Category Archives: tap dance

The Dancing Chorus

I love musical comedy.

I know a lot of people are annoyed by spontaneous song and dance numbers, but that’s my favorite part of a show. I saw my first musical at a community theater when I was eight years old. My sister and I sang the songs from Camelot nonstop…

“If ever I would leave you, it wouldn’t be in springtime…”

Until we saw Showboat a few weeks later at the same theater.

“Fish gotta swim and birds gotta fly…”

When I was in high school, I started auditioning so I could join in the fun. I was in the cast of the spring musical at my school every year and in summer, I tried out for the dancing chorus in local community theater productions. I loved the long rehearsals learning songs, dances, and blocking on a bare stage. Then came dress rehearsals with imaginative sets and colorful costumes and finally, the thrill of performing for an audience.

42nd Street cast performing"We're in the Money" at Starlight Theatre, Rock Valley College

I’ve lost track of the friends I made during those summer productions, but I can still see many of them so clearly. Liz, Melinda, Jennie, Doug, Sarah, Erika,  Brad, Julie, Andreas, Marlene, Ginger, Melissa… By day, we were ordinary, but we were transformed into larger than life characters on stage.

Last weekend, I had the chance to see a fabulous performance of 42nd Street at The Coronado Playhouse.

It wasn’t a big production but the dancers were so talented and the small cast filled the theater with those songs I love. I had to force myself to sit still and not sing along; I wanted so badly to be up on stage with them. On the way home from the theater, my husband bet me that I’d be auditioning for a show again one of these days.

I wonder.

Would I have to lie about my age? Would my hip and my foot hold up to the hours of rehearsal and four performances a week? Would I be able to handle the late nights and still wake up early to walk Lola and write?

Probably not. It’s a nice dream, though. But maybe one of these days, I’ll forget caution and try out for the dancing chorus again.

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Filed under Dance, Musical Comedy, tap dance, Theater, Writing

The Year I Didn’t Write

Tap Dancing in France

After college, I spent a year in France teaching English. My school was the Lycee Jesse de Forest in Avesnes sur Helpe, a small town near the Belgian border.  It was a combined middle school, high school, junior college and a technical school that specialized in training students to be chefs. My job was to teach conversation classes and to assist the English teachers with their language and literature classes.  Sometimes that meant eating lunch at the school restaurant and testing the students on their English skills. I never minded that task.

That year my brain was busier than it’s ever been, but other than letters home and work-related essays, I didn’t write at all. I didn’t write for myself.

For the first month, all of my energy was focused on basic communication. Gradually, I felt more comfortable living my life in French. I found friends in fellow teachers, I learned the system, I explored my surroundings.

My host family became like my family, but still, I felt a little lost. Disconnected. Then I found out about a local tap dance troupe. I asked my mother to mail my tap shoes and I joined the class at the village hall.

Language doesn’t matter to your feet.  I was equally fluent in tap and claquettes. When I put on my tap shoes, I was me in both English and French.

I loved those Wednesday afternoon classes with a friendly group of dancers and a fabulous teacher who is the very definition of joie de vivre.  I learned new techniques and even a few of their routines. I was thrilled when they found costumes for me so I could perform with them.

at Le Manege in Maubeuge on April 10, 1993

I wish I had kept a journal that year. Almost twenty years later, so many of my memories have faded and my French has gotten a bit rusty. I’ll never forget the friends I made, though, and I’ll never forget being part of the Ecole des Claquettes Americaines.

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Filed under Dance, tap dance