Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Sing Sing Sing (in a red dress)

Sunday evening, May 31, is the occasion for The Red Dress.

At Nancy's dance recital, we perform to Benny Goodman Orchestra's famous song "Sing Sing Sing." It's iconic, immensely danceable -- pulsing and fast. According to my dance teacher, Danny Herman, at one point "Sing Sing Sing" was in three different Broadway shows at the same time. To me that affirms its popularity as a Show-Stopping Big Dance Number and its place in the Grammy Hall of Fame. Which I guess is why we get to "close the show" with it -- it's a big sweaty mess of a dance.

(I realize that an actual PHOTO of The Red Dress would be appropriate at this point, but I'm not there yet. Sorry.)

Being in a dance recital at age 38 was sort of strange. All these adorable little kids -- mostly girls -- are running around in white and blue sequined tutus, sparkly leotards, exotic jewel-toned scarf ensembles. All ages of females changing their costumes in a big, makeshift community dressing room next to the stage. There's me, not the oldest in the room, but pretty close to it. Okay, it all made me very self-conscious, I won't belabor that point. As soon as anyone dons a sparkly red costume that shouts "look at me!", a little self-consciousness is natural.

But I did feel like a happy little kid again backstage and on stage, and a lot of my self-consciousness melted into the darkness of the auditorium. And here's something that I realized that night. My lifelong love/hate relationship with a mirror disappears when I dance on a stage. There is no mirror to tell you what's wrong ... and I know that I do stuff wrong but I don't have to WATCH. I can almost RELAX. (Still working off nerves/adrenaline, but I'm getting better at that.)

On stage, body awareness takes over, and I go for it.

The Stage vs. The Studio: One is where you fall in love, the other is where you make the relationship work, and then they trade places back and forth.

A studio mirror is a friend. I need it, I want to know what's wrong, what's right, how it looks. I've loved and loathed that mirror. As my body slowly (slowly, slowly) gets stronger, I appreciate the mirror because it can show me where my work is paying off.

When I returned to dancing last August, I said I'd give it a year, to SEE if my dancing improved.

But don't I need to feel it, too?

Seeing is important and the only way to improve. Performing is fun -- and is a satisfying end to the play/work in the studio. It is where I feel it.

My next challenge is to combine the two: perform in the studio. See it, feel it.

But then I have to see myself. Sometimes that feels scarier than an imaginary audience of 1,000 people, sitting in the dark.

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