From the time I was in grade school until I was in my early 20s, I looked forward to every opportunity I had to dance or sing or act or whatever means I could release my artistic expression. The community tours with Erie Playhouse’s Showstoppers, the Youtheatre All Stars, Traveling Showcase, or even the multitude of performances I had to do for my mom’s or dad’s different organizations or the convalescent home for which my sister worked, all excited me.
I even was excited when I had to sing “The Lord’s Prayer” acapella at one convention and screwed up the words and darted my panic-stricken eyes at Mom. Leave it to me to mess up the words to a song everyone knows. We’ll pretend I didn’t say those soap-in-the-mouth words in my mind immediately after or in that blank moment. Seriously, Melissa, while singing a prayer?
Of course, once I began high school and beyond, people actually started paying me for these fun gigs. Even fun-ner! And the small community tours eventually expanded to tours of other countries when I hit the professional world.
Then I became an old woman. And, at my age, I’ll admit, that fiery desire to perform for just anyone in just any location has dissipated. Been there, done that. For too many years.
As much as I love being part of Yow Dance, as much as I believe in its product and in its founder/artistic director Eric Yow, I’m not overly enthusiastic anymore to do outreach performances in locations without an actual stage or curtains or dance floor.
God never fails to remind me that, yes, even at my age, I’m not above donating my time to make an impact on someone. Who do you think you are, Melissa?
The company performed last Thursday at Quest Inc.’s Camp Thunderbird, a wonderful place for people with special needs. At Wednesday’s rehearsal, we saw pictures of the space in which we’d be dancing — a space in which the “dance floor” was actually concrete painted with a colorful U.S. map, and there was no curtain. These obstacles required some altering of choreography and costuming and staging. Fun? I didn’t even wear false eyelashes for this performance. If you know me, you know I wouldn’t dare!
Modern dance is typically done barefoot. But we wore tennis shoes. Not dance sneakers. Tennis shoes. Eric’s choreography typically consists of many dives to and rolls on the floor. But we added arm gestures or turns. In tennis shoes. What does that mean for the dancers? Not only are we fighting the physical barriers, but we’re also fighting to remember all the changes in choreography. Yeah … sorry about that, Eric. Wups. I know, I know, YOU are the choreographer.
Anyway, my slap in the face was the incredible reaction the campers had to us being there. If that weren’t enough of a slap (I get it, God), Eric and David Scott attended the campers’ talent show last night and sent me a video text message of Mr. Miami, a camper who’d touched my heart, saying, “Hi Melissa, it’s me, your friend (…) from Miami. I just wanna say I love you, I care about you, you’re a great dancer and good person. And you inspire me. So, I just wanna say I care about you and hopefully someday soon I’ll come back to camp, and it’ll be sooner than later. Love you!”
Please bear with this old woman and watch her attempt to dance in tennis shoes and fudge through the alterations. (This one’s for you, Mr. Miami!)
Choreography: Eric Yow
Song: “Still Hurting” from The Last Five Years