I remember the moment my parents asked me if I wanted to take dance lessons. I was holding myself up between the couch and Daddy’s chair, twisting my legs back and forth while pointing my toes. After the question was posed, I stopped my leg twirls, stood up, and titled my head, people DO that? My little three year old mind had been blown. I was so excited to actually learn how to dance.
I went on to dance at a VFW hall with Miss. Pat until I was five. I got sick with e v e r y t h i n g when I started Kindergarten, so dance took a back seat. I started Girl Scouts, did Cheerleading, Basketball, Softball, and Student Council. But, by the time I got into Middle School, I rejoined Miss. Pat’s little dance group and stuck with it until I graduated High School. It had been easy to fill my time with other activities, but dance was important to me.
I also remember the first time I saw my cousin in a play. It was Peter Pan and I thought it was awesome. She was a pirate AND a mermaid! She made part of her costume: she took an old white shirt, turned it inside out, and cut it — voila! a pirate shirt. From that moment I wanted to be on stage and perform in plays.
Despite my love and passion for dance and my deep desire to perform, I was beyond nervous to audition or put myself out there. I had lived in a bubble. I lived two blocks from my small Catholic school and didn’t participate in any town activities. I didn’t mind! I was comfortable and that’s what I needed at that time. Regardless, it took me a long time to step out of my comfort zone.
When I finally auditioned for the Spring Musical my senior year of high school, I was not the only senior auditioning for the first time. This made me feel so much better and gave me more confidence too. I was casted as one of the dancers for The Pajama Game and had a blast learning choreography, making friends, and performing for an entire weekend. The cast party was fun too!
I should have auditioned for the Spring Musical my freshman year of college. Two of my classmates (one of whom would become one of my best friends) had stopped me in the hall right outside of auditions in attempt to get me in. I was standing there, feeling like a freshman in high school with my oversized backpack stuffed to the brim. I didn’t go in, I wasn’t ready, but I did go to see the show. Godspell was incredible. I should have been in that cast.
I finally auditioned for 3 Ghosts (An adaption of a Christmas Carole) the fall of my sophomore year of college. I remember dancing for the role of the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come and wanting it so badly. I could only think of one other time that I wanted something so badly, and that was to attend Manhattan College. I was nervous to try my hardest for the fear of being rejected, but I took the chance. It paid off, because I was casted as one of the dancers for the third and final ghost.
This play was adapted by our Director Liz and the music was composed by her man, Collin, years prior to the first time I performed it. This play was just the beginning of my journey with PiPE DREAM Theater. When Liz and Collin weren’t at the Manhattan College Player’s Box Theater with myself and all the other theater geeks and nerds, they were putting their time, love, and money into PiPE DREAM – their own Steampunk Theater Company.
One of my biggest dreams came true when they asked me to perform in an off- off Broadway production of their adaption of Macbeth. This dark musical was right up my alley. Not only was dancing on an NYC on my bucket list, but I loved Shakespeare.
Not only did I have to learn choreography, but I also had to learn how to sing the songs. This was exciting for me because I love to sing and I love music. When I dance on my own, I dance to the feeling of the music, not to the counts. So whenever I am in a play, I bond with the soundtrack on a whole different level.
The soundtracks become a part of me and a part of my story. Some songs make a bigger impression on me than others, or resurface during specific times of my life. Recently, one line from one song from Macbeth comes to my mind nearly every day.
“… between sleep and awake…”
This line comes from a song entitled “Don’t Be Afraid.” It is sung by Banquo to his son when he is scared before going to bed. His son later sings it back to Banquo as he is dying. Oh the ironies of theater!
Over the past week, when I find myself in between sleep and awake, I cry. Hard. It is a fleeting moment where I realize my mom is no longer physically here with me. A moment when I ever so briefly accept it. A moment when I try to feel her spirit, but become so overwhelmed with her absence, that I can’t. A moment that seems like a nightmare, but is in fact reality. It’s not a dream, closing my eyes doesn’t help.
Although my days of performing on NYC stages are behind me, they are still a part of me. I am still teaching and working in the theater and dance world. I still have friends from those times of my life. I still have the lessons I learned from all the rehearsals and shows and drama.
Although my mom has physically moved on to the next phase of life, she is still a part of me. I am still teaching and working with her level of love like she taught me. I still have friends who reminisce with me about how awesome she was. I still have the lessons I learned from all the time and conversations and laughs we shared.
My dancing career is not dead. My mom is not dead. They’re just different.