Dance Recital

I love to dance. When I am somewhere where rock and roll is blaring, and everyone is dancing, and I’m not, I almost feel physical pain. I watch everyone else sitting and calmly making conversation, and I think, can’t they hear it? How can they just sit there? I try to pretend to participate in the conversation, but all I can think is…please….there’s music out there. Let me out.

I got that feeling during the finale of my daughter’s dance recital. I was all right during the rest of it. But suddenly, when Sargent Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club band was playing and 70 people on-stage were jumping up and down in time to the music, Mary O’Brien was wearing a smile as wide as the auditorium, and you know what they are doing back there in the light booth, I had to grip the edge of my seat to stop from joining them.

Dance recital is a ritual that every year I dread and then find myself enjoying after all. My daughter has taken dance for nine years now, and the recital comes at the same time that everything else does. The D.A.R.E. graduation, the end of school concert, the last basketball games, the school plays, the church picnic. It’s the last event before the comparative freedom of the summer.

Do you remember when time got so frantic? My real fantasy these days to is be a kid again, and be bored. I have this vivid picture of lying on the lawn on a summer day, chewing on a piece of grass, watching the sky, and wishing, in a drowsy sort of way, that I had something to do.

But now, as an adult, there are occasions when you are forced into doing nothing. I fight them. I never go anywhere without a book. I have work related regulations on my bureau, just in case. I have a computer manual to study, and a long “to do” list every weekend. I know I will never complete the list, but a plan comforts me.

But there at the dance recital, you have to just sit, and listen, and watch. There is no real plot, so you are not even forced to focus as much on the dances as you would if you were watching TV. It is unlike most peoples work; where it is your mind, not your hands or your back, that is owned by the company for the eight hours or more you put in each day. Here, your mind is temporarily left with nothing it has to do. Except spin on its own paths.

So, you can watch the children. It is the littlest ones that are the most intriguing, because, they have not quite learned the formal dance steps, and so you can see bits of their personality as they stand on the stage. There is the little girl who drops her headband. You suck in your breath for a second, wondering if this will be one of those traumatic embarrassing moments that she will re-live time and time again. And you let it out, when you see her shrug. This kid won’t be defeated by the small stuff.

There is the very little girl who clearly does not have a clue what she is doing out there, but is nevertheless just pleased as punch. That one is a future actress. She already has stage presence.

The dancers themselves are a varied bunch. Some are beautiful, graceful, and poised, perfect in all their motions and a joy to watch. But there are others, not nearly as good, that nonetheless captivate you as well. There is something in the looseness of their limbs, and the clear joy and energy they are putting into the dance that is a real pleasure to watch even if they don’t have technical skill or a perfect figure.

My husband slips out. Surprise! He has found a juggling buddy during intermission. I don’t want to miss the really good dancers, so I stay and watch all of it. He makes it back just in time to see my daughter’s second dance.

For years, my own daughter had danced with her eyes sidewise on all the other dancers, duplicating what they did, just a half beat later. I recognized the look on her face. It was the same expression of dogged determination that she had when was 7 months old and watching her brother walking. I can’t do it now, but I AM going to learn how. Then, one year, to our amazement, she started to look pretty good up there.

“Do I look OK?”, she asked me anxiously before the dance.

Did she look ok? She was dressed in a red fitted outfit with Turkish balloon pants with gold lace. Her hair was drawn tightly back, and her makeup carefully applied.

“You look like a porcelain doll”. I said.

She did look good up there. I left feeling relaxed, and I realized something. Though the hour of enforced idleness, in a dark, overheated, auditorium, I had briefly re-captured a slice of temporary freedom. It was not my dream of endless summer with no obligations, but for the moment, it would do.

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