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My Two Left Feet

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Ballet. Hip-hop. Jazz. Tap. Lyrical. Irish step dancing. I’ve done them all. This impressive repertoire probably portrays me as an experienced, versatile dancer, but that is so not the case. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say I’ve attempted them all, rather than done. Valiantly, I must add. I’ve struggled through dance lessons, dance rehearsals, dance recitals, dance anything and everything. Leotards, slippers, tap shoes. Whoever thought up these monstrosities indeed was cruel. Blisters on my toes and constant wedgies were routine for the two-hour, two times a week scheduled tortures. The worst part of it all though was not the physical discomfort, but the knowledge that I truly had no talent for dance.

My “career” in dance began with ballet. The first day of that horrid program still haunts me in various shades of pink. I was about five at the time, still naïve of the female psyche. Dressed in a faded black leotard, a hand-me-down from my sister’s previous unsuccessful attempt at dance, with my hair thrown into my signature messy ponytail, I bravely walked into the room and found myself engulfed by all shades imaginable of pink. Magenta, coral, fuchsia, hot pink. To think that before that day I thought pink was pink. As my face flushed with heightened unease, I made my way over to the barre where most of the other girls were gathered in a huddle, looking over their shoulders and sniggering. I did not know they were sniggering at me. Their disdain grew as my sense of balance diminished. About six months into the program, having dealt with the snotty, nasal whine of the extremely anorexic dance instructor and the ridicule of my peers for far long enough, I called it quits. Plie, pirouette, promenade, blah, blah, blah. What language is that anyway? Let’s just say it wasn’t my style.

Having completed the seemingly innocuous practice of ballet, torture in my vernacular, I decided it was time for something new. And so came hip-hop. However, I soon realized that hip-hop was not for me either, and after a year of cheesy music and sequined costumes, I switched to jazz, still hoping that dance might still be for me. Once again, my hopes were dashed as my lack of balance and two left feet prevailed in their mission to dissuade me from any forms of dance.

Lyrical and tap dance came and went in much the same fashion; short and not so sweet. I lasted in lyrical for about three months, as I was unable to perform to their standard; artsy, expressive, and just so damn graceful. Tap dance posed a different challenge: tapping to the right beat. Rhythm has never been my forte, surprisingly enough, considering that I play the flute. Marching with the band has been exceedingly challenging, and so was tapping my foot in the loud and obnoxious, but rhythmic manner of tap dance. And so once again, my two left feet dashed my dreams of dancing.

Yet I was determined. My last attempt to unleash the dancer inside and discover that I actually possessed a right foot would be Irish step dancing. Against all odds, I lasted longer in this class than I had in any of the others. Days turned into weeks, weeks into months, and the months actually led to two years. I wasn’t exactly the star of the class, but I just didn’t want to give up. Therefore, I actually lasted until the first big recital. Although an Irish step dancing recital for girls thirteen and younger does not sound like it would be a rager, a disappointingly large amount of people showed up.

Performing in front of large crowds has never been my forte; indeed it is actually a weakness that has followed and plagued me throughout my life. And so as I made the long trek to the backstage where my hair would be curled into the ridiculous ringlets deemed necessary for Irish step dancers (who ever knew the Irish had such curly hair?), my mind wandered back to an instance where that particular weakness of mine demonstrated itself most clearly: in the fourth grade, when we were each assigned to write and perform a speech as a certain president. I was Dwight D. Eisenhower for the day, and mistakenly pronounced a statement we would hope to never hear from a president of ours; instead of my closing line being, “and I hope the United States will continue to live in peace and prosperity”, I most unfortunately substituted the word “prosperity” with “poverty”. I started laughing to myself while walking to the backstage, eliciting many odd looks.

Coughing on the fumes of stiflingly sweet hairspray, I was led to the dressing room, where our costumes, or should I say clown outfits, were hanging. Not only did the Irish have impossibly curly hair, apparently they enjoyed wearing little peasant-styled dresses in neon colors which poof out to impossible extremes. I felt quite foolish, knowing that in full costume I probably looked like a stripper Goldilocks.

With hornets rather than butterflies in my stomach, we lined up in our positions on stage, with our backs facing the audience. I noticed my left shoe felt a little loose, but there was insufficient time to retie it. I pushed this troublesome thought out of my mind, for the lights had turned on, both blinding us and illuminating us to the audience at the same time. “One, two, three, four!” I heard our instructor yell from behind stage. All at once we started our dance, kicking and jumping and swaying and all of the other moves with which those crazy Irish are credited. Hey, this isn’t so bad, I thought to myself. Just as I thought this, of course, disaster struck. As I did yet another high kick, my left shoe went flying off and hit the face of a man in the first row with full force. I was mortified. The audience felt otherwise though, and exploded into laughter. Unaccustomed to the notion that the show must go on, I ran off the stage, about to explode into tears.

My tears turned into sobs, and then those sobs transformed into giggles, which then turned into laughter. This is the sign I’ve been waiting for, I thought to myself. All of these years I have been trying to dance. I am obviously not cut out for dance. Why have I been torturing myself with this for so long? This epiphany provided another round of laughter, bordering hysteric. My two left feet have been telling me this for so long, why didn’t I listen to them? Those b***** ballet brats, stupid leotards, and humiliation have all been pointless. I don’t enjoy this. Why am I still here? And so when my mystified mother walked into the room and saw me hysterically laughing, practically rolling on the floor, she simply shook her head and said, “It’s time to go now, don’t you think?” I nodded, took her hand, and walked out of the room, having gained self-confidence in the most unexpected way.





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