I am NOT a ballerina – and not just because of a mid-recital-altercation that may have taken place when I was six (more on that below). I’m not a dancer. Not even a square dancer. I have mastered the bop-in-place. I can do the sluggishly-shifting-feet-in-a-circle slow dance too. That’s it. Oh, and the hokey pokey.
There are many reasons for my lack of dance expertise. Here are some:
I do not know my left from my right. I realize this makes me pathetic and lame, but it’s true. I’ve tried to learn them. I wore a watch on my left wrist; I’ve tried bracelets on my right. It doesn’t help. I’ve tried marking shoes, and I did the left-hand-makes-an-L trick on the steering wheel so often while learning to drive, my dad threatened to take away my permit. So when my dance teacher told me to move left, I often bumbled right.
I also have no rhythm. Again this is pathetic and lame and also still true. I also tried to work on this, but I’ve accepted it’s never going to happen. Clap to a beat? I can do this for about eight claps, then I’m lost. Since I’d hate for the other clappers to think I’m trying to mess up their rhythm, whenever group clapping is required, I fake it. Yes, I’ll own up to being a fake-clapper.
Despite these two all-important facts, I wanted to be a ballerina and when I was four my parents enrolled me in a class. I was adorable. All smiles and curls in my little slippers and tutus. And a disaster. I careened into the row behind me; I caused domino falls when I spun left instead of right. I did the moves for the second chorus of ♫the kitty cat song♫ during the first refrain. And I executed all of these moves without even a sliver of grace or coordination. Worst of all, I was oblivious to my disaster-dancing. I performed for every willing audience – often for less-than-willing-but-unable-to-escape audiences too, like the cashier in every store or the other mothers at the bus stop.
Somehow I survived for two years at the dance studio, but during my six year old recital, my collision course with catastrophe came to a sudden, dramatic, and public conclusion.
It should be mentioned these recitals were not small affairs. The dance studio rented out the auditorium of the largest local high school and sold out the tickets for all the shows. There were a few thousand people in attendance – including my parents, grandparents and a few aunts I’d begged to come see my “most-special-performance-ever.”
My costume was a light blue leotard trimmed with white sequins my mother had stayed up late sewing. The tutu had white polka dots and more sparkly sequins. Unlike the previous year’s costume — which featured a cat face I’d decorated with eye shadow and blush – this year I looked rather pristine as I stood in line with the rest of my class. We were waiting for the musical cue that indicated the curtains were opening and we should perform our swish step entrance as we skittered across the stage to the tape X’s designating our spots. We’d practiced this for a week. I had it down.
And then someone — we’ll call her “Meggy” — swished and skittered her way over to my tape X. What was I supposed to do? The music was about to start!
My tutu’d, six-year-old self knew how to handle this: I asked her, politely, to move to her own X.
I asked again.
She STUCK OUT HER TONGUE.
It was on! The music was starting and I could barely handle the steps from my own X, a different location was out of the question. My relatives were in the audience waiting to watch ME and here was stupid Meggy standing on MY X and making me look silly. We couldn’t both stand there – clearly something had to be done.
So I pushed her. gently
She pushed back. Hard!
What’s a wannabe ballerina to do? I slugged her. HARD!
She shrieked as she slid across the stage on her tutu’d butt. I claimed my X and smiled brightly at the horrified audience.
I could hear my teacher saying ut-oh words as the curtains were hastily closed. An agitated and flustered and trying-to-keep-her-voice-down-so-audience-wouldn’t-hear-her-holler instructor came out and told us how disappointed she was.
We were each individually positioned on our X’s and the curtained opened again. Forget the swishy-skittering steps, they were not taking any chances.
After the recital, my mother was asked with taunt politeness not to re-enroll me for the following year.
Thus ended my career as a ballerina.
But I walked away with two things:
1) The knowledge I was right. When the adults positioned us on the tape X’s for the second attempt, it was Meggy who was moved.
2) A home video of 6-year-old indignation and the ability to watch Meggy’s tutu’d butt slide across the stage whenever I want. It’s the most interesting part of the recital.
Was it worth it? I think so!