Monday, October 5, 2009

light up the sky like a flame

My dear friend Morgan and I went to see Fame tonight. Not much of a plot, but the dance numbers were fantastic! And before you chuckle, let me explain how much the original meant to me in my childhood and subsequent twenty-some odd years. When I was a little pigtailed girl (with huge bangs) in the eighties, all I really wanted to be was a dancer (or President. Or an astronaut, depends on the day). Not just a ballerina, mind you, though if I had been cast as Clara in the Nutcracker, I would have hung the moon. No, I was going to be an all-around dancer. And this was even before I had discovered Modern/Contemporary, but I'll get to that later.

Before I get to me as a dancer, let me discuss the original Fame for a sec. I was in love with that film as a kid. And I don't remember what year it came out, maybe 86? So I was clearly too young and I'm sure it didn't have much of a plot then either, but the magic of that movie, the passion of the dancers. God, I wanted to move like that! I wanted to live forever! FAME! *whew* Got caught up in the moment for a second there. Anyway, Fame the film and the subsequent TV show has a place in my young dancer's heart.

Now, I was a busy child, with a crazy mother who had me in enough activities for six kids (Stage mom, swim mom, volunteer mom, etc. You get the picture). But there was one thing I did that I loved and that was DANCE! I started at around 5 and I took any kind of dance you can think of. Ballet. Tap. Jazz. Highland (Scottish). Hula. Maori. You name it. I loved to dance. It was the one place I felt confident. The one thing I knew without a doubt I was good at, but it was also the one thing I felt truly free doing. All of my life, I've been in my head, totally in my head, caught up in too much thinking and over analyzing and criticizing. But dance class? That, my friends, is the one place you can't think about anything BUT the steps. You have no choice. And once muscle memory kicks in, you can lose yourself dancing. You just go. Unless you've ever trained formally, I don't think words will ever truly convey that feeling. The steps just come out. Your arms just move. Your abs contract and release. And you forget everything but pure movement.

And each dance form is different of course, but the sentiment is the same. If you train, perfect your technique, flexibility, and strength, focus on memory and mimicry, and then let go of all of that and really feel the movement, it's pure magic. There's nothing else like it.

In college, and by college, I mean community college AKA the place I found my skinny poor ass after high school, I discovered Modern Dance. Not Contemporary, that came later. But, Modern. You know, Twyla Tharp, Martha Graham, Merce Cunningham, Alvin Ailey. All these greats influenced what I discovered from one of the most influential women in my life and my favorite dance teacher of all time. She taught me that dance was more than the movement, it was passion and breath and feeling and music (and technique and strength and practicing until your feet fall off and your legs are covered in bruises and your heart is going to pop out of your chest. It's fucking fantastic.). Those years I discovered that being a true dancer meant inhaling the music and the exhalation is dance. Poetic right? It is. It feels like you are living poetry in each tilt, each contraction, each leap.

And it's a well known fact that dancers fall into two categories: turners and leapers. I was a natural leaper. I think that should tell you a lot about my personality. I love nothing more than the height and rush of flying through the air. I was damn good back then. I think had I applied myself, I really could have danced professionally. But, that's not the road I took and I refuse to play the "what if" game. No one is turning back the clock. And that's okay.

I couldn't find a picture of me dancing, so this one will have to suffice. This is a dancer from the Alvin Ailey Dance Company and this just rocks my world:


But good god do I miss it! Cut to 10 years later. I've danced on and off over the years, added Salsa and Hip Hop to my repertoire, dance Contemporary in France, bounced in and out of ballet and jazz classes. But, the truth is, I'm getting old. Don't groan. Okay, yes, 29 is young is regular land. But for a dancer, I'm ancient. Professionals are becoming choreographers or are planning their teaching careers at my age. And at no point have I come close to that. So what is an aging dancer to do? Classes for people my age are a mishmash of levels and are either asinine and boring (I mean, I'd still like to be challenged, even though my legs just don't go as high as they used to) or are half-empty and get canceled. If I want a harder class, I may have to take with kids half (or more) my age and that's if I can find one which fits in my work schedule. Oh, and did I mention I live in a small town?

Just give me few more minutes of bitching please.

When I lived in Hollywood, I didn't enjoy dance classes, though they were plenty challenging and easy to find. It was extremely competitive and non-collaborative. And that just wasn't an environment I felt creative in. And yeah sure, I wasn't there to be "discovered." I didn't care about Ms. Spears' casting for a new music video. I just wanted to dance. And I saw a lot more cat fights than I did dancing, I tell you. I eventually found a home in a hip hop class that a choreographer friend taught at a gym. And even that was unnerving because the fabulously flaming hot gay men would stand around watching you. I never felt fatter. But I had fun and, I think, that is ultimately the point.

But, I think that I thought I'd have an easier time transitioning to a small town. Perhaps I'd find a studio with heart and collaboration. Right? Well, it's just not that easy. But, every place has its own challenges. And I struggle every day with how to keep dance in my life. So what is an aging dancer to do?

I really don't know.

2 comments mean you love me:

guardling said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

I am so with you on this...when i was in colorado, i took classes at a studio, but it was teenagers and not challenging enough. Took class at the cc, those were alright, but there were beg and int classes mixed together. I would love to just take class, get my ass kicked, work up a good sweat, leave it all on the dance floor and just feel awsome afterwards...

andygirl said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

That is EXACTLY how I feel! See? Dancers get other dancers.

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