I have never been one of those lucky individuals born to dance.
I've stood against the wall, admired their gracefulness, the fluid way their bodies moved and the intricate steps they made look so effortless. I was envious of how easy they made dancing look, while all my attempts resembled a robot– slow, jerky, sporadic, off-beat and incredibly clumsy. I was self-conscious, concerned about what others would say, worried I may have jiggly bits dancing to their own beat. You name the fear, I'm sure it was on my list of "Why I should never dance."
I always wanted to take dance lessons as a child, but money was tight and the school choir was free, so my dreams of dance recitals and sugar plum fairies were squashed. Instead, I embraced my newfound love of singing. That foundation, the lessons learned in music and choir classes, and the vocal talent I was actually blessed with stayed with me over the years.
After graduating high school, getting married, having children and then discovering that I still could make time for myself, I decided to start singing again and began voice lessons. I was invited to perform with the St. Louis Show Stoppers. Even though it was considered a musical production, I wouldn't be required to dance – and that was great!
As my confidence grew, I auditioned for another show. Silly, silly me. I was recently cast in a production of Side Show. To my dismay and surprise, my second rehearsal required us to wear comfortable clothing for our dance numbers. I panicked. Dance? In front of people? I'm clumsy, as graceful as a cat running on ice and people will laugh at me. I thought to myself, what do I do? Do I call and get in with the pre-schoolers for intro to dance? Do they even allow 40- year-old moms to dance with pre-schoolers? Oh, my goodness, what if I fall on one and hurt them? Ok, this idea was not good.
One of my best friends, who happens to be one of those graceful, elegant, beautiful dancers I so admire, was also cast with me in the show. She assured me that she would help me and told me not to panic. I arrived for our rehearsals and watched our choreographer show us the dance moves for one of the numbers. My first thoughts were, this isn't too bad. I just walk, walk, walk, step, turn, walk, walk, walk, step, turn… then I bend forward, creeping, and smack! Right into another dancer. Then the moves got harder. There was jumping involved. Feet were flying. Everyone looked so perfect and there I was, limbs flailing in all directions, tripping over my own feet, turning when everyone was kick-ball-stepping, criss-crossing right when everyone was going left. I was sweating rivers. I was positive our director (whose hand was covering his mouth to hide his laughter and dismay) was regretting ever casting me, but I just kept trying. I'm not sure if it was sweat or tears in my eyes at that point but, still, I was trying. In frustration, I took out my smart phone, stepped behind everyone and just recorded them. After the rehearsal, all the ladies were high-fiving each other and smiling. My sad, semi-defeated self was swimming in a pity pool and thinking about the tub of chocolate ice cream I would dive into when I got home. Then, my best friend came over, smiled and said, "You will get this. You can do it." Because we've been friends for so long, her words stuck. I started to think that I could do this.
I got home, ignored the ice cream temptation, showered, slept, got up the next morning and started watching the video. Each move, I would duplicate, pause, rewatch, try again, over and over, until I could do the whole thing with music. Maybe, my best friend was right!
The next evening, I was deflated as my choreographer politely informed me that we would be learning another dance number but I was just going to be an understudy. (Really, I couldn't blame her and she did try to be kind, never once stating how dreadfully bad I was.) Luckily, because the individual who was supposed to dance in this number could not be at rehearsal that evening, I rehearsed and learned the entire dance number and by some miracle, the moves came easier. I wasn't tripping over my own feet! I could keep up with the cross steps, the toe taps, the Chasses, ball steps, Passe, and each time, my confidence grew. As my confidence grew, I got better! The choreographer was even openly smiling at me!
So, here I am, 40 years old, learning to dance on the fly and I am succeeding! I am noticing health benefits, too! I'm losing weight, toning, increasing my balance, increasing stamina and energy and I am even becoming a bit more graceful in normal activities. I do not call myself a dancer; however, I am learning. I am getting better each time, and for the first time in my life, I am not afraid to step away from the wall, to join in on the dance, to leave my fears and worries behind and to live. Maybe I will be dancing in all the numbers, maybe I won't, but I will never give up and they just might make a dancer out of me yet!