Thursday, October 30, 2014

Dance Fever, A Cautionary Tale (31 Days of Dance)

I'm almost done with my 31 Days of Dance challenge and my kitchen dancing videos haven't exactly gone viral.  I may not be a YouTube celebrity just yet, but I realize fame takes time.  And maybe it's not about being famous at all...maybe it's about being in love with dancing and life. It is actually a lesson I learned early on in life from Nan. 

Nan was one of my dance teachers in the early 1980s.  She was young, tall and skinny.  Her hair was yellow blond, like straw, awesome looking straw.  She was the epitome of coolness in my 8-year-old mind.  Her walk, her leg warmers, her attitude.  Her sweatshirts were over the shoulder and ripped just like the ones in Flashdance and this was before Flashdance had even come out!  Nan was the shit.  

We all knew that she was made for more than teaching little kids a few dance moves in tiny dance studio in Kalamazoo, Michigan.  When she told me and the other girls that she was heading to California to try and make it as a dancer, we all nodded in "of course you are, it's where you belong because you are so damn cool" solidarity.

After she left town, I used to daydream about the gigs Nan was getting.  I just knew that one day I would turn on Solid Gold and she would be dancing behind Marilyn McCoo and I could not wait.  

I wasn't just any old student in the studio to Nan.  She and I had danced a duet in the recital the year before.  None of the other girls had done that.  I got the pleasure of rehearsing one-on-one with her and learning from her.  In the dance number I played the role of Nan's inner child and it involved an impressive lift like the one in the movie Dirty Dancing (and this was waaay before Dirty Dancing had even come out).  We practiced and practiced.  I would go to the studio after school and work on learning to trust that she wouldn't drop me and making sure my legs were straight.  I'll never forget the first day I nailed the lift and of course the performance on stage...I felt like I was flying.  There I was dancing with the coolest chick in town to the Eagles' song "Witchy Woman" and she was lifting me in the air and spinning me to this lyric "ooooh, witchy woman,  see how high she can flyyyyyy."  We were the shit.  I felt a little bit famous.

(Sadly there is no video of my dance with Nan, but here is a performance of the classic hit Witchy Woman by the Eagles.)

When we got the news that Nan was going to compete on my second favorite dance show ever (second only to Solid Gold), Dance Fever, I was beyond excited.  I was so proud of my duet partner.  She was on TV, she was really, truly going to be famous!

(This isn't Nan's Dance Fever clip, but I did watch a lot of old episodes last night looking for hers.)

My family popped popcorn and watched Nan's episode together.  She danced to one of my favorite songs "Electricity" from one of my favorite albums ever made Midnight Star's No Parking On the Dance Floor.  Nan and her dancing partner were electric indeed that night, but sadly they didn't win the $50,000.  They were beat by some high stepping, folksy couple from Dallas if I remember correctly.

(One of the best songs from my childhood. Dance to this now!)

A few months later Nan showed up back at our tiny little dance studio in Kalamazoo.  She looked thinner and angrier than before she had left for California.  She didn't tell us stories of palm trees and opportunities.  She didn't show us pictures of her with celebrities or hanging out in Beverly Hills.  Instead she stood in a corner and smoked, every now and then she'd remind us to point our toes.

I left that dance studio after my mom got in a fight with the owner just like on Dance Moms (and this was waaaaay before that show came out).  I'm not sure whatever happened to Nan.  But I learned a few things from her.  I learned to never expect fame to come easy. I watched Nan and even in my young mind I understood that you could be the coolest chick in town and not go home with the cash prize on a dance competition shows judged by celebrities like Dick Van Patten. I learned that Dick Van Patten made a better TV dad (on Eight is Enough) than a dance judge.  I learned that bitterness and disappointment don't look so cool.  I learned that sometimes you dance just because you love it.  It's not about cash prizes, validation or videos going viral. You practice the lift, you compete on the shows, you go for your dreams, you post your videos on YouTube for the joy and the fun of it all. 

If you do want to catch some of my kitchen dancing, just for here.

Here are a few dances from the past few weeks of 31 Days of Dance that I've been doing this month all montaged up:

A little #TBT & #31DaysofDancing on Instagram:


  1. I love reading this, especially after a conversation at dance this week with a mom about body types and good feet, and I'm all, "Oh, I'm here because she really likes it."

  2. "Nan was the shit" is probably my favorite sentence ever. Also, this is good stuff. I feel sorry for Nan. I hope she eventually overcame her disappointment and just decided to be cool again for the sake of being cool.

  3. Like Jennifer I fell in love with you (just a little more) after "Nan was the shit" and then after you wrote "waaayyyy before" because it'[s how I imagine you talking and it makes me giggle.

    I want to dance like you...unashamed and uninhibited. Because "The Dance?" looks really really good on you girl. XO

  4. For what it's worth, Nan, your Angela turned out good. Real good. :)