How I Spent My Summer Vacation

School has started again and although I’m no longer a student or a teacher, I love that fresh start feeling that comes with a blank notebook and a brand new pen. I’m craving a school supply shopping spree to help me get back to my routine of writing and studying. I don’t normally stray from my habits in the summer unless  I take a short trip or a spend few weeks with houseguests, so it’s been a while since I felt the excitement of la rentrée, but this summer, my schedule was turned inside out.

In June, I joined the California Rhythm Project, a San Diego tap dance company, and I spent the last three months rehearsing for a Labor Day weekend concert. Four rehearsals a week expanded to five or six. Add that to my usual two or three dance classes a week, and my time in the studio tripled. It didn’t take me long to realize that I needed a new, sturdier pair of tap shoes.

I was thrilled to be dancing so much, but I had a few unexpected moments of panic. One day, I would have the combination and the next, I’d lose it. There were times I feared I was too old and too slow to learn the steps. For a certain crazy-fast snippet of choreography, I had to put myself in training on the exercise bike to increase my stamina. As for the fear that I would choke in front of the audience, there was nothing I could do but practice and have faith.

When I was overcome with doubt, my teacher assured me that he was proud of my work. The company director encouraged me to relax and enjoy myself. With their support and with the camaraderie of an amazingly talented group of hoofers, I found my way back to the stage.

Photo by Kevin Patterson

We’d been working all summer at using the music and movement to tell stories, but adding lights and costumes made it come alive for me. I became a mysterious wanderer with a secret or a fun-loving party girl at a nightclub. And backstage between numbers, helping each other with costume disasters and quick changes, I felt like I was home with my family.

The first show was nerve-wracking, but it only took a few moments of dancing in front of an audience for me to find the joy of performing again, something I hadn’t felt since I danced with Jenesko’s Tap Dance in France almost twenty years ago. I wasn’t perfect, but I held my own and I think I managed to camouflage most of my mistakes. Having my husband and many of my friends in the audience to share this long-ignored part of myself with them was a delight.

Did my writing suffer during my tap-dancing summer? Yes. And no.

I had a lot less time for writing, so my word count decreased.  I’m embarrassed to admit that there were days when I was tired enough to nod off over the keyboard. I did submit a short story, though, and I’m looking for contests to enter and more anthologies with hard deadlines so I’ll have the motivation to declare a piece finished.

Although I didn’t get as far with revisions on my novel as I’d planned, I made slow progress and I sketched out a schedule of chapter deadlines for myself. They’re self-imposed, so not quite as effective as those contests, but it does help me to see forward motion on the calendar. I’m hoping I’ll have a draft ready to share by next summer.

Meanwhile, the California Rhythm Project is taking a short break, but soon we’ll be back in rehearsals, albeit not as intensely, for another concert in the spring. I can’t wait to start juggling my writing and dancing schedules once again.

So tell me… how did you spend your summer vacation?

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30 Comments

Filed under Creativity, Dance, Short Stories, tap dance, Writing

30 responses to “How I Spent My Summer Vacation

  1. Karen

    I love the photo! Congratulations on the performance. And, it is great to see a blog entry again.

  2. Congrats on your performance, Everyone looks good on stage, so I can imagine all of the work that it took. Dance steps are so hard for me to remember. I’ll forever be a part of an audience, enjoying the art of dance.

    • The California Rhythm Project dancers are incredibly talented and hard-working and the concert came together very well. It was great to be a part of that. I’m glad you enjoy watching dance even if it’s not something you like to do. Where would we be without an audience?

  3. Shary, what a stunning photograph! Everyone looks fantastic and like Totsy said, the work and practice must have been enormous! But I can imagine the sense of accomplishment you felt during this time and when you were finally on stage! I’m in awe with your tenacity to continue writing during this process. I don’t think I would have the energy, mental or physical, to do so. Well done, lady! 🙂

    • Thank you! There were a lot of days when I was too tired to do much of anything after rehearsal, but I got a lot of creative energy from dancing, too. When we’re inspired, I think we find inner resources we didn’t know we had.

  4. Sounds like a fantastic summer that really inspired you — how wonderful — while at the same time challenging and stretching you. Now you sound like you have a great plan with your writing while at the same time continuing to dance, that’s great, the best of both worlds. And I’ll join with the others to say the photo is amazing. Beautiful!

  5. Shary, I’ve been looking forward to this post since you auditioned. What an accomplishment, what FUN, and what a wonderful write-up of your “behind the scenes” thoughts, challenges, and activities. (GREAT photo, too!) Wish I coulda been there….

    It’s encouraging to hear how you’re managing your dual-gifted life — almost like working out intricate choreography until it “clicks.” (Tap dancing pun intended…) 🙂 This morning, I came up with the idea of “blog breaks” — I’ve been away from my computer so long, I’ve got a lot of catching up to do! (Plus the inevitable backlog of home-related tasks that piled up during a month’s absence.) It seemed daunting at first, until I decided to “reward” myself with periodic breaks — to read, DELIGHT in, and comment on one blog at a time.

    Let me tell you, I’ve never whipped through laundry so fast, knowing your post was awaiting, along with a fresh cup of coffee. 😉 Ahhhh… Congrats again on pursuing your dreams — BOTH of them!

    • I had such a great time this summer and I’m so happy that it’s really not over. Can’t wait for rehearsals to start up again. And I’m delighted that I got to be a reward for having finished housework. 🙂 That’s a great idea for motivation and I’m going to steal it. I’ll commit to a wordcount and when I reach it, I’ll get to visit my friends online. Fun!

  6. fluteriffs

    From London, at the Goodenough Club

    Wow! Shary, it’s exciting to see a photo of you dancing. You look self-possessed and skillful! I’m so glad for you that you are actively in the dance world again. My summer vacation..well, it was mostly taken up with a family crisis. I was glad to finally leave for London and Paris and have some distraction. Other summer events? My beach rentals sold in one day, though the escrow took two months. It was very sweet that it finished up before I left for Europe. It will be great to come home to no rentals and then focus on writing. Tomorrow morning, our last bowl of Goodenough porridge, then off to Heathrow and home. keep dancing! Anita

    Sent from my iPad

    • Sorry you had to deal with a family crisis. Boo! I hope all is well now and I’m very glad that you got to get away to London and Paris. You’ll have so much to share when you get home. Congrats on selling the rentals. What a huge weight lifted off your shoulders and how great that you’ll be able to focus on your writing projects. Can’t wait to hear what you have in the works. See you soon!

  7. Shary, You must be beaming with pride! To commit yourself to such an undertaking and then perform on stage for all the world to see, that takes guts and verve. How wonderful that you got to take part in the California Rhythm project. Good for you!

  8. Shary, I am sooo proud of you and I LOVE the photo. I’m only sorry I was out of town and had to miss being in the audience. Congratulations on your hard work, your dedication, and your courage to dance again!!!

  9. Sometimes living real life is more important than word count! At the very least it gives you more to write about, right??? 🙂

  10. Congratulations on such a wonderful accomplishment! I’ve been thinking about you and your performance since we had lunch. Looking forward to catching up and hearing more about the performances.

  11. Congratulations!!! Sounds like you had a ton of fun! 🙂

  12. I am SO happy to hear that this endeavor was such a success for you. I admire ANYONE who can dance (says the girl who could never do step aerobics because I could only focus on arms OR legs. NEVER both). I love how the dance really did inspire your writing, even if you didn’t realize it (You said you were “using the music and movement to tell stories” … such a beautiful analogy for the creative process – and especially writing). It took a lot of courage to re-embrace that “long-ignored part of yourself.” It’s a good lesson we all should remember!

    PS You and Leah have met? I’m jealous I want to go to lunch with you both!

    • Than you! It really was a wonderful experience and I feel so lucky to be performing again.

      Leah and I met through She Writes when the San Diego group got together. She’s as delightful in person as she is on her blog.

  13. What an exciting summer, and the dancing isn’t over! I am so darn impressed. I know how much doing something creative like dance or music can make you feel like a million bucks, so I am very happy for you. Wish we could see a video!

  14. What a wonderful photo! Congratulations on a fantastic accomplishment – those in the audience that night and in your wider literary audience are extremely proud.

    Since you don’t have anything to write about if you fail to have new experiences, dancing sounds like a summer very well spent.