I am a 'Dance Mom'. All three of my daughter's dance at the studio around the corner from my house. Five different classes three days a week. I am dropping someone off for, ballet, jazz, or modern. 'Dance Mom’ doesn't quite hold the same, testosterone rich, gun slinging, busted teeth and bruised, imagery as Sarah Palin’s, 'Hockey Mom', but it as superficial titles go...it's fine. Perhaps a different sticker on my bumper, would make me cooler in the carpool line, but I’m not going to sit around and lament the lack of 'balls', in the bumper sticker stereotyping of my life. Considering my girls’ slight stature and the challenges they have faced with their health, it would earn me the 'Ungrateful-stupid Mom' sticker.
Dance will do fine, thanks.
In my youth I too took dance. In a marginal, can’t commit, kind of way. On and off through parts of elementary school, middle school, and maybe even high school, I dabbled in movement. I was never really a strong dancer. A late bloomer with a skinny frame, I couldn’t hold a candle to my Steffi Nossin trained peers whom, had the flexibility, and strength that made their movements look intentional and easy, but…I always loved dancing.
Twenty-seven years later, the feeling hasn’t changed. If music is playing, some part of my body is moving. It’s not uncommon for me to 'bust some moves' in my kitchen during dinner prep, or give a grumpy morning, a kick start by creating mini mosh pit with the kids. Like an old skin that I never completely shed, dance has remained an itch I couldn’t quite scratch. Standing with the other parents picking up their daughters, I would linger a little, longing for a turn in front of a mirrored wall. Standing just as little taller as the imaginary string pulled my spine straight and shoulders back, like my teachers had always described. I would imagine that the years of life experience and development made me more poised, confident, creating a more elegant and expressive dancer than in my youth.
So this past fall when the dance school offered an adult modern class, I decided to try it. They were about 3 weeks in when my schedule finally jived and I was able to attend. It was a small class and the attendees were mostly teachers that work at the school, and the owner. We started with 30 minutes of delightful stretching and strengthening moves that my body took to like the proverbial fish to water. Then we reached the second half of class when the actual dancing began. The imagined grace that I gained with age, quickly evaporated like the ether based day dream that it was. The cold wall of mirrors was way more reality then it could survive. Apparently my older more poised body, and more mature brain, in my double decade absence from dance, had lost their ability to communicate.
Like an immigrant who assimilates to foreign culture, my brain could no longer speak the native language that my body understood. I fumbled through the choreographed steps. Frustrated by my mistakes, but fueled by the challenge, I tried hard to tap into the muscle memories, past my cognitive limitations. So my brain and my body began their own little dance, which mostly consisted of my brain saying ‘Tsk, you can’t do that’ and my body replying ‘How do you know, I’m going to try anyway’. Depending on my body’s success, my brain would follow with a ‘See’ or a ‘You got lucky’. While that may sound self effacing to some of you, for me the internal conversation created a lovely friction between my mental self-doubt and physical freedom, so that every time I managed a move that I had told myself I couldn’t do, my spirit was lifted by the argument my body just won. I was hooked.
A couple months into the class the owner of the school, an exuberant, woman with a heart of gold, proposed that we perform in one of the school’s five dance recitals that will occur in May. Her idea was to invite back as many of the recent alumnus of the school to learn the dance and perform with us. I laughed, cause.... well really, what part of that wasn't funny. I dismissed it. In March, after a three week absence from the class, due to my 'rash of mystery', (see Trippin’ round the Sun), I dragged my beleaguered body back to class, to recharge at my secret oasis, only to find that the owner had made good on her promise. I was met with a room full college freshmen girls home on spring break, being taught the choreography for our dance recital.
I staggered through a class I didn’t recognize, attempting moves with a difficulty level that far exceeded what we had been practicing before. Bitter that the bodies around me still could speak so fluent, with only a modicum of effort. What was at first funny became down right depressing. By the end of class I felt conflicted as to whether I would attend another one, let alone dance in a recital. My self-esteem, might never recover. Wouldn’t it be more prudent to find a nice pilates class to kill myself in? Still I couldn’t escape the disappointment that Modern dance would no longer give me fuel for my inner rebellion. We finished the class by videotaping the teacher performing part of the dance, so that the alumni dancers could learn the routine for the recital.
I went home despondent and a little pissed off. Finance Guy was away on travel, so at dinner I vented to my two older girls. I described how hard the class had become, the challenge of dancing with girls half my age, and my anxiety of making a fool of myself at a recital. I showed them the videotape as evidence of the injustice. I didn’t hide my self-doubt. After my tirade was over, both girls agreed that I was most likely out of my league. Then Beanie said,
“Yeah Mom, you could never do that. It’s impossible, you should just quit”
Ouch, like a rude little Frenchman she had slapped me squarely in my pride. It was my inner doubts spoken through my child’s lips. To back down after such a gauntlet was thrown at my ego…well, that would be impossible. For better or worse my path was drawn like a line in the sand. I would be on that stage in May.
Now May is here and so is recital day. The last chance to escape my fate, was the prophesized end of the world that came and went yesterday. I have practiced as much as time, and my body would allow, while my brain has run amuck with fears of failure. Dreams of elegance, and grace have been replaced with the desire to not make a fool of myself in front of my peers, who have the sense to stay in the audience. However I continue to hold out a quiet hope, that when I’m standing on stage, and the music starts, that my body will have the last word. An long standing argument won with a resounding,
‘Yes I can. ’