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I was once a tiny little dancer. I started when I was two years old. My first memory of dance classes as a two-year old is pissing my pants because I didn’t want the germ infested public toilet to eat me…I would get flushed and also get syphilis, nobody wants to go out like that. I also remember the piano player Paulina, she was super old and nice and gave me candy. But the most important thing I remember is the recital. Dance recitals were my favorite. The glittery costumes, the makeup, the hairspray and the STAGE……..oh my Lord the STAGE…..are all these people here to see me? In my sparkle costume and my blue eye shadow and the bobby pins digging into my scalp. Holy wonderful moments are these when I have an audience. I don’t remember my first recital per se but I was told that I was a complete bossy professional. I was going to make sure that everyone did it right because my fans expect perfection.
Dance recital begins when the woman shows up in dance class with her tape measure. What a magical day it is when she comes in with her clip board, pencil and tape measure around her neck. Every dancer in the room knows this is the beginning of waiting for your costume to show up. What will they look like? I hope they are pretty. I hope they don’t itch. I hope mine fits right. It never did. I was the queen of needing my costume altered. Also what will our recital song be? Will I be in the front? I usually was because of my size. And of course you would always secretly hope that you would get a featured solo part…. well at least I did. I never did!
You spend months learning your recital dance. You work and work in your living room, your kitchen, your bedroom and in the shower with only small gestures because of that one time you slipped and fell and thought you would drown from your own stupidity. But I wouldn’t mind dying while dancing. That’s how I want to go out. I’m probably going to die a painfully embarrassing death like choking on my own spit…which I do at least twice a month. However, if I get to make a wish to the wish granting gods I want to die on stage dancing. I want to pirouette into the afterlife like some kind of ballerina angel.
The day that costumes come in…you know it as soon as you walk into those doors at the dance studio. First there is an electricity in the air (it’s probably static because that’s an ingredient in dance costumes…..the formula is : 20 parts glitter + 25 parts sequins + 5 parts stretchable fabric + 8 parts itch + 10 parts static electricity + 42 parts awesome = dance costume) But then there is the boxes stacked around the studio. Also there is glitter dust from every end and corner of the place. If you ever try to sweep costume glitter from a studio floor you know that shit is electrically charged because you get anywhere near it with a broom and it’s repelled away from the dustpan.
Trying on the costumes is so exhilarating. You see that there is a color scheme and in my case each girl is a color of the rainbow. You start your wishing: please let me get a good color. Please let me get a good color. please let me get a good color.
I have olive colored skin and I do not look good in just any color you give me. I can wear blues, pinks, purples, reds, black, white and brown. I cannot pull off anything in the yellow family…it makes me look like an actual fucking olive. Think of the color an olive is and now picture that olive in an itchy orange tutu. You see what I am saying right?
So when they pulled out green and handed it to me I was all like “What the fuck is this?”
Well I didn’t actually start cursing until I was much older. I was afraid that if I said the F-word it was like signing a pact with the devil…I thought it was like “Beetlejuice” and if I said it even once the devil would be there waiting for me….I didn’t even say “Frick” because you might get one of the devil’s minions to show up and that might actually be worse because no one wants the guy who is not in charge, am I right? So I was more like “Green costume? Thank you!” and also “What is going on here with this green? Do I look like I can wear green?” and also I was probably sobbing. Because “what the fuck is this?”
I get this hideous lime green costume on my olive body and I look in the mirror and I look like the wicked witch of the West. I look like the vomit emoji wearing a tutu but that’s not a thing yet because it’s the seventies. Does this costume make my eye bags look huge? I try to find something to like about my costume because it’s green and I look like I have just contracted hepatitis. I look like I am in full-blown liver failure. I think well it is sparkly and it has this nice itchy tutu. I then am handed the headpiece. I didn’t know it came with a headpiece. WHAT?????? A tiara? BEST COSTUME EVER. Hands down the best costume. Oh and I peer over at my sister with the same color skin and she is dressed in orange and they want her to wear her tutu around her face because she is playing a lion.
I WON COSTUME DAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I can go home now.
My sister always wins everything. She is older, taller, prettier and friendlier. To let you know how much my sister is better, we were known as the “girls” of the family…she had a real name and a very unique nickname. My name is Becki. When people who had been to our house several times they would ask me which one I was and then proceed to give her real name and her nick name, non of the choices was Becki.
“Which one are you? Bethany or Giggles?” I’m neither of them. That’s the same fucking person. I used to think it was because I was so insignificant. Now I know it’s because they were stupid morons. Dude you have been living in our house for like eight months, how do you not know my name?
So there is my perfect winner of a sister dressed up in her costume complete with itchy tutu around her face. I’m not sure what the material tutu’s are made of but I think it’s closely related to insulation and fleas.
I may look like puke in a costume, but at least I am not wearing that. I think to myself. I have seen the photos as an adult and I didn’t realize at the time how brilliantly my sister was pulling off that costume. She has this smile that lights up the world. IF you know my sister you know what I’m talking about. You also know that her name is neither Bethany nor Giggles, but I don’t want to name her outright on the internet. So in the photo she has a huge smile and I am standing next to her but you don’t actual perceive me as a human. I look like scenery. Oh look at Giggles standing next to that fern.
Dance recital day was amazing. Keep in mind this is the seventies and so hair care products are lacking in this generation. So my sister and I would be giggling and hopped on excitement and my mother would come in and say “Girls you are going to wash your hair and then I will curl it for you. While your hair is in curlers you will take your nap.”
That’s right folks it would be right after we practically risen from our night-time slumber that we would have to have our hair wrapped in pink curlers and then we had to lay down in our beds all hopped up on adrenaline with a head full of bumpy plastic and try to sleep. We would sit in bed with the covers over our eyes because it would be the brightest day in the year and we were trying to get some sleep.
“I forgot my dance!” one of us would say in a panic.
“Just follow the other girls!” the solution was so simple. Dance recitals was the only place where copying another’s work was perfectly acceptable.
“Are you nervous?” Giggles would ask.
“Yes!” I would lie. No I am not nervous…the stage is where I come to life. The blinding lights and the faint blur of the crowd. You know they are there you just can’t see them properly. The APPLAUSE, HOLY CRAP THE APPLAUSE! I know that I am a young lady in the seventies and being an attention whore is frowned upon….also any other kind of whore is frowned upon….but attention whore is a gateway. And there it is, my calling, a stage and an audience filled to the brim all ready and waiting and there under some contractual agreement with the studio. Sigh!
Where was I? Oh yeah. Recital evening and it is time to get our makeup on. My mother should have outsourced this to someone else. She was not great. We had big blue eyeshadow and circle rosy cheeks and bright red lips complete with a dab on my snaggletooth just to make us look relatable. (all products from Avon thanks Mrs. Whichadinger) We walked into the doors of that high school like we owned the place.
“Move bitch the talent is here!”
We get dropped off back stage in our dressing room and we wait with all of the other dancers. I am so excited that I have to pee. I am a nervous pee-er. I am sure you may already know this about me. I also don’t want to get my costume wet so I risk my life and my health and sit on one of the gonorrhea potties that they provide in the high school. My germaphobia only gets better with age. Because then I was just worried about catching cooties, now I know the names of these cooties and it is so much worse than I could ever have imagined.
Finally it is time for me to put on my ballet slippers, my lime green itchy tutu, my tiara because I’m the Princess of the olives and go stand in the jumble of children in the wings of the stage. Back stage we are all smooshed so tightly together that our tutus are rubbing together and creating a nice lightning show from all of the static electricity. We enter stage right and find our X to stand on. Mine is red in the very front to the left. The music starts and the lights hit. I remember every move. I am twirling, I am jumping, I am on fire. I am in my element up here on stage. When we finish the crowd applauds and I am hooked. The lights go down and we are told to exit the stage to the left.
Wait? That’s it? Can I go again? I need this people. I need to be on that stage. Can’t I just go on with the next group? I mean how hard could it be to learn their choreography. Like I saw it twenty times at rehearsal. I know their dance. I can do it if you just let me do it.
“Becki, get off the stage!” the lights go dark and I hear people in the audience laughing. I am now being carried off the stage by some muscular man who was dating my dance teacher. Ugh! My adoring fans need me. They are waiting for me to do an encore.
My dance teacher was so impressed that I knew this dance better than the kids that had actually learned it that she told my mother perhaps I should be taking more classes. This began my dance recital addiction.
Flash forward to me as an adult and my youngest tells me that she wants to take ballet classes. I was so excited for her journey. The excitement for costumes and recital is still the same. My daughter was a much better dance than I could ever imagine. I have not been on a stage in a very long time. I still have “Dance Fever” and when I see performers on the stage I can feel their movement. I am certain that I am lifting through my shoulders, rib cage and torso. I tighten my belly because that is the proper posture to take when you are watching dancers on stage. I find dance to be such a beautiful art. I find dancers to be incredible athletes. I once almost fist fought a woman for saying that dancing was not an athletic sport. I’m like listen here “LADY” these dancers train endlessly to make flying through the air and landing lightly on their feet look easy. You don’t even know. I landed like a herd of elephants, I know because my dance instructor told me so. But I decided to back up because you know what? Its more than an athletic sport, it’s an art, its an expression and its poetry.
If you were a dancer who had recital or if you have a child who is a dancer who has a recital, I say bravo on your hard work. Enjoy those bright lights. Soak up the applause. Vaseline on your teeth helps the snaggletooth lipstick problem. But most of all enjoy your craft. It doesn’t get any better than dance recital night.
Moral of my story: Dance recitals and dance costumes are the absolute best thing in the world. Also if you see my sister please don’t start calling her Giggles, you know her nickname.
Until next time 🙂