Didn’t Get Your Way? Yay!
When I was ten, I was watching a variety show on TV, when the camera flipped toward the audience, these kid dancers came cruising down the aisle, and TURNED THAT MOTHER OUT. And they weren’t those annoying Star Search glitter lemmings of the eighties. These little beasts were from the seventies, dressed in street clothes, and free-styling like tiny art gangsters. I almost tore my face off. off. I slow-mo screamed, “WHAAAAAAT…IIIIIIIIS…THAAAAAAAT?” My mom came tearing into the room for fear I had spotted a tarantula, or a polar bear, or an ax murderer in the house.
“What?! What is what?! Jeez, Lynda, you scared the %$#@! out of me!” (My mom is no June Cleaver…more like June Cleavage.)
“That! Them!” I tearfully demanded, pointing so hard at the TV, I practically dislocated my arm.
“Those kids? They’re dancers. Don’t ever scream like that again,” She barked as she exited the room.
“But how?! How do they do that?!” I ran after her, shrieking,
“They take dance lessons,” she sneered as she started to dial the phone.
I frantically depressed the disconnect button, “Dance lessons? Do they have those here?!” I faithlessly pleaded, figuring they probably only offered dance lessons on whatever magical planet those amazing creatures were from.
“Of course they have THOSE here. But I took dance as a kid and hated it. You’ll hate it too.” And she tried to drop it.
I freaked. Swearing up and down that I would NOT hate it. I was on fire for it. I couldn’t breathe without it. I might actually die if she didn’t let me take dance lessons.
She was willing to take the risk.
After four solid years of begging, bribing, and losing my twerpy sh*t I wore her down. She dropped me at my first class with the car still rolling. I sashayed into that studio, and knew in an instant I was made for the stage. They stuck me front and center during my very first class. Eat that, Mom! It was amazing.
And then it wasn’t.
See, most kids at my dance school, which was nationally renowned, had been taking lessons since they were three, and while I had some natural talent, I couldn’t retain combinations (counts of eight) like the vets. The more advanced the classes became, the more I was moved off center, then to the second row, then to the back row, which may as well have been six feet under.
I was devastated and started turning my attention to stuff that dulled the pain…parties, Aqua-netting my bangs straight in the air, and my boyfriend. Then, at the ripe old age of eighteen I got pregnant, and went from Broadway Baby, to Baby Mama.
Now, although I was just a kid, I took the role of mom very seriously, and hunkered down to give my daughter the most normal life possible. I worked hard, studied hard, and made sure all her needs were met. I even enrolled HER in dance class. Probably because I still couldn’t shake my love for shaking my thang.
So, in my early twenties I carved out a window every Thursday for “Funk Night” at First Avenue – dedicated to all things dance. It was my happy place. I would climb atop a giant cube and do my best Janet Jackson impression for hours. I parlayed that into performing with local groups at events and concerts, and ultimately, I auditioned for the first Timberwolves Performance Team.
But by then I was getting serious about my writing career, which I figured might be more promising than a gig as a Fly Girl, but when I wound up making the final cut of the dance team, I was hard pressed to let it go, until, at the end of a summer copywriting internship, and one too many mornings coming into the office exhausted, my boss said, “Lynda, choose. Writer or cheerleader.” The responsible mom in me picked the former and never looked back.
UNTIL I WAS 26! I decided to give dance one more try. And this time, I was gonna burn the boats. I signed up for an advanced jazz class at a reputable place in Minneapolis and walked in with my head held high. But this time, not only was the class comprised of kids who had been taking dance longer than I, they were ten years younger than I. All that pain came flooding back exponentially. I was so out of place, and so flustered that when the instructor stopped the music and announced, “Advanced jazz is not where we LEARN, pas de bourrée,” (a basic, which I DID know – middle finger) I nearly lost my bowels.
Instead, I took a water break and walked down the hall, then out of the building, then, in a heap, on Hennepin Avenue, I bawled my brains out. Not because I was never going to be a professional dancer, but because I realized I never really wanted to be a professional dancer. Dance had become the one that got away, and sometimes, the one that gets away, gets away for a really good reason.
I was done trying to make dance like me that way. It didn’t, but more importantly, I didn’t like dance that way. So, while I was initially crying out of humiliation, I was ultimately crying out of relief. Relief that I chose wisely when I chose “writer” over “cheerleader”. Because writing was a blast. It came much more naturally to me than dance. And it afforded me a great career, the ability to buy a house as a twenty five year old single mom, AND send my daughter to a private school. Plus, I can write until I’m one hundred without injury.
And while that dance teacher was a straight up C, I have forgiven her. (I forgive you, C. See?) Her shamey rudeness was about her, not me. And she was right. I had no business in that class. And that was cool. I’m cool. More than cool. I’m so cool that today I take a hip hop with kids WAY younger and WAY better than I, and it’s awesome.
Dance has blessed me beyond artistic expression. It taught me humility, patience, kindness, honesty, and most importantly, that you don’t have to get your way to be okay. Jazz hands!
WHEN DID THE UNIVERSE TELL YOU TO TALK TO THE HAND, AND WHEN DID YOU REALIZE IT WAS HANDING YOU A BLESSING?
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