Thursday, November 3, 2011

In which I step (ball-change) outside my comfort zone

It all started rather innocently, months ago, after my daughter's dance recital.

One of the numbers was two-dozen adult women performing a tap routine during the show.

"You should totally do that," my husband urged.

"Do what?"

"Tap! Adult tap!"

I thought about it. A few good friends and I have daughters who all dance together, therefore we spend hours together over the course of the 9-month dance year sitting in waiting-room Purgatory making each other laugh and commiserating over the insane, smaller versions of ourselves. They're the only thing that make that useless time bearable, funny and sane.

I love those crazy broads, so the idea of spending an hour a week with them - without our children - doing something relatively active and fun was too good to pass up.

After rounds of, "Well, I will if you will..." we all signed on the dotted line and found ourselves in the studio with shoes that make snappy sounds on the wood floor.

I took one year of dance. At age 5. I can barely remember what I did yesterday, but I vividly remember two things from 36 years ago:

1. The teacher had us lie on the floor on our stomachs and then tilt our heads back and our legs forward, trying to get them to touch. I could not. I was not pleased.

2. I ordered my parents to not sit in the front row at the recital. So you know exactly where they were. I may nor may not have stopped in the middle of "Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear Turn Around" and bitched at them for breaking my very specific edict.

My dance career ended shortly thereafter.

However, I thought perhaps age 41 was a good time to make up for missed opportunities.

See, I am a musical theatre nerd of the highest order. I have a 700-song playlist on my Nano called "Curtain Up" - and those are just my favorite songs. The playlist contains no fewer than four cast recordings of "Gypsy", and a few measures into any song I can tell you which production it was from. Nerd. City.

I adore musicals and have ever since I saw the first national touring production of "Annie" at The Shubert Theatre in Boston in 1978. Ever since I heard the first five notes of the "Annie" overture (one of my favorites, see - who has a favorite overture?), I was absolutely hooked for life to the stage, but only as an audience member, never a performer.

Fat kid, remember? No courage to walk across the gym, forget about a stage.

So tap, which I admired in productions for years, seemed like something fun and new, and something definitely outside my comfort zone, and that's where the real growth starts.

After 9 weeks of tap class I have learned one thing:

Tap is friggin' hard.

Not that I thought it was easy, but I thought I would be a little better at it.

Here's the thing: You learn one step. Then they speed it up and it gets harder. Then they have you actually travel doing whatever you learned. Then they have you do it in the other direction. And then they add something else, making it a "combination," which is dance-speak for "Oh, yeah, here's something new and don't forget what we just taught you. Oh, and head to the left. Your other left."

Other things I have learned:

  • It's a good workout. As in, wear a sports bra and comfy pants. We sweat a lot. A lot. I know why dancers and thin and muscular.

  • It's a ridiculous core workout. With all the balancing, weight shifting, hopping and tapping, your core is working hard. From months of bootcamp, I thought I had decent core strength. Not so sure now.

  • My balance isn't as good as I thought. Again, there's a fair amount of balance work in bootcamp, so I thought I would be better. But I routinely find myself on one leg, flamingo-style, teetering off-balance in the wrong direction.

  • I am not light - or quick - on my feet. I am a runner. I am a bootcamper. I'm in pretty good shape. But damn if I can move my toes, heels and legs as quick as I need to in some combos, which makes my tapping sound not rhythmic, but more like a jar of change being dumped down a flight of stairs.

  • I am not as coordinated as I thought. I played clarinet (rather well, thank you) from age 8 through college. I was in marching band from high school through college. I could march and play music - from memory - at the same time. But dance in time? Not quite yet.

    My husband and friends think I'm being too hard on myself, but I really do stink. I am a first-born female. This kind of self-induced pressure comes with the birth order. Can't help it, believe me, I wish I could sometimes.

    I mean, I can run mile after mile. I can race. I can do all sorts of cool shit in bootcamp. So give me a 10K any day over a combo that has me quickly transition from a Buffalo into a Maxie Ford.

    However, I shall press on. It is actually fun. And my friends and I laugh a lot. And, best of all, this is an endeavor I would never have attempted a year ago. I would have been self-conscious about my appearance and would have missed out on all this fun.

    But now, pounds lost and confidence gained, it's a brave new world of trying new things and humility. And the Time Step.
  • 1 comment:

    1. So jealous that you get out to class every week! Sounds like a blast --- makes me think of "When Harry met Sally". :)

      And, who doesn't have a favorite overture? Mine is from Cinderella.