Thursday, November 13, 2014

Hold me closer, tiny dancer

I started taking dance classes when I was 6. We had just moved to Texas and Mom started me in ballet classes at Bonnie Cokinos School of Dance. This place still exists and I wouldn't be surprised to discover if Miss Bonnie is in her 80s now. 

I absolutely loved it. I walked around on tiptoe outside of class (though I still remember a classmate at school, who also danced at the studio, calling me out on it once) and probably danced all over the apartment. I know I struggled with turnout and my flat feet were not ideal, but I did my best every week. My first recital was to Mistress Mary, Quite Contrary - we wore little green and white tutus and had feather dusters.

Two years later, I started in the Royal Academy of Dance curriculum, which was taught in the other room of the dance studio, in addition to my regular studio ballet classes. It was only RAD class members who could be involved in the annual February production of Cinderella. Each class/level had a specific part, and I moved up for the next few years from firefly to flower girl. It was a wonderful production and I loved being part of it every year!

By around age 10 and 11, most of my classmates got start en pointe. Sadly, my terrible flat feet and bad ankles prohibited me from joining them and so I stayed at the pre-pointe class level until the end of 5th grade. I danced in Cinderella and a summer recital one more time and then decided to end my ballet career just before my sister, who was four years younger than me, was due to end up in the same level I was in.

Luckily, when I started 6th grade, my middle school offered a jazz dance class/club after school once a week. I jumped right into that and, of course, loved it. It wasn't offered in 7th grade, alas, and 8th grade is when I took a year off to have my reconstructive foot surgeries.

Just before 9th grade, we moved back to Utah. This time, I joined the after school ballroom dance class/club. I'd done some swing dancing at youth conference over the summer, so this was a great discovery! I also quite enjoyed that my not-my-boyfriend did the class with me. Unfortunately, it was our failure at the spring swing dance competition at BYU that was a contributing factor in our not-a-relationship's demise.

I didn't dance in 10th grade, but in 11th grade I discovered modern/lyrical/contemporary as offered as an elective. I'd enrolled in Dance 1, but I knew immediately that was going to bore me, so I transferred to Dance 2/3. We dabbled in a few styles, but it was the contemporary dance I remembered loving the most. When some classes I tried to take senior year didn't work out, I enrolled in Dance 2/3 again. Each semester we had a dance concert in conjunction with all the school's dance and drill teams and ballroom classes. At school dances, I practiced my ballroom skills, which was easy since so many of my friends also did ballroom.

College was where I really started exploring - I took as many dance classes as I could - folk, jazz, tap, clogging, and, especially, modern. I never did any of the dance teams, but I spent many happy hours in a dance studio. Since I graduated in three years and worked my way through school, I was really busy with all the academic stuff, so dance was my fun thing.

After college, I joined a dance company in Salt Lake City - mainly modern/contemporary, but they convinced me to at least try the hip hop company as well. I wasn't too terrible.

Throughout all of this, I was also heavily involved in community and school theatre. Having studied so many dance styles has really come in handy, since a stage musical could draw from just about anything depending on the music. It's also helped as a choreographer for musicals, which I first did (outside of class choreography assignments) in college and have done again as recently as a year ago. And I have so many pairs of dance shoes now!

Since moving to DC, I've taken a variety of dance classes including modern, hip hop, and even Bollywood. I've gone out swing dancing and blues dancing regularly. Right now, I'm taking tap for the first time in more than 10 years, at the convincing of a friend I've known since freshman year of college. By golly, I am rusty, but I'm having fun and mostly keeping up!

I plan to keep dancing as long as my body will let me!

Previous discussions of my dancing career can be found here.


SJ said...

I remember when Russ and I went to see you in Joseph in Virginia, I thought, "Dang! Girl can dance! Look at them legs!"

Giggles said...

I would love to try some Bollywood. :D

AmandaStretch said...

SJ - Thank you!!

Giggle - I think you would love it!

Heidi said...

I long to take a tap class again.