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?