Once a week now, I try to "do the double." Not pirouettes, but back-to-back classes, usually ballet and then theatre dance or street jazz. I love it. But my body tells me when I need to slow down.
So a few weeks ago, I was 30 minutes into my second class and getting light-headed during a torturous jazz adagio. Chuckling at my ambitious attempts to dance for nearly three hours, I sneaked around the edge of the studio to talk to one of our teachers, who was observing in the corner. When I told him that I was tired -- that I'd just taken ballet -- he grinned and said "that's great!" -- a supportive "atta girl" that made me proud.
That thumbs-up alone would have made my day. But then he said something that made my head spin.
"You oughta get a gig."
"Doing What?" I asked, wondering what he possibly had in mind. I waited for him to explain his headlining remark: "39 Year Old Amateur Dancer Seeks...Gig."
He shrugged. "I don't know," he said, "but I started my last show when I was 39. You've got a few years ahead of you."
The only way to describe my reaction is a bizarre combination of elation, fascination and what-the-hell-are-you-talking-about. I can't land my turns. (very well) I can't sing. (very well) I have a lovely family, a growing business and generalized anxiety about things like gigs...well, actually, about everything.
While a dance gig sounds like a dream come true, reality is daunting.
And it always was. Over the next few days, I remembered a few of my turning points as a dancer.
I was 13 years old when I asked my parents if I could dance every day to earn arts and PE credit. I would take academics in the morning and spend afternoons in the studio. A dancer friend had this enviable arrangement, and I thought I could do it, too. All I remember is that I raised the idea with my parents, got a talk about life "balance," and I went on with 8th grade, as usual.
The same friend auditioned for the high school for the performing arts when we were 15. I went, too, and I got called back. I didn't go back. It was too hard to explain that I wanted, so badly, to be a dancer and be wildly "out of balance." It was easier to pick up my JV cheerleader pompons and march into high school right up the street from my house.
I'll skip the story of my Six Flags Over Texas audition. Ugh.
Then, after college, I took a class taught by a former Dallas Cowboys cheerleader. After a few classes, we graduated to holding the pompons. (Those things are heavy, by the way.) She told me that I should try out for a squad, maybe the San Antonio Spurs dancers. ("Just lose 5 or 10 pounds," she said.)
I didn't go.
Apparently I've been thinking about "getting gigs" for a long time. But I have never had the courage to go and Get One. Until now.
Is it a midlife crisis or a midlife revelation? I'm not sure.
But if not now, then when? I am 39-years-old, and I am looking for a gig.
The best part? It's not all about finding one.
It's about wanting to.
2009-Laura Bond Williams. All rights reserved.