer sewing machine could accommodate. Exotic costumes were very important because we didn’t actually do much on the stage so there needed to be something for the audience to look at. One of them was a bizarre Japanese ensemble with a weird head piece that looked like ear muffs. I have no idea what ‘dance’ this was supposed to accompany.

Once I got to high school, I added Jazz dancing to my repertoire. This was a big mistake because Jazz dancing doesn’t have a standard set of steps that get drilled into your brain by endless repetition and have recognizable (although French) names. Au contraire. Jazz dancing is more ‘creative’. This means you follow along with some random movements that the choreographer has decided best interpret the music she has chosen and try to do your best to get your feet and arms to remember them. Needless to say I was never in the front row of those recitals, and was mostly relegated to the equivalent role of ‘person in coffee shop’. However, I do believe I was an excellent foil for my cohorts as anyone would look like Martha Graham next to me.

I also had a brief brush with tap dancing. The reason behind this is long lost in the selective amnesia that trauma sometimes induces. This sojourn was part of a one-night only command performance in the High School auditorium. I must have borrowed the tap shoes as I am sure I never owned a pair. As it turns out, tap dancing isn’t really that hard if you stick to the basic steps (shuffle, shuffle, heel, toe, shuffle, repeat…). Our little number was performed to the optimistic accompaniment of “Put on a happy face”. To get into the whole ‘spreading sunshine’ frame of mind, someone (probably the same person who corralled me into my tap dancing debut) decided we should wear bright yellow dresses. Since we were way past the age at which we could press our mothers into costume service, we had to make them ourselves. The pattern had a short inverse-pleated skirt, a halter neck with wing colour, and buttons down the front. I think there was also a narrow two-tone contrasting belt. If you don’t know anything at all about sewing, this is pretty much the equivalent of performing a reverse 4 ½ summersault in pike position from a three metre diving board. But that was okay, the effort would not be for naught: we could always wear the dress again. I’m sure you know how that worked out.

Several years later, I returned to my ballet roots and started taking classes with the objective of earning my official Royal Academy of Dance credentials, which surely would be a route to fame and fortune. But that’s another story.