Out of My Comfort Zone
I love making dances, especially for the June recital. I spend all fall and early winter getting to know my dancers. I try to figure out each class’s personality, find the perfect music; then try and give them the perfect movement to show the audience who they are. Then comes the joy of creating the perfect vision with the perfect costume. I know that’s a lot of perfect, but that how I like it. I control everything, that’s also how like it. I plan to finish all the dances by a certain date; have just the right amount of polishing time. Too much time and the dances feel stale, not enough time and the dances look rough.
So when Spotlight Vermont decided to do a Holiday showcase mid December, it was quite a challenge for me. It was a Spotlight Show, not MDC, so while MDC performed two numbers, the majority of the show had to be Spotlight students. I wanted to do something that showed the value of a loving, supportive studio; a place where all dancers were equal, but how? I also wanted all my students to dance together, but with no rehearsal time, and only about five classes to prepare it seemed daunting. The whole endeavor was completely out of my comfort zone. I found some instrumental holiday music and choreographed a couple of warmups for all my
students to do. I wanted my youngest students to see that even the most advanced dancers warm up the same way, and I wanted my oldest dancers to have the chance to be leaders and role models. So far so good. The actual dances were much trickier. I got the great idea of one long dance for all my modern classes, and one not quite as long for my two jazz classes. I would have an all dancer friendly beginning and ending, and then each class, would have their own 30-60 second portion. Great idea in theory. Reality struck with dancers unsure of being able to commit to the performance, December school performances caused sporadic attendance, illness, jobs, Thanksgiving, all wreaking havoc on my vision. My inner control freak was feeling horrified. All 20-30 modern dancers would not practice together until the day of the show. I would not know if entrances and exits would work until an hour or so before showtime. I just had to hope that every class would remember to take their places, and that the previous group would exit. Would everyone come back in for the big finish, who knew? The jazz dance had far fewer dancers, but I couldn’t get the transition to the ending to work, and on the day of the show it still was not working. And then there was the issue of costumes. I love a long flowy skirt with heavy material that moves as beautifully as the dancer. I love a dress with a beautiful neckline. But, I was adamantly opposed to spending money before Christmas, and so black leggings for all, red shirts for jazz, black shirts for modern, and white shirts for MDC. Not even the same sleeves, style, neckline; just color.
So on the day of the performance, I put my control freak to rest and set a low bar. My hopes were modest: warm up remembered, no modern dance collisions and my impromptu ending for the jazz piece would be viewed as refreshing and fun. At two o’clock we started our show. Jen Barden, director of Spotlight, did an outstanding number with Ashely. Ashely is not a typical student, she has special needs and challenges and she knocked it out of the park. Right away, I knew the day would be just fine. And in fact, it was far more than fine. All the dancers warming up together was beautiful and touching . Younger girls fighting to stay on balance, older girls close by smiling their support. Not one collision in the modern dance, not even close. Every group had their moment, and the ending was simple and lovely. Everyone made it back on stage, and even my youngest dancers were right on their game. The jazz dance was just right. Silly Santa song, and instead of the transition I couldn’t make right, candy canes were given out by the dancers , who all somehow got back in place for the big finish. The audience applauded the candy cane moment, and it was good reminder to me stop sweating the small stuff.
The showcase made a good amount of money for the Spotlight Scholarship Fund. And I got a good lesson in dancing out of my comfort zone. Not perfectly rehearsed, or perfectly costumed the showcase was perfect in its intention. It was an all inclusive, let’s have fun, and celebrate the season at the studio day. We didn’t need months of rehearsal or sparkly costumes. All we needed was a good idea, and dancers ,both young and not so young , willing to have an open heart and bring their best dancing selves to the studio on a wintry Sunday afternoon. I learned a good holiday and life lesson; stop agonizing, stop needing perfection, control less and let the unexpected gifts appear.