A Gentle Reminder
There are two singing ensembles in my area. One boasts 100 chosen-by-audition voices trilling out six-part harmonies. In performances the singers wear black-tie garb and are accompanied by a professional orchestra—with a harp.
Then there’s my community chorus. All you have to do to join this 42-member group is grab a folding chair off the rack and, occasionally, bring a snack to share. You’re sure to be welcomed by the director’s dachshund, which weaves around our feet during rehearsals.
In a way, we’re like the Pawsox compared to the mighty Red Sox. Or—in an analogy every dance teacher can understand—the rec kids to the comp kids. This, of course, does not mean we love singing any less. It only means that high notes (like home runs) are harder for us to hit.
Last fall we prepared mightily for our Christmas concert, going over and over sections and marking up our music with pencil. We’re a jolly, friendly bunch, sharing throat lozenges and laughs, but at dress rehearsal for the public concert, we perched stiff and breathless in tiers on the Methodist church altar. Our director raised his baton. “Savor every note,” was all he said. “Enjoy.”
No last-minute “Don’t forget to do this-and-that.” No fussing and fretting over performance points or technical details. Only a gentle reminder that it was time to put away the struggle for perfection and enjoy the show.
It was good advice. Our “giddy-yap”s were sprightly, our “fa-la-la”s on key. And when we came to the sing-a-long, the audience actually sang. Our director—a very wise man—flashed us a secret thumbs-up.
This month, I’ll be “directing” my dancers in our first competitions of the season. How many teachers will I see backstage drilling their troops, pounding out counts in endless linoleum hallways, with furrowed brows and wagging chins? I’ve been there myself, but this year I know what my final direction will be: “Savor every step. Enjoy.” —Karen White, Associate Editor
Not long ago, while I was leaving the garage to take Saturday morning ballet class at a downtown dance studio, an older couple rode the elevator with me. Both were in their mid-60s, graying, and they carried an extra 50 pounds between them. She wore the air of a woman who’d seen many children and grandchildren through colds, homework, and heartbreak. He sported a grizzled beard, a disheveled ponytail, and crooked glasses that slid down his nose. I noticed them because they seemed out of place in an area whose weekday bustle was largely muted on an early Saturday morning. The only significant pedestrian traffic at that hour was the trickle of addicts shuffling into and out of a methadone clinic.
Later, as I left my class in the main studio, I saw the two of them sitting on a bench in the hall in old workout clothes, dripping with sweat, street clothes in canvas shopping bags at their feet. I poked my head into the smaller studio and discovered they’d come from an Absolute Beginner Ballet Workshop class. I smiled and thought, “Whoa. You’ve really got to give it to them for having the courage and the chutzpah to do something like starting ballet at this age.”
The next week, back for another class, I spotted them again. Leaving their class, both of them looked happy and satisfied, if exhausted.
I was flooded with a sense of amazement, that dancing can and does afford so much happiness to so many people, of all ages, and shapes, and inclinations. And I was grateful to the teacher and the school for welcoming all of us—the no longer shiny new, the absolute beginners, the intimidated, the newly intrepid—to dance our hearts out. —Lisa Okuhn, Associate Editor