There is something about dance. There is a natural pull by us humans to want to move, to shake and shimmy our bodies. Perhaps it is because in moving to music we connect to spirit or to that time we floated freely in our mother’s womb tethered to her yet free to move, grow and kick without censoring or feeling self-conscious. Whatever it is there is something so freeing about getting up and shaking your booty as often as possible .
Dance led me to Mark. He could Hustle, Slop and Lindy Hop and was a great freestyle dancer and in me he found a partner on the floor and on skates. At Ballroom and partner dancing we excelled. We even took lessons but that is a story for another day.
There was a part of me that dreamed of another kind of dancing and that was performance dance. As a child I studied Modern Dance with a student of the great Jose Limon which I excelled at, but had a failed year long attempt at ballet at the Andre Eglevesky School of Dance. It was humiliating being demoted to the younger class because I was so awkward. I was built strong and slender and looked as if I might be a dancer but had flexibility problems even as a child. In retrospect, I think I wanted to take ballet so I could get a tutu in a bright color with sequins on it.
When I would go to the Ballet or to a Broadway musical or the Joyce Theater I would often be moved to tears by what I was witnessing and wished that it was me up there that I had the talent, the gift to dance like they did.
When I turned 50 I wanted to dance again. Dissatisfied with the offerings at the gym I enrolled in classes at Silva Dance one very long treacherous flight up in an old building just next to the Long Island Railroad Station in Rockville Centre.
Mark was all for this latest adventure because any kind of movement was a way for me to relieve stress and help address my constant flexibility issues and it also kept me in good shape for skating with him.
I started with an Adult Ballet class, an adult Hip-Hop class and a Modern Dance class. What I was doing in Ballet again I thought? I wasn’t any better at 50.
I was awkward and stiff. I dropped the Ballet class and chose another.
Theater Jazz with a tall stunning, curly-haired redhead by the name of Piper Arpan. Piper was destined for much bigger things than teaching at this little studio and she taught us each of the audition dances she had to perform for the parts on Broadway that she was going after. ( and one day actually got)
What a challenge she gave us. I was probably the least proficient in the class at anything we did.
But being in Piper’s class it somehow didn’t matter. She never judged, she helped. She taught, she patiently broke it down so that even I could eventually get some piece of the very difficult moves we did to numbers like “Billy Joel’s Big shot from Movin Out”, and “All that Jazz from Chicago” along with some moves she had to do when she auditioned for the Radio City Rockettes.
As a Theater Jazz dancer, I was a level just above pretty stinky and I was okay with that, except that I did have acting ability and Piper taught us that dancing is not just about the moves it’s about the heart and soul you put into it and part of that is acting.
My first recital (yes I did more than one) comes at holiday time, Piper choreographed our number, “Please come home for Christmas.”
I wrote down every single move, every single count, bought the CD, transferred the song to tape so I could stop and start it and at home played the song over and over and over again while I practiced my moves, trying to get the count, get it out of my head and into my body.
Mark heard that number by Bon Jovi a thousand and one times as I danced around the living room. He even walked around singing it as I kept practicing and playing the song, stopping and restarting. We laughed about it– a lot. And I am pretty sure he was hoping this would all be over soon so that we could listen to a different song.
It’s important to note that the Theater Jazz class was considered an elite class (what was I doing there?) and our numbers were much anticipated. I practiced and practiced. I just didn’t want to mess it all up and let everyone down. We were 3 adults and the rest of the class was teenagers.
Meanwhile Mark was both encouraging and amused by it all. His wife at age 50 is in just a few short weeks will be in a dance a recital
It was surreal. But he went with it.
The night of the holiday show arrives and Mark comes to watch his 50 year old wife dance her first recital since she was 8 years old. Mark even brings his best friend Steve to witness what I hope is not a complete disaster. There we sat all dressed in our holiday costumes. We were wearing (thankfully) black jazz pants, black tops, jazz shoes and Santa hats.
Slimming and forgiving.
Before the show begins Piper gives us a pep-talk, which as it turns out is excellent advice not just for a dance recital but for life and worth remembering.
“Don’t worry if you mess up, no one but you knows what your are supposed to be doing, just keep going, don’t crash, stay in character and smile. Do your best to end together.”
It was over in a flash and I think I did okay. I went left when everyone went right one time, but I heard what Piper said and at the end when everyone clapped I caught Mark and Steve out the corner of my eye, “Two thumbs up” and a big smile flashed across Mark’s face.
When we left Mark (who was never one to hand out fake compliments) said, “You were pretty good. All that practice paid off and your enthusiasm showed, it looked like you were having a great time.”
I was honey, Thanks. I really was.
Who could ask for anything more?