A dance teacher’s “do before I die” dreams
By Diane Gudat
Not too long ago, I finally got around to watching the movie The Bucket List. Watching those two grumpy, confused old men decide what they had left to do before their days ended got me thinking about what I’d put on my own list. Here goes.
1. I was never a naturally limber dancer. As a kid, in ballet class I’d watch the girl next to me slide her slender leg down the barre to suspend herself in the perfect split while I struggled to get my chubby leg on the bottom barre. Once, just once, before I die I would love to do a full straddle split. If I were to have any sort of enhancement surgery in my life, it would be to retool my body to allow me to attain this level of stretch.
I even considered getting myself placed permanently in this position, but then I realized that I would eventually need a special wheelchair at the nursing home, which would require the attendants to push me sideways down the hallways like a sand crab. In the end, it would also require a custom T-shaped casket. Maybe just a good right- and left-leg split would be enough to satisfy this wish.
2. A back handspring is also something that I would love to experience. I know everything about them and have taught hundreds of people to do them, but I have never done one myself. I think this stems from a fear of landing on my head and losing the small amount of brains I was given at birth. Now that fear has been coupled with a terror of breaking every bone in my aging body. At one point in my life I was lucky enough to experience a full back flip in a harness on a trampoline. The exhilaration was amazing. I am still envious every time my students run full force down the acrobatics mat and flip themselves through the air. I have informed my family that if I am ever diagnosed with something terminal and have nothing left to lose, I will let them know by doing a standing back handspring in the middle of the living room.
3. Every summer my family and friends attend the Demolition Derby at the Indiana State Fair to witness my dance teacher friend Deb Collier’s only son drive a car to its absolute death. The noise, the crowd, the crunching all take me back to my youth when my father (also the town’s funeral director) ran the ambulance service at a small racetrack that featured figure-eight races and demolition derbies. Those summer nights were filled with snow cones and fun. I remember sitting in the stands with the dust and the noise and thinking how brave and crazy those drivers were.
I know as a dance teacher I should be more interested in the type of derby that fits on my head, but I can’t help myself. I imagine myself in a sleek, pink leather jumpsuit, rhinestone helmet, and great boots sitting in my red Ford Windstar (which has been spray-painted pink) and beating it to a bloody pulp. It seems like such a good outlet for frustrations, and with the same roar of the crowd I imagine one would receive when performing at Radio City Music Hall, it would be such an ego booster.
Besides, the event is always followed by amazing fireworks choreographed to music, and who doesn’t love that? And if things didn’t go my way, I’m pretty sure I could still see the fireworks from the back of the ambulance.
4. I once entertained the idea of attending Clown College. I remember visiting the Circus Museum (part of the Ringling Museum of Art) in Sarasota, Florida, as a child. I was impressed by photos of the Bearded Lady, the Elastic Man, and Tom Thumb. Since I’m basically normal in appearance and stature, the next best thing I could aspire to be as part of the circus was a clown. I imagined running away to join the circus, living in a train car, and popping out of a tiny car with 10 or 20 of my clown friends. Since then I have scaled back my dream to doing balloon art, attending some improvisational comedy workshops, and doing standup comedy at open mic nights. And why join the circus when my life feels like a circus most days anyway?
I imagine myself in a sleek, pink leather jumpsuit, rhinestone helmet, and great boots sitting in my red Ford Windstar (which has been spray-painted pink) and beating it to a bloody pulp in a demolition derby.
5. A few years ago on New Year’s Day my neighbor fulfilled one of the things on her bucket list by taking a “polar bear dip” in the local reservoir. She managed to convince the other three members of my family to join her. I stayed home. They literally had to break through the ice to get the job done. I admired their bravery but have no desire to jump in icy cold water. Ever.
Instead, I would love to go to a resort where you run to a hot tub through a fresh blanket of clean, white snow. Then, while sitting in absolute warmth and comfort, you can see your breath. I picture a beautiful spa attendant waiting with a pre-warmed robe at the edge of the hot tub when I’m finished. I keep waiting for a dance convention or teacher’s workshop to offer this as an optional class so that I could attend without guilt and claim it as a tax deduction.
6. Earlier in my life I thought I would love to be famous. I think most dancers do.
Never having had a big performing career, I often wonder what it would have been like to star in a production, appear in a TV series, or be recognized walking down the street. Although I would love it if someone called me tomorrow with that big break, reality has forced me to shift my original concept about this item on my list. Now I think it would be really great to dance on The Ellen Degeneres Show during the warm-up and have Ellen see me and invite me back to dance for her during the real show. I bear a slight resemblance to Ellen and I think that if she ever throws her back out again, with smart camera angles and the appropriate wardrobe, I could be her “dance double.”
7. For a large part of my life, I’ve harbored a desire to be a writer. At my high school I took a class called “English Humor,” which was paired with a second-semester creative writing class. Aside from drama and technical theater arts, these two classes were the most enjoyable and memorable of my high school years. (I tried out for cheerleading and dance team, unsuccessfully. Ironically, that very same dance team came to our studio for choreography right after I didn’t make the cut, and I was the one who worked with them.)
It was in writing class that I discovered a safe outlet for my frustrations and a budding sense of humor. I did not, however, enjoy the grammatical aspects of the work. I would constantly receive an A for content combined with a D for grammar. At the end of the year my teacher was perplexed about what grade to give me for the course. I gave her an arrogant teenager smile and said, “If I were a professional writer, I would have an editor.” She agreed and gave me the A.
Now I do have an editor and you are reading one of my dreams. Check this one off my bucket list!