Julie and I have so many things in common that sometimes it gets weird. We grew up together in Shelbyville, our parents have the same jobs, and we once dressed up as Santa & Mrs. Claus for Famous Couples Day of our high school homecoming week competition.
One thing we do not have in common is that she is a dancer and I am, very clearly, not.
A week ago, Julie rang to ask a question: could I be a last-minute dancer for her choreographed piece in a Brooklyn modern dance show?
Now, the last dance class I took was hip-hop in Houston, and that was a trip. I mean that literally; I tripped repeatedly and made a fool of myself in a class that ended up being full of tiny, talented 16-year-olds. I still can’t hear Nicki Minaj’s Starships without thinking of Erin, Lee, and my tribulations with that instructor who incorporated snapping into every single dance move.
But I digress. As Julie explained her dance piece on the phone, I started to realize this not only included dancing but also throwing 20 lbs of dried beans around the stage. How could I say no?!
The performance was at the Williamsburg Art & Historical Center, and Julie, LJ, Hilary, and I were the closing act. It hadn’t occurred to me that this meant I wouldn’t see any of the other performances. Instead, I saw the before-and-after for each routine. There was the girl who left in the nude body suit and returned covered head-to-toe in red paint. There were the dancers that came back dressed as safari animals. I have no idea how these transformations took place, but the behind-the-scenes perspective was rather bizarre.
When it was finally our turn, I lugged my bag of beans out on that stage like a pro. The beans ended up all over the place and made a lot of noise, just as intended. This was my first time dancing barefoot, and the beans also lodged themselves into the soles of my feet. It was sooo painful, yet I kept a straight face and pretended my feet weren’t throbbing. (Sometimes it pays to have majored in theatre.) The dance ended, we bowed, and the audience cheered. It was magical.
A couple audience members came to me individually and said in all seriousness, “Really great dancing,” which is up there in my list of Funniest Compliments Ever Received. We spent the next 1.5 hours cleaning up every bean in the place and then toting the beans back to Manhattan. Thus ends the story of my debut as a modern dancer.