There are waypoints, if you will, on the path of life as a dancer … the first audition. The first job. The first show. The first featured role. The first pas de deux.
I fumbled my way onto this path with a fairly simple goal: basically, I just needed to dance. It would be enough to find myself a corps spot somewhere.
I never expected to find myself among the principal artists of any company, and certainly not now.
Life has a funny way of sneaking up on you, though. You find the thing that makes you tick, you keep your head down, you do the work … And maybe you find yourself in a place you never expected to be.
Gale Force is a brand-new company. They didn’t have to roll the dice on me: but apparently, when I auditioned, Shannon saw something in me that maybe I don’t always see. She made me an A-company dancer: which is to say, more or less, a principal. She handed me a solo piece, several featured roles, and a pas de deux.
When I got that email, back before we started rehearsals, I just about exploded (in a good way).
That said, my undying case of Impostor Syndrome definitely made its influence felt.
Part of me was all “I BELIEVE I CAN FLY!” Another part, of course, was like “CHECK YOSELF BEFORE YOU WRECK YOSELF.”
I didn’t exactly tell that second voice to GTFO, but I did ask it to kindly please step back behind the yellow line, sit down, and stop distracting the bus driver.
Needless to say, there were more than a few moments at which Impostor Syndrome stood up and said, “EXCUSE ME, WHERE DO YOU THINK YOU’RE GOING, MR. BIG STUFF?”
But basically I’m too much of a coward to say, “I think you should demote me out of this dance because I can’t learn,” so instead I had to actually learn the dances and go on being an A-company boy.
Anyway. The bus finally made it to its destination: the show.
We played two Saturday nights.
During the first date, on the 27th of July, we all caught a highly-contagious case of the Galloping Nerves … including your humble host, who never gets stage fright and thus had literally no idea what to do about it. Those nerves were multiplied by the setting sun during the first half and blazing lights that sat exactly at eye level during the second half, both of which meant we were essentially dancing blind, and by the lack of a stage monitor,which meant that at times we couldn’t hear the music.
Have you ever tried to dance a pas de deux when you can’t hear the music and have only had about four hours to learn the dance together?
In case you’re wondering, it’s about as stressful as it sounds.
Apparently it looked okay to the audience, but there were long moments that EM and I stared into each-others’ eyes and tried to look romantic as we attempted to figure out by telepathy where in the dance we even were.
Probably the only thing that saved us was the fact that we knew the order of the lifts (which is more important than it sounds: when your partner leaps at you, you’d better already know which arm is going where), and could remember which one we did last.
Well, that and the performer’s instinct to just go stolidly on in such a way that the audience never knows you’re completely lost.
The whole company trembled its way through the first show and came out on the other side genuinely delighted that nobody fell down or died. Sometimes, you just have to adjust your goals on the fly.
During the second show, everything changed.
A quarter of the way into the first number, whatever it is in my brain that loves performing and knows no fear once I hit the stage clicked on. I remembered that this is what I love; that this is where I live. My mojo returned.
The pas de deux came third on the program and was my second piece for the night.
We stepped out onto the stage, locked eyes and smiled as the music began, and something magical happened: which is to say that the pas de deux happened. We didn’t just know the order of the lifts: we knew the steps; we knew the story: and for those few minutes we lived the story, and the audience loved us.
When the most artistically challenging piece goes well, it’s easy to feel confident about the rest of the night.
Not to say that I didn’t make a single mistake. In fact, I almost knocked myself over during the jazz piece, and again during the final pas de trois (our portable floor gets slick in humid weather, and I should have re-rosined my shoes 😶). It just so happens that I’m really good at saving myself from potential falls. Likewise, I left out a step here or there, and probably added a few without even noticing, as is my wont.
But overall the show went well. My solo piece was staggeringly well-received even though I had to walk back some of the most impressive choreography because I was dancing on a sprained ankle. I neither forgot entire segments of dances nor swapped the order of phrases.
I also got a nice surprise when I first saw our bios: I’ve joined the faculty at FSB. I love teaching, so that’s a solid step in the right direction.
We have a faculty meeting on Wednesday: the first, I hope,of many faculty meetings to come in my life as a dancer and teacher of dancers.
A while back I realised that somehow, against all odds, I’ve become the person I wanted to be when I was there years old.
Or, well. I mean. I haven’t actually turned into a horse, a dinosaur, unicorn, a cheetah, or a giant shark.
But that three-year-old me that sat up in the balcony and watched the Russian dance in the Nutcracker and said, “I wanna do that!” … Well, that’s the me I’ve become. Which is actually only slightly more probable than transforming into a horse or whatevs, and honestly rad AF.
I’m old enough now to grok that the book or movie that is your life never coasts into the credits … Or, well, not ’til you die, and I’m pretty sure I’m still alive, philosophical wranglings notwithstanding.
But I do feel pretty comfortable saying that this feels, to me, like the close of the first chapter, the first section of the book, or maybe even the first book in the trilogy. Like, I’m standing here at the end of my origin story (or at least this origin story: perhaps the greatest human capacity is that of reinvention; of starting over) and looking out for that moment when you, dear reader, finish reading this sentence and turn the page.
- Though, come to think of it, I have been licked and nibbled by any number of horses, who undoubtedly then digested some of my skin cells, which then went on to become part of them, soooo … Win on that one, too, I guess 🤔