There is nothing more thrilling than feeling like a star. Even if it is just for the night. We left the club on a high – ready for more, ready to make a profit. We had two months to prepare. At first, everyone was on board until the date was changed. They wanted us to perform for their New Year‘s Eve bash, as in the night before New Year’s Day. The night 90% of the population is out and about, drunk off their asses, kissing strangers and acting a fool. Correction. It’s the night that 50% of my dance crew will be out and about, drunk off their asses, kissing strangers and acting a fool. As in, one month away: not two months. They couldn’t do it. Plans. I completely understood. It was a lot to ask, even for a little bit of pay. The only bright side was that we only had to split the grand three ways instead of six. Splendid.
So the three of us got started. The choreography was a bit harder, I might add. I could have simplified it more, but I was stubborn. I get a vision in my head and it’s hard to shake sometimes. Even when it’s clear that people aren’t getting it. I assume that it will just come together, like magic. I should have known by then that it just doesn’t happen that way…
Back in college, I was a member of a dance troupe – Nubian Allegria – a multi-cultural dance ensemble. We performed all over the campus and community for various events – lyrical, jazz, african – all kinds of styles. It was a lot of fun and it was a lot of work. But I loved it. The leader and main choreographer was a bit loopy with very scary braces, (hey, that name will work) but she had great intentions – albeit a little cheesy. I still have some of our performances on tape. One in particular:
It’s a very fast, jazzy song, as you can tell. We wore fringe dresses, stockings, feathers in our hair, gloves – the whole nine. We practiced forever: late nights were very common and Braces wasn’t trying to hear any excuses. Our dress rehearsal was the night before the performance. I didn’t have major issues with my costume. Of course, that was because in an effort to not mess it up, I didn’t do the routine full-out. Full-out was with all the flips, jumps, leaps and tosses I was going to be doing in this dress. I figured it’d be fine – it’d work itself out.
Not quite. In front of a huge room full of business professionals and community leaders at the historic downtown MLK Center, I had what was my first actual public display of skin. Unintentional, I might add. See, I took the advice of Braces and wore thigh-hi stockings – the kind that were supposed to stay up by themselves under normal conditions. They weren’t exactly designed to stay up when one is doing hand stands and being picked up and flailed around every which way. Including upside down. And since I never did the dance full-out in my dress, I had no idea that it would fall past my hips and almost over my head as I was lifted upside down into the air – twice. So I flashed the group my faded lavender Hanes Her Way’s – twice, finishing the show with one tired thigh-hi resting on my ankle and the other clinging for dear life mid-thigh. It was horrid. As one attendee commented later: The show was good. Just a little too much ass for me.
In yet another college performance, I was a back-up dancer for a good friend of mine – a drag queen. Let’s call her JuJu. She traveled to compete in pageants all across Florida. Extremely exciting for us, except when us two girls were kicked out of the dressing room amid loud rips of duct tape being torn out. Shiver. This time, we were in Jacksonville and the atmosphere was not exactly female-friendly. Go figure. There were four back-up dancers in total: two girls and two guys. The song?
Now, halfway through the song it broke into a remix. Cool, right? The two guy dancers would sneak two bananas out of Juju’s fruit-filled hat and start eating them. Upset, Juju runs off stage to change quickly into her revealing swimsuit to join us in the remix. That’s the gist of the act: a sort of odd twist on Josephine Baker and Carmen Miranda. Once she leaves, the guys toss the banana peels off the stage. I repeat, OFF the stage. For this number, one peel didn’t quite make it off. Unfortunately for me, I didn’t see it. As the beat picks up and we start busting a move (that’s right, I said busting a move – I’m a child of the 90’s) – I’m into it, the crowd’s into it…at one point, we drop to the ground – face forward. Except my feet hit the banana peel and I slam into the stage floor. In the video, you can actually see me fall hard, followed by the front row of judges and other random people, shaking with laughter. Then, still not knowing why that happen, I keep going like the true professional I am. Only to re-encounter that damn banana peel as I do a pencil turn down onto my knees. At least, that’s what I was supposed to do. Instead, I manage some weird, one-footed pinwheel – all limbs flailing until I finally hit the ground in an awkward heap. Humiliating. Backstage, kudos were given to everyone, but me. We were surrounded by gay men and bitchy drag queens, so yeah, they made it that obvious. Eye rolls, laughs – it was awful. Juju, of course, did not win. Didn’t even place.
Needless to say, at this point in Tampa, I had plenty of reasons to simplify things and make sure that my choreography matched that of the performers. I cringe at how I could have possibly avoided the embarrassment of that night. What a way to bring in a new year.