An Open Letter to Accompanists

Dear Accompanists of the World,

Last week, I posted an article about the many days of the year that celebrate some form of dancing—ballet, hip hop, ballroom, and many more.  However, there is one important element of dance who needs to be appreciated, and yet is constantly ignored as a background player: you, the accompanist.

You are the forgotten heroes of the dance and performance world.  Rehearsals are useless without you, classes are dull.  But you do so much more than that.

You play just a hair slower when you see that we’re having problems with a fast combination, but not enough that the teacher will catch you doing it.  You subtly emphasize the melody when I’m behind.  You wink at me after I get called out by the choreographer for messing up the steps.

For me, a good accompanist is the reason that gets me out of bed for a 9am ballet class.  You’re the reason I hold my developee just a little higher, that balance just a fraction longer.  You pull that extra oomph out of me when I think I have no more to give.

When I was nine years old, I wanted to quit ballet.  Ballet can be a boring exercise, particularly because it is so dependent on strengthening tiny muscles and holding frankly absurd positions for painful minutes, and after six years of being told to turn my feet in unnatural directions, I was tapped out.

My mother, in her infinite wisdom and apathy for my suffering, refused to let me quit.  I spent another three years going to dance out of duty.  In fact, my mom ended up putting me in a summer workshop where I took dance for six hours a day (there’s a reason we don’t complain to my mom), but it was this workshop that changed my view of dance.

I didn’t notice at first that they had brought in a new accompanist for this workshop.  To me, accompanists played the same classical airs, but seemed to run the melodies through a filter that made everything seem like a dirge playing in half time.  They seemed less like humans, and more like animated metrenomes.

And then she started playing.

She didn’t play Bach.  She didn’t play Rachmaninoff.  She played Harry Potter.  And how she played it.  It wasn’t just about plunking out the notes, but making music.  She didn’t look down on us because this was just another Saturday morning ballet class full of twelve-year-olds, but a special concert that only we got to hear.

For the first time in ballet class in years, I wanted to dance.  I wanted to dance well enough to fit that music, and I’ve been working towards it ever since.

When an accompanist plays well, they become another character in the dance that you can interact with.  They add more flavor to the piece, and dancer and musician can feed off of each other creating a symphony of music and dance together.  Great accompanists are great musicians who truly see that all the world is a stage and hold nothing back, even in rehearsals.

I cannot thank you enough for the hours of sweaty rehearsals, repetitive numbers, and the infinite patience and skill you bring to each and every occasion. There’s not an accompanist appreciation day—yet—but I think you all deserve our respect and gratitude for inspiring us to become skilled, versatile performers.

 

photos-page-piano

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Mark Your Calendar for Dance Holidays in 2014

I recently had to compile a list of weird holidays for work, and I found all sorts of unexpected days.  I figured if they have a Plan Your Epitaph Day, there’s bound to be some amazing dance holidays.

As usual, I was right.

Ballet Heart

February 7 – Ballet Day 

Get your tutu on!  Every day should be a ballet day, but February 7th is the time of year when you put a bit more oopmh into your plies!

March 20-April 13 – National Cherry Blossom Festival

You might think that a Cherry Blossom Festival would be a traditional Japanese celebration–and you’d be half right.  This festival takes place every year in Washington, DC to commemorate the gift of cherry trees from Mayor Yukio Ozaki from Tokyo back in 1912.  The relationship between the United States and Japan was just beginning to blossom at that time, and each year Americans and visitors alike appreciate traditional dancing, singing, and even kimono fashion shows.  This is a clip of one of the dancers rocking it out old school style.

April 29International Dance Day 

International Dance Day—not to be confused with National Dance Day–celebrates the unifying abilities of dance and its ability to connect people across cultures, borders, and even language barriers.  You don’t have to be a professional dancer to appreciate the universality of dance!

May 1 – May Day

Back in the day, the May Day was a pagan celebration of the beginning of summer.  While the exact traditions for May Day vary based on time and country, the May Pole is one of the most recognizable remnants of the festival.  The dances involved with the may pole are as diverse as the celebrations, but most versions involve patterns that weave the streamers into a braid.

May 14th – National Dance Like a Chicken Day

No explanation needed for this one, but in case you need a visual…

May 25 – National Tap Dance Day

Who says the government doesn’t appreciate dance?  Congress voted to make National Tap Dance Day on legendary tap dancer Bill “Bojangles” Robinson’s birthday.  While it’s nice to have a day dedicated to tap, I think we need to take it a bit farther and have competitive large group tap numbers, like England apparently does…

July 26th – National Dance Day

So You Think You Can Dance and the Dizzy Feet Foundation team up to present National Dance Day–a special day that inspires movement and creativity among amateurs and professionals alike!  National Dance Day is a relatively new holiday, starting in 2010 when Nigel Lythgoe, co-founder of the Dizzy Feet Foundation, started the day to promote dance as a healthy way to combat obesity, relieve stress, and explore creativity!

August 24 – World Hip Hop Day

August 24 is World Hip Hop Day–a time where artists and amateurs come together to explore the power of hip hop.  Dancers show off their moves at block parties, on stage, and in the streets.

September 19th-28 – National Ballroom Dance Week

National Ballroom Dancing week is a time to share the knowledge and fun of ballroom dancing with the public.

Oct 31-Nov 2 – Day of the Dead 

The Day of the Dead is a traditional day to honor and remember the dead, and is observed in Mexico, South America, and parts of Europe.  Scholars believe that it can trace its roots back to Aztec traditions, though it has evolved over time.  The living bring gifts of food and goods to the graves of their loved ones.  Some traditional dances include shell costumes that make noise enough to wake the dead!

 

November 29th – Square Dance Day

November 29th is the one day of the year that’s okay to be a square.

800px-Square_Dance_Group

 

Dec. 11 – National Day of Tango (Argentina)

The U.S. hasn’t caught on yet, but Argentina proudly dedicates December 11 to tango.  Tango originated in South America in 1890s, and went from village dance to one of the most well-known types of dance seen on stages and in spy movies alike.

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Football vs Ballet

Misty vs FootballI came into this article expecting to find irrefutable proof that dancers easily outdistance their competition.  I remember back in high school when a football player challenged a girl who took spent about four hours dancing after school each day to a push up contest—and she beat the pants off of him.  I thought that when I wrote up the details of football vs ballet, the winner would be clear.

The results surprised me.

I won’t say that I’m completely biased against football—but I will admit that I may be just a bit jealous because football players get paid millions of dollars more than their dancing counterparts, or because most people in the US have at least one favorite football team, but couldn’t care less about their local dance company.

It wasn’t that football players were far above dancers in the stats–but it was how similar the two disciplines were. The more I researched, the more surprised I was to see similar correlations between reasons for injuries, longevity in the profession, and hours of practice though really, I shouldn’t have been–they’re both athletic activities that depend on perfect physical execution).  This table below is just the tip of the iceberg of what I uncovered:

Ballet Football
Calories/hour 600 656
Hours of practice/day 7.5 2-8
Percentage of injuries/year 61% 264%
BMI 13-18.5 18.5-24.9
Average Retirement Age 34 28
Average Salary $22,516-100,000 $4-14 million

You can tell just from this small chart alone what some of the advantages and disadvantages of each activity are.  It’s one thing to think about the injuries a football player sustains when it happens on screen—it’s another to see how the numbers add up.

It’s also another thing to hear about eating disorders in dancers and to see the hard evidence in their BMIs.  The lowest healthy BMI for women is about 18.5—to see that that number is the highest of the range for professional dancers, and should be a wake up call to those in the field.

It was amazing to see the similarities between these two disciplines that seem to be at opposite ends of the spectrum.  It also introduced another difficult point: how do you determine the winner?  Football players certainly have much higher incomes, but an astronomically higher injury rates.  Dancers have a longer careers, but only by a slim margin.  Both dancers and football players are put under extreme stress during their primes, but dancers have a much healthier mental state after they retire.

Footballer in ballet
It’ll probably come out a tie in the end, but it’s a great excuse to post pics of football players doing ballet in the meanwhile!!

A disclaimer: Research on the impact of sports and dance on both mental and physical health is an emerging field, so bear with me on some of the numbers.  As football and ballet are two very different disciplines, there won’t always be exact crossovers in the data, as ABT is going to report different data than the NFL will (for example, most reported dance injuries were sprains, breaks, and other muscle and bone-related injuries.  The most prominent NFL injury statistics ignore sprains almost completely and focus on concussions).  What I aim to do is present the big picture, and maybe those with the money and resources to research these ideas properly will follow up!

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Growing Pains: Building a Professional Company

I know we make it look easy, but it’s a lot harder to get a dance company off the ground and en pointe (pun 100% intended).  I know a lot of new dance companies sprouting up—which is amazing—but there are a lot of pitfalls and obstacles waiting for new troupes.  Here are just a few that Stretch Dance Co. has faced a new professional dance company—and how we’re overcoming them.

If you’re part of a new company, chime in on any difficulties your organization has come across!

Location, Location, Location

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This dance studio was dark and had huge poles in the middle of the dance floor. It also had a random cactus in the corner that I almost cartwheeled into!

Stretchers came from all over Southern California for rehearsal, so it can be hard to find a central, safe place to dance.  It took some time to find our perfect rehearsal space—especially because Lyndell has just as high expectations of her rehearsal spaces as she does her dancers.  Helping to search for a rehearsal space was one of my first jobs when I offered to help with some of the background work of Stretch, and Lyndell’s requirements mandated that a studio have sprung floors, restrooms on the premises, and free parking nearby. (Insert pics of past studios and mention why they didn’t work)

How we’re overcoming it: After a few starts in other studios, Lyndell found Studio A Dance.  It’s an awesome, warm space that meets all of requirements and then some.  My favorite part of the studio are the Christmas lights strung up outside!

I Have Lived a Thousand Years   a Fractured Atlas sponsored project
Fractured Atlas has been a huge help in spreading the word and coaching us through grant applications!

$$$

The arts is always suffering for funding, and new professional dance companies find it even more difficult to make ends meet. You can read here to find out more.

How we’re overcoming it: We are working to make the company more stable through personal donations, handled through Fractured Atlas.  We’re also starting to apply for grants.  We managed to nab a grant from Disney in 2013, and hoping to add more this year!  Once our productions get underway, we’ll be able to generate income from ticket sales, but until then, every little bit from friends, family, and donors helps!

Who Are We Again?

Part of the problem with applying for grants, and sometimes even venues, is that new companies don’t have much stage or street cred.  Established companies like Alvin Ailey don’t need to explain who they are to many theaters or foundations because they’ve been around long enough to have built a name for themselves.  It’s even harder to for Stretch because theatrical dance isn’t a common dance form.

How we’re overcoming it: Stretch is lucky to have an awesome social media manager in Matt Lardner (thanks Matt!), and weekly blogs, posts, and videos help make a name for ourselves.  Lyndell also interviews with Variety City,  World Dance Awards, and the Shoah Foundation (and looks totally at home no matter what!) to help spread the word.

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And these are just a few!  Phew!  Something tells me I’m going to end up writing a follow up to this post.  Anyway, new ventures (whether it’s a professional dance company or otherwise), feel free to chime in in the comments on your experiences!

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On Dancing, Giving Up, and Pinterest

After a week of sitting on the couch reading all the books my Barnes and Noble gift cards bought me, I started cruising through Pinterest for inspirational dance pics that would hopefully guilt me into doing something vaguely active.  Amid the sepia-colored images of dancers in the air, I came across this picture:

Stretch - meme“Don’t disappoint her?”

Ummm…pressure much?

I don’t really agree with pushing through the hard points of anything just to appease whoever’s watching you (I also find it vaguely terrifying to think of a flock of baby ballerinas watching your every step at every moment, waiting for you to fail and ruin their lives).

However, I do have to admit that this guilt-inducing meme has a point, and it’s not about living in fear from tiny diva dancers.

What these words should focus on is not disappointing other people, but sticking with it for yourself. All dance is incredibly hard when you get down to it. Whether it’s hip hop or ballet, it takes years to perfect, and constant arduous training to remain in top form, but when you finally nail a move, it’s worth all those hours of conditioning and pain.

I’ve met so many people who started dance when they were young, only to quit when they were in their teens. I, myself, wanted to be one of them, but I was fortunate to have a mother who refuses to ever a) give up b) watch reality TV.

Dancers Kick Butt
Seriously.

If you were one of those dancers who got as bored as I did in class as a kid, it’s not too late to get back into the game. I can’t tell you how many dancers I’ve met who started dancing in college, or even later, who can wipe the floor with me. If you want to dance, just do it. Get your shoes out (or buy new ones if you’ve outgrown them), get yourself into a class, and don’t care about who else is watching.

What this picture should should say is “Don’t give up before the miracle happens.”

That or, “Dancers kick butt.”

 

 

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Make a New Year’s Resolution That Matters: Support the Arts in 2014!

It’s that time of year again.  Time for throwing out the cigarettes, getting a gym membership, and going for one last binge of all the chocolate in the house so that you can start the new year right.

This year, instead of making a New Year’s resolution that you probably won’t enjoy (because no matter how much you say you want to eat healthily, it’s no fun saying no to cookies), why not try something that enriches your mind and keeps the arts alive?

This year, why not make it your New Year’s resolution to support the arts?

Saying that the arts are the first to go in times of economic hardship is so cliché, you almost don’t need the statistics to paint how hard it is for theaters to survive in today’s cultural climate (but don’t worry; I have the numbers to prove it, too).

Closed Theater - National Theater
We lose more than just the performers without support. The National Theater was built in 1911 and is a registered historic building, but has fallen into disrepair.

First Lady Michelle Obama believes that “our artists challenge our assumptions in ways that many cannot and do not. They expand our understandings, and push us to view our world in new and very unexpected ways…. It is a form of diplomacy in which we can all take part.”  History proves her point. The first African American musical performed on Broadway in 1898, almost 60 years before the first integrated public schools.  The first gay actor came out in 1933, 75 years before  California legalized gay marriage.

But not all government officials believe in the power of the arts.  It’s strange that the arts budgets are cut first, particularly by as they generate $9.59 billion annually in federal tax income alone, and pump in over $60 million into the economy each year.  In comparison, a proposed spending reduction act in 2011 that threatened to eliminate funding to the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities would save $167.5 million a year—a mere fraction of what the arts brings in.

Arts for Humanity
Arts education has shown that test scores can jump 20-22% in Math and English in elementary and middle school students.

And the trouble with the arts doesn’t stop and start with theaters.  Over the past ten years, elementary schools offering performing and visual arts opportunities dropped from 20% to 3-4%.    This is a critical time to begin learning, as students who study music consistently outperform (literally) their counterparts in math and science national tests, and arts students are four times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement.

There are so many ways to support the arts, and each one plays a vital role in the health of the arts.  I’m not saying you have to go out and donate your entire life savings to your local theater.  But theater is about building communities–and we can’t do that if you don’t click out of the YouTube videos, change out of your pajamas, and meet us halfway.

See community theater. See professional theater.  Go to an art exhibit.  Help the local school paint their sets for their show.  Give a gift basket for a theater’s fundraiser.  Skip Starbucks for a week and donate the money you saved to a theater.  Support the arts.  You’ll be fulfilling your New Year’s resolution to cut back on coffee, and supporting institutions that build stronger, more open-minded communities…and that’s a New Year’s resolution that will last far beyond 2014.

 

Photo credit: http://afterthefinalcurtain.net/2013/01/24/the-national-theatre/http://www.artsforhumanity.com/about-us/funding/

Stretch - Donate

 

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Six Unlikely Items You’ll Find in a Dance Bag

Dancers have all sorts of odd things in their dance bags.  My car, for example, will never entirely be free of glitter, bobby pins, and the occasional fake eyelash that escapes my makeup box every now and again (it’s always only one eyelash–and it’s terrifying every time).  There are some items that you expect every dancer to pack in their dance bag, but here are a few items you might not expect:

Hair Extensions

Hair extensions – Do you ever hate dancers for having picture perfect hair even after a six minute dance break?  You can hate them a little less; it’s one of the many illusions that dancers have naturally perfect hair.  Dance competitions switch extensions almost as often as Lady Gaga does.

Epsom salts – Dancing has a lot of great health benefits, but long hours of holding your leg in front of your face or spinning on your head can be tiring on your body.  Dancers beat the pain by taking epsom salt baths, which help leech the soreness from muscles.  If you’re ever sore, take a page out of our dance manuel: it’ll work wonders!

 

Tennis Ball for DogsTennis balls – If the salt bath hasn’t done the trick, then it’s time to break out the tennis ball.  Tennis balls are usually used on feet to help roll out sore arches and improve the line of the foot.  They’re also great at working out tight knots that the salt bath didn’t take care of!

 

Screwdrivers – If you’re a tapper, nothing is more indispensable than a screwdriver, some extra screws, and a broken toothpick.  Tap shoes often lose their screws, and a crushed toothpick can add the extra FRICTION to keep your shoe in place.

 

Fitness with elastic band

Lambswool – Ever wonder how ballerinas manage on pointe for hours at a time?  Dancing on your toes isn’t a walk in the park, but many dancers use lambswool to pad their toes against the pain of the floor.  Gel pads, tape, and plastic pads are also commonly used to guard feet from the unforgiving floor.

Leotards – Chances you already knew that many types of dancers wear a leotard at some point or another.  The weird thing is that something that something so unattractive is still in use.  Leotards show everything–not just that extra serving of fro yo from last night’s dessert, but sweat stains (both old and new) are also fair game.

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The Gift of Dance

Stumped for holiday gift ideas?  Maybe you have relatives or friends visiting from out of town and you’re tired of making the drive up to Hollywood to show off the Hollywood sign from a gas station parking lot.  Maybe you just have some extra time on your hands and want to ward off the winter chill with some indoor cardio.

LA’s dance scene is as diverse as its demographics.  Whether you’re a thrill-seeker, a social dancer, or a focused barre flower, Los Angeles has countless gems for dancing.  Here’s just an idea of what you can find to get you out of the house and into the spirit of dance!

Cicada Club
The Cicada Club mixes vintage dress, dance, and delicious drinks all in the same classy nightclub!

Swing Dancing

If it don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing, then head on over to one of LA’s swing dancing clubs!  Lindy Groove in Pasadena is one of the largest swing events in Southern California and offers lessons beforehand.  Swing dancing is a fun way to meet new people and learn some new moves in the process.  If you really want to class things up, doll yourself up and waltz through the vintage nightclub, the Cicada Club.  Dress up in your favorite vintage duds, take in the stunning art deco architecture, and enjoy the live Big Band music while you dance the night away.  Did I mention that they also have delicious drinks?

Great for: Social dancing, dressing up (optional, depending on venue), date night

 

Bollywood
These classes take the structure of a dance class with the fun of the Bollywood movies.

Bollywood – Spice it up this winter with Bollywood dancing!  Bollywood dance is a highly energetic dance form found in Indian films and often combines elements of classical Indian dance with modern movement and music.  You can find classes all over LA, but LA DanceFit Studio is great for a more workout-focused class, while NDM Bollywood Dance offer an experience focused more on the dance itself.

Great for: Structured classes, ridiculous amounts of fun, multicultural experiences, effortless cardio

 

Line Dancing
Cowboy hat: optional. Cowboy boots: necessary.

Line dancing – If country music is your jam, grab your boots and head to one of Los Angeles’ country bars!  I just got into line dancing last year at a friend’s birthday party and have been getting my friends addicted to the boot stompin’ moves ever since.  Line dancing is a fantastic for beginners because the steps repeat themselves, and most bars have free lessons if you get there early enough.  My personal fave is Cowboy Country in Long Beach, but Montana’s and In Cahoots are also solid options.

Great for: Beginners, cheap learnin’, and people watching

 

Aerial silks class
Aerial classes are like learning to be ninja, but half the mortal peril.

Aerial

Want to take your dancing to the next level (literally)?  Twinkle your toes in the air with one of Los Angeles’ many aerial studios.  Choose from hoop (lyra), silks, trapeze, and many others.  If you’re not afraid of heights, aerial is like an adult playground.  It can be a drag picking up the basics, but few classes can compete with the athleticism, the dynamism, and the all-out fun of aerial.  Try Cirque School, Hollywood Aerial Arts, or Fembody Fitness to get your circus career off the ground.

Great for: Intermediate to advanced dancers, athletic friends, adventure seekers (P.S. Make sure you’re not afraid of heights!)

 

Feel free to chime in in the comments if you know of any dance gems in Los Angeles!

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100 Years of Silly Dances

It’s already December, which means it’s just about time for Facebook newsfeeds into nostalgia mode.  This year, let’s take it back farther than last year’s silly memes and look at the last decade’s silly dances!  I’ve posted the videos, so you can try out a few moves to work off that extra turkey by doing the mashed potato!

 

Turkey trot – 1900s

Like any great dance, the turkey trot was made outrageously popular by being publicly denounced in the early 1900s when it was banned by the Vatican for being too suggestive.  Despite being banned at public functions, the dance was made all the more popular by its risqué status.

 

The Black Bottom – 1920s

The Black Bottom dance originated in New Orleans, then made its way to the Apollo Theater in New York with the George White Scandals.  It was a hugely popular dance was composed by African American pianist and dancer Perry Bradford.  The dance was so popular, it ended up overtaking the Charleston.

 

The Jitter Bug – 1940s

The jitterbug is a type of swing dancing that became hugely popular in the ’30s and ’40s.  The dance itself doesn’t look that silly,but the name is another matter.  Inspired by Cab Calloway’s “Call of the Jitterbug,” the name comes from these poignant lyrics: “If you’d like to be a jitter bug,First thing you must do is get a jug,Put whiskey, wine and gin within,And shake it all up and then begin.”

The Mashed Potato – 1962

Just in time for the mashed potato leftovers, this dance started with the “Mashed Potato Time” by Dee Dee Sharp.  How it resembles mashed potatoes, still remains a mystery.

 

Time Warp – 1973

Part parody, part genius, the Time Warp encompasses all the fun kitsch found in the movie The Rocky Horror Picture Show.  

Thriller – 1983

What’s more iconic about this music video?  The makeup, the skintight leather pantsuit, or the dance moves that even Lady Gaga wouldn’t mind stomping to?  Michael Jackson’s music video was groundbreaking in that it mixed screenplay with a music video.  Even 30 years later, it is still regarded as the most influential music video of all time.

 

Macarena – 1994

The Macarena is one of the the greatest international hits of all time, ranking number 7 on Billboard’s All Time Top 100.   The song is one of the few foreign hits to make #1 on American charts.  The iconic dance moves were as popular across the board as the music itself.

 

Dougie – 2007

Inspired by 1980s rapper Doug E. Fresh, Lil’Wil taught the whole world to how to “Dougie.”  According to Corey Fowler, member of the Cali Swag District whose “How-To Dougie” video garnered over 20,000,000 views says that “Everybody does it different…The way you do it defines you.”

Gangnam Style – 2012

No list of silly dances is complete without Gangnam Style. The song pokes fun at the trendy, high class lifestyle of those who live in the Gangnam District in Korea, but even those who can’t find South Korea on a map can appreciate the invisible horse and elevator dancing that, along with a fun beat a lots of energy, made this song an international sensation.

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Backstage at the Los Angeles Carnival Choreographer’s Ball

1456745_10151708267366237_598503973_nIt’s just past midnight as we wait backstage to go on for the Los Angeles Carnival Choreographer’s Ball.  Some of us have been here since 3:00pm for tech, others of us have filtered in after work, but no one cracks a yawn, tired as we are.

Is it adrenaline or the cold air bursting through the open door that has us jumping up and down as we struggle to concentrate?

We try to warm up stiff limbs while dodging dancers in Cleopatra costumes and gold leggings.

As the dance onstage starts to wind down, Stretch Dance Co. circles up for one last huddle, our excitement arcing between us like electricity in a lightning storm.  We whispered well wishes and encouragements, squeezing hands for support.

“Don’t mess up,” I say–I always know how to ruin a Hallmark moment.

Some of the Stretchers tittered, but our laughter dies out as the lights went out on the dancers onstage.  It was show time.

But for me, the show had  started the minute I walked through those doors.

I’d heard so much about Carnival Choreographer’s Ball from dancers who had performed there in the past, but I had no idea what to expect when I arrived on scene at the Avalon in Hollywood with two bulging bags full of potential costumes and my work bag past the bouncers who, if they weren’t Russian mob, had been trained by them to scowl like supervillain henchmen.

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It was like I had stepped on the set of every dance movie ever made.  I had to quickstep out of the way of hip hop dancers practicing in the lobby, tiptoe around a couple salsa practicing a steamy routine on the landing in front of the stairs.

It was humbling to see all the amazing talent at the show during the dress rehearsal.  From a cute holiday mall-themed hip hop dance where the “mannequins” come to life, to a clever burlesque piece that shows that being sexy isn’t all that’s cracked up to be, to steamy Latin dancing… there were so many jaw-dropping dances and dancers  that it was easy to feel overwhelmed.

And I was feeling a bit overwhelmed in spite of myself.  I’ve been performing since I was three years old and I still can’t get over the preshow jitters every time I’m in the wings.  How was I, little music theater ensemble kid, supposed to measure up to all the talent that had already been onstage tonight?

But as the first twinkles of Macklemore’s “Same Love” filtered through the speakers, the jitters died. I wasn’t here to outdance anyone at Carnival tonight. I wasn’t here prove myself the best performer.  I wasn’t even here to be seen by the jaded agents and directors watching sleepily from the back seats.

I was here to spread a message: that underneath all the makeup, the technique, the costumes, we all share the same love for dance.

Don’t mess up, I whispered to myself.

And then I joined the dancers of Stretch Dance Company onstage.

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