So, you know that character on Family Guy who seems overly hyper and sex-driven? That’s the only character that comes to mind when I think of this girl – one of my dance group members. While one could say she was just bubbly and happy, I always got the feeling that perhaps she was a bit ‘off.’ Let’s call her Giggity.
The other character who happen to be a member of my dance group reminds me of Homer Simpson – she meant well, was super-sweet and usually gave anyone the benefit of the doubt. She wasn’t stupid so much as naive. We’ll call her Doh!
Now imagine that they were two members of your dance trio.
It started to finally come together the week of. They were hitting all the marks, looking good and I was excited again, rather than stomach-tossing, vomit-inducing nervous. To top it off, we only had the one number so we could spend all of our time perfecting that. We were the midnight act, first up of the new year, so it had to be on point.
I made a cardinal mistake. Props. I’ve danced with chairs, umbrellas, canes, hats, bananas, poles, scarves, ribbons, sunglasses, pom poms and probably a few others I don’t remember. Usually, I’ve done well. But there have been a few instances where I should have left well enough alone. Props have minds of their own. Sometimes they cooperate, sometimes they don’t. And usually their lack of cooperation occurs on stage in front of a full audience. So when you’re working with amateurs, nix the props. No matter how spectacular it looks in rehearsals.
Once again, I had a vision and I couldn’t let it go. Chairs. I love black chairs on stage. These were extremely lightweight and easy to open and close. Perfect for stage shows. I’d used them before and thought that they worked so well with this particular piece. And they did if you knew what you were doing.
Even though I knew better, I left them in and the girls seemed to have a good grasp on opening and closing on the proper counts. I dismissed my inner critic and went for it. Go big or go home, right?
I had another condition: no more than one drink prior to the performance. This was a tall order in that it was New Year‘s Eve, but we had a job to do and that definitely took precedence. I reminded them that, hey, you were representing me and my reputation is everything, so don’t fuck it up. Plus, the one in question was underage so there should be no worries. Right? Right.
The tech rehearsal went okay. It was too late to make any drastic changes because that was performance suicide, so I convinced myself that an okay tech rehearsal meant a fabulous show. Right? Right.
The evening started off badly. First, we met at Giggity’s home: her parent’s home in a very affluent area of Tampa. And I got some insight. She was a hot mess. Bitchy, whiny and scatter-brained. Her room was a mess and it took her a while to find her costume, then it took forever for her to roll her hair. All the while, she is screaming at her mother about random stuff. It was quite perplexing. Then the next shocker: ‘I’m almost ready. I just need to find my pills.‘ What? Are you serious? What pills? She has high anxiety and needs her Xanax. Whoa. No, absolutely not. She insists that she only needs to take one; it keeps her calm. Just one. I took a deep breath. Okay, just one. Please don’t go cuckoo. I can’t afford for you to go cuckoo. No worries, right? Right.
We arrive, get situated in the dressing room, hand over the music and the manager hands us drink tickets. I wish she had waited until after the show. It was like offering booze to a wino: hold onto this, but you can only drink it after you get a job. I, of course, held onto them. They pestered me like the two grown children they were. Please, please, please, just one! I gave in, but only to the one of age. I figured one couldn’t hurt that much and I probably needed it more than any of them. Her and I had a drink at the bar and tried to relax, while Giggity just couldn’t sit still to save her life.
What’s with her, I asked Doh!. Nothing, just excited. Sure, okay. Me too. My stomach started doing very familiar flip-flops – the kind that signaled this was not going to be pleasant. I got up to walk around, get out some jitters. I had already positioned our chairs on the stage, thinking that they wouldn’t be bothered. I was wrong. People thought they had been laying in an obvious pattern simply for their amusement, opened them up and sat on them – on stage. I politely told them to get the hell off of them and I placed them back where they belonged. Another sign that this was headed in a bad direction. Flip flops.
I head back to the dressing room several minutes later to find my underager sucking the last few drops out of a shot glass. I looked at Doh!, busted. She really needed to relax. I’m sorry. I was so pissed. First, she’s underage and second, she’s had a Xanax. More flip-flops. How bad would it be if I cancelled? Pretty bad.
I sent a silent prayer out to whomever was listening. Please don’t let this child embarrass all of us tonight. I can’t take it. I might kill her and killing is wrong. Please don’t let me do wrong.
For the one and only time, I did not want the clock to strike midnight, but it eventually came. About ten minutes before we were set to go on, my compadre had another little confession. I didn’t want to say, but Giggity took another Xanax along with her shot a little bit ago. Flip. Flop. This was going to be our last show. Hell, it was going to be difficult to enforce payment if she screws up as badly as I anticipate. But, the show had to go on.
And did it ever. It started out well enough, building up to the big chair finale. Grabbing them was no problem. Swinging them into the air above our heads turned out to be no problem as well. However, trying to open them proved problematic. Mine and Doh’s open up perfectly. But when I saw what was going on in my peripheral, it almost stopped me in my tracks. Giggity looked very confused – so confused, that she was swinging her chair in random directions almost like they were fighting each other. And the chair was winning. I kind of felt bad for her. Then again, maybe in her Xanax-alcohol-underaged stupor, she thought she was nailing every count. I kept it moving.
And I must say, I had an excellent show. I hit every mark, smiled and danced right through every look of shock and memory loss my fellow performers were going through. I knew overall it was bad, but if I could just dance my heart out, I could absorb as much of the attention as possible. On my left side, I had no idea why Giggity didn’t do the chair routine. I noticed that she was not up when the two of us were up and it was just completely off. There were a few other moments when Doh! didn’t move a muscle, lost in the counts. Oh well, nothing I could do about it now.
It ended and there was pretty good applause. One thing that worked in our favor…the stage was quite small and didn’t extend the length of the club and there wasn’t exactly stadium seating, so viewing was a bit impaired. What the majority of the people saw may or may not have looked cohesive – luckily. The people who got the jist were right in front. Back in the dressing room, I learned the real reason Giggity wasn’t able to do the chair portion correctly. It was broken. Some fat fuck sat in it and broke it. Awesome. Imagine her Xanax-induced shock when she tried to open it on stage and couldn’t. I had to laugh, even though on the inside I was crying.
As I walked around that night, I got quite a bit of kudos about what a great dancer I was. Not the performance, mind you. Just me. While to some, this may seem like an accomplishment, but to a choreographer it’s horrific. The goal of a performance piece is to create a cohesive dance experience for the audience. And for this show in particular, no one was supposed to stand out – there were no solos. I felt bad. So bad that I decided to use all remaining drink tickets for myself. I didn’t get sloshed, but decently buzzed enough to not cry.
I even mistakenly thought a compliment on my dancing was an invitation to flirt, until she got up and walked away from me mid-sentence. It didn’t upset me too much. It was just how my night was destined to go. By the end, I think that I broke even: we weren’t paid the full grand (surprised? not me) but enough to not make it so painful. I split it begrudgingly with the other two and decided that it wasn’t a total failure. As far as a next gig, I got the ‘don’t call us, we’ll call you.’ Again, not surprised.
But the best part? Gwen, the bartender I met during the first show, seemed to have a great view of the performance – enough so that she not only bought me a drink, but offered her phone number. So the night wasn’t a total loss.