I remember those days vividly. Our moms would drop us off at the front of the school while they went to find a parking space. We’d run up the long steep steps of Ottawa High School, our arms loaded with bags carrying our outfits and shoes, our legs barely covered except for our leotards. We'd bustle in and then go in search of our meeting place. Sometimes it was in a classroom, other times it was in the cafeteria downstairs. We’d huddle there for the next hour or so with our group, changing into our costumes and looking again at our make-up. They asked us to wear blush and eye shadow because it looked better under the lights, we didn’t care what the reason was, we were 7, 8, 9-years old and we just thought it was cool to have blue eyes. Before we knew it they’d be coming to get us… “New York, New York” they’d announce and we knew it was our time to join the queue. They’d lead us to the backstage where we’d wait while other routines were finishing up. We’d be giggling, probably out of nervousness, and the directors would shush us… quiet girls, there’s a performance onstage. Soon we’d move from the backstage to the wings, which meant we were next. We could see the ballet number before us finishing up, the giggles turned into concentration as we went over the steps in our mind. We knew this, we’d be practicing for this moment for months, but counting out the steps calmed us anyway. Suddenly the music stopped, the lights went out and the group before us cleared the stage. It was our time. We hustled out and took our spots… 3, 2, 1 and the lights are on and Frank Sinatra is filling the auditorium. For the next 3 minutes we are the center of attention and at even 8 years old, I imagine this is what it must feel like to be on Broadway.
I started dancing at 3 years old. It was the one thing my mom wanted me to have, because it was the one thing growing up that she always wanted but didn’t get the chance to have. I don’t remember the days before dancing. To me, it was always a part of my childhood. It helped me in an innumerable amount of ways. Coordination being the obvious, but it also gave me confidence and it made me aware of both how far my body could be pushed as well as its limitations. And maybe most importantly, it enabled me to come out of my shell. I know many of you wouldn’t believe this now, but I was a very shy little girl growing up.
I continued dancing up until high school, when I decided to give it up in order to focus on other sports. I’m not going to spend time regretting that decision; I made it with the information I had at the time. However, if I could go back and tell the me of 1994 what the me of 2007 knows, I would press hard to find a way to keep this sport in my life.
Since high school I’ve dabbled in dance here and there, taking a class in college and then again after college through the community rec program in Waukesha. When Kira told me she was looking at joining an adult jazz class at a dance school in Wausau, I told her I wanted in.
Our first class was last night and within the first 10 minutes I remembered why I loved this so much as a kid. Dancing is my thing. It makes me feel alive and fills me with an unexplainable joy. It is challenging both physically and mentally. We learned a few sequences last night and after we practiced them a few times it was time to add them to music. There’s nothing like hearing that beat start, your heart racing, count it, 1, 2, 3, 4, turn on 5, pause 6….grapevine to the right….pirouette.... and chasse. When we get through the class explodes with delight. There are cheers of I did it! and you can feel the energy exuding from our bodies. As I asked Kira last night, I can’t help but wonder why I ever gave this up?
Do you have a thing? Something that makes you feel alive. If so, have you done it lately?