A Time to Tap

My favorite tap shoes.

My favorite tap shoes.

A million moons ago I taught tap.

I was the kid in middle school and high school who was always in dance classes.  I was the kid who kept taking dance classes even as other students dropped out.  I was the kid who competed in dance.  I was that kid.

My specialty was tap.  I loved tap dancing – the rhythm, pace, sounds – all of it.  And I was pretty good at it.

In my 20s, I was approached by a friend to teach tap at her studio.  I was a young pup, and with my schedule, it was easy and fun.  I taught for her for quite a few years, but when I was pregnant with our second son, I was put on bed rest.  I wasn’t allowed to teach tap – or do much of anything for that matter.  After Squishy was born, I did not go back to teaching tap.  I really didn’t miss it that much.  My hands were full with a three-year-old and a newborn.

But, in the summer of 2012, I was approached by a former dance student of mine named Lacey.  She was in her second year of running her own dance studio, and wanted to talk to me about a few things.

I stopped in and she sat me down and asked me to teach tap for her.  She said all of the right things to convince me to teach: that I was enthusiastic, that she looked up to me, that I was a great tapper and that I was hilarious.

She played the funny card.  I was hooked.

I taught classes at the studio all last year, and realized that, yes, I did kind of miss it.

At first, the mirrors were daunting.  I wasn’t used to seeing my full self in floor to ceiling mirrors.  Do you know what this can do to someone’s self esteem?!  Scary times!  Those mirrors helped motivate me lose weight.  Really.

I also wasn’t used to tapping for three to four hours in a night.  After teaching angelic high school students English all day, tapping until the sun was in bed was a hard transition for me.

Recital time!

Recital time!

But I did miss a few things about teaching dance. First, I missed the kids and how entertaining they were.  Fixing hair bows and tying tap shoes and consoling little girls who missed their mommies was something I was not accustomed to being a mom of boys.  I also missed the thrill of seeing their dance steps finally click – those “I got it!” moments.  I missed choreographing and perfecting recital dances.  But what I missed most of all was me.  I know it sounds strange, but all the memories flooded back about how much I loved tap dancing and who I was when I was knee deep into shuffles, flaps and wings.  I had found a part of me that was lost; a part I truly missed.

Teaching tap again has made me a better person.  It amazes me how life can be a series of reinventions, but sometimes it is important to look back to help remember, reflect and refine today.  Dance does that for me.

My flowers from the recital and my happy dance-teacher face!

My flowers from the recital and my happy dance-teacher face!

On the day of the recital, I told Lacey how important the year of teaching for her had been.      I told her how I found a piece of myself I thought may have been lost forever.  I thanked her for what she had given me – a chance to find a hidden side of myself I had thought was long gone.

She said these words to me: “You made my year special and memorable. I couldn’t have done this without you. Thank you.”

Maybe we all find ways to find ourselves.

Gotta love the dance.

Do the Presidential Debate Dougie

Disco inferno with the healthcare strut, the economy twirl and, the ever popular, family values jazz square.

This past Wednesday was the ever famous (or infamous) presidential debate.

For the first time in my adult life, I didn’t watch them.  Instead, I mused as to what might make the debates more intriguing to watch.

I decided a dance off would be a better debate.

Here is my Facebook status from Wednesday night:

Oh, what a wonderful world.

In a dance off, each candidate could pick a popular dance move to perfect.  I am sure President Obama could rock it out with some of the latest moves, like the Dougie or the new Gangham Style.  And Mitt Romney might nail down a few moves such as The Electric Slide or even a country line dance to try and win over his Southern voters.  This would allow them both to loosen their ties and get groovin’.

Afterward, pros from Dancing With the Stars could come in and work with each candidate.  The prerequisite would be a patriotic tribute to the USA, and ties and stick suits would be tossed out in exchange for any silver lame, sequined costume with an American feel encompassing the good ol’ red, white and blue.  Each would have to perform an extensive tango, salsa and swing dance (for those voters who are still swinging on the fence).  The candidates would be judged on their technique, skill and comfort level.  There could even be a text vote for the best dance candidate.  Go star-spangled sequins and spandex!

After the Dancing with the Stars portion, the candidates would be added into a Broadway-style dance competition.  Talented Broadway choreographers would work with Mitt Romney to bring his own version of Patrick Swayze to Broadway’s might-be-produced Dirty Dancing.  After all, nobody puts Mitt in the corner.

Barack Obama would be introduced to the Broadway revival of Xanadu.  He would have crucial tap dancing sessions a la Gene Kelley as well as roller-skating stylings from Olivia Newton John.  Especially since roller-skating builds family values AND is part of a healthy lifestyle.

The final portion of the dance off would be the freestyle.  Each candidate would have to design a dance to represent America’s diversity.  The dance must be at least two minutes in length and should include, but not limited to, the Macarena, the twist (for the baby-boomers), the sprinkler (because who doesn’t like the sprinkler) and the running man.  Hey, even Mitt’s moonwalk and Barack’s Dougie might make for a standing ovation.  BTW, the Glee dancer is Harry Shum Jr.The celebrity judges would be:       MC Hammer (because we can’t touch this), J-Lo, Madonna, Conan O’Brien,  Jimmy Fallon (because he is my fav), the awesome Asian dancer from Glee and the mighty George Lucas because if George Lucas is there, it is a must-see, epic event.

It would be epic indeed.

Jazz hands, Go-go boots and a State of Memory Loss

There are some days when I am many people. Today is one of those days.

This morning I was a mom. I fixed lunches, got backpacks ready, made coffee (for me!) and put clothes out for my dudes to wear to school.  I forgot to take the coffee with me.

This morning (and until 2:30) I was a teacher. I stopped at the local donut shop (and, if I must say, the best donut shop this side of the Mason-Dixon line) to pick up two dozen scrumptious and oh so healthy treats for my first period class. I gave three exams today, graded countless essays, backed up my Mac, complimented many students on end of semester projects and edited two exams to give tomorrow.  I also spent over 30 minutes trying to find my car keys so I could leave the building.

This afternoon I was a choreographer. I made up an audition combination in the car while driving from my district to my husband’s.  I put the jazz hands, jazz squares and grapevine steps together along with other tried and true audition moves for the next musical I will be choreographing. I taught over 60  teens the combination – still in my work clothes – with enthusiasm and energy that I wasn’t aware I had.  I was so into it that I left my phone in the auditorium.

This evening, I am tired. I can’t remember anything that I had planned to accomplish tonight. I am aggravated about my phone and all I can think about are jazz hands and Go-go boots. Plus, I keep remembering the look of anticipation, nervousness and desperation on those kid’s faces. I was once in their shoes, so I hope the director will cast the show with care. If he doesn’t, I may put my foot down.  After all, I am the show’s choreographer and he is my husband.  This is our 10th year of working together on shows. But the funny stuff that goes along with a husband/wife team (think opposites – I am the goofy one, he is the serious one, or I am good cop, he is bad cop) will have to be for another post.  I can’t seem to remember the stories right now.  All I know is that I complained enough about the phone so he went back and brought it home.  What a nice director.  Jazz hands.

Where, oh where, did my iPhone go?

Finer Things

Do you remember hearing the Steve Winwood’s The Finer Things song?  Well, it is one of those songs that touches my heart, brings me back to high school and, even, makes me wonder why I would have ever owned a pink unitard.

I did an interpretive dance to this song.  Hopefully, you did not spit out your coffee or choke while reading the last line.  Hence, it is true. I was interpreting that song like it was my job.  To add more sugar to your coffee, I wore a pink unitard.  For dancers, we know that this is an entire body covering, shoulders to ankle leotard.  Sexy?  Not really.  Add in the silver leg warmers, the silver Flashdance belt, and the silver bloomer-type bottoms and you have me circa 1987.  Looking back, I am not proud of the outfit choice, but at that time, I thought it was awesome.

Interpretive dancing aside, I really liked the song.  I heard it first at a church camp I attended called Pennington. When people say church camp is for church and that is the main reason teens want to go, they have never been to church camp.  Church camp is a dating mecca.  Plus, it is a great place to meet new people (aka hot guys) and that is where I met my lifelong friend Erin (who is a guy, by the way).

This morning, The Finer Things song came onto the radio.  Which is strange considering the song was released in 1986 and I wasn’t listening to an 80s channel.  Then I thought, damn that pink unitard and interpretive dance stylings of my younger self.

Sometimes I would like to just be able to groove out again to The Finer Things.  Or, maybe I will just by something cool off of Etsy and call it a finer thing.  Hmmm.  I wonder where that pink unitard is…

Keep shining through

Footloose a second (or third, or fourth) time around

The saying is “six degrees of Kevin Bacon.”  It is turning, for me, into “six degrees of Footloose.”

As a kid, I love, love, loved the movie Footloose.  Kevin Bacon was so cute with his spiked hair and his dance moves in his signature yellow VW bug jamming to the Police.  Kenny Loggins songs fluttered through the film and made us all mimic the different dance moves.  We all loved Ren.  We all despised Ariel’s dad.  We all felt that Ariel looked like she was 40.  But, we all cheered at the end.  Loved it.

Many moons later, or over 25 if we really want to get technical (hey, I was young when the first one came out – I didn’t even have a training bra), Footloose returns to the big screen.  I am a little anxious thinking about it.  I don’t want it to ruin the original, although I HATED the lead female in the original film.

I remember when we watched it – first at the movie theater and then on our VCR.  It was the beginning of “break-dancing” and “line-dancing” and more.  It directly faced the issue of religion versus dancing (similar to the ongoing debate of rock-n-roll versus religion since the 1950s).

Footloose has a lot of history in my marriage.  I know that sounds strange, but I have choreographed the musical Footloose for two different high schools, one being where my husband is the drama director.  For a two full years in my adult life, Footloose was all I could think about. Everybody cut, everybody cut.  Yikes.

And now, the fateful opening night of the revival film (I say revival because even the car looks the same) and I am already singing, “Let’s hear it for the boys” in my head.

Kevin Bacon – you will always be Ren to me.  Everybody cut Footloose.