It’s my junior year of high school, and a catastrophe occurs: I cannot be in BOTH intro to calculus AND varsity choir. As much as I would like to drop intro to calculus, I need it for my honors degree. I am not alone in this mess; Sara Geiger is also in both classes. Somehow, a miraculous solution is revealed: Sara and I are placed in…SHOW. CHOIR.
Jazz hands!!! Step-ball-change! More smiles, more smiles, more smiles!
I had always known I had the VOICE for show choir – and the hair - but I never thought I could have the MOVES. I had never taken a dance class before, and when my sister took me to gymnastics as a child, I left in tears after they demanded a reverse somersault. The pressure! The humiliation! I had, of course, auditioned for Show Choir, which is the penultimate choir experience, but had not made the cut. But now, here I was, by a fluke, by the grace of God, I didn’t care how, but I was IN!
And now that I have been given this opportunity, I am not about to blow it. I practice and practice and practice some more. I stay late with my girlfriends who patiently go over the dance steps that seem to come so easily to them, but are so challenging to me – you know, the girl who had been branded a ‘bull in a china shop’ by my father for one-too-many glasses knocked over in the house, the girl who was about 2 inches taller and 50 pounds heavier than almost every boy in show choir, the girl who had begun to believe that she ACTUALLY had 2 left feet…
In spite of my perceived and questionably earned reputation of gracelessness, I TRY. And you know what? I get it. I get every step, and I am actually having FUN while singing and dancing! My dreams of BEING Olivia Newton John and Whitney Houston all at once don’t seem so unachievable after all!
I spend my Junior Year singing and dancing – “Goodbye Joe, me gotta go, me-oh-my-oh” “you will be who you want to be, you, can choose whatever heaven grants. As long as you can have the chance, I swear I’ll give my life for you. No one can stop what I must do, I swear I’ll give my life…for you.” “start the car I know I whoopee spot where the gin is cold but the piano’s hot!” it’s a wonderful year.
At the end of my junior year, we have tryouts for Show Choir, and although the unspoken rule is that once you are in, you are in, does it hold true if you got in by a fluke?
In any case, I am confident that my hard work and my voice will earn me a position. I got better and better over the past year. I go into the audition confident, and I nail all the dance steps and the song.
After auditions, we wait. You know, that horrendous waiting period where you pretend not to really care, but you really, really do? Where you tell your friend, I’ll be happy with whatever I get, but you both know that this is a bold-faced lie?
Finally, the list is posted fro all to see. We crowd around it.
- Andy Smith
- Ryan Steffen
- Jennifer Rumbach
- Leah Robberts
- Sara Geiger…
Where’s my name? Where is my name!?
Heart sinks. I try to fight back tears. I’ve been demoted to Varsity Choir.
I find our choir director, Mr. Dreamcrusher, in his office. Like most of the girls, I used to like Mr. Dreamcrusher, who is only about ten years older than us, young and cool. Unlike many of the boys in high school, he is taller than me, and mature. He is funny and smart, and even though he is gay, I’d fantasized about a torrid forbidden teacher-student romance in which he’d sweep me off my feet, because I was the one woman he couldn’t resist.
“I don’t understand…I…I got all the moves. I thought I was good. I thought I would be in show choir again this year.”
“You got all the moves, but…"
He looks at me as if I should know how that sentence is going to end. I don't thought. Finally, he sighs and said, "Yes, you got the moves, but...well, some people just look better dancing than others, Rachael.”
Some people just look better dancing than others?
Some people just look better dancing than others???
I feel as though I have shrunk to the size of the tip of his pencil, and then I feel as though I am not even that big, but just a fleck of eraser dust…Mr. Dreamcrusher erased my name from the show choir roster, and in one fell swoop, because I am young, and I believe what he says, he erases what little self-confidence I had built up.
I want to disappear.
I love singing too much to give it up, and so I take my place in Varsity Choir my senior year, and of course, I am ok.
I head off to DePauw University, where my singing talent is encouraged and recognized. During our freshman year, we are required to take one phys-ed class, and I’m thinking swimming or tennis. Maybe fencing? What’s that on the list? Ballroom dancing? I look at my advisor who is patiently waiting my decision. I claw my way through a sea of “some people just look better dancing” and I muster all the guts I can and I say…ballroom dancing.
I am taller than my dance partner. I want to lead instead of follow. I have to turn off the voice in my head that clamors, you can’t dance! You don’t look GOOD dancing!
My professor is incredibly encouraging, and I find that I can feel the rhythm, and I can learn to follow – as long as I have a strong partner. My high school choir room becomes a dusty memory.
At DePauw, I get cast in operas, plays, and musicals. I sing, act, direct and…dance. I’m the Witch in Into the Woods, and I play Sarah in a dance-heavy show, the musical Company by Stephen Sondheim. It is my junior year at DePauw, and I am working with this same dance instructor from my freshman year. I learn every single step and I dance and sing and smile and you know what?
I look good!
I do a kick-line with the rest of the ensemble and we get applause every single night as we swing our legs to the music.
And each time I kick, I am thinking, take that, Mr. Dreamcrusher! And that!
I found my way back to the dance floor, and I haven't left since. And more and more, I don't even care how "good" I look dancing...I just care about how much fun I am having!
So here's my challenge for you: find your favorite dance song, turn it up ALL. THE. WAY. And just dance!!!