Cat’s Dance Story – Part One
Welcome to my first post on my revamped blog!
In choosing my first topic, I considered lots of different things. There’s so much swimming around my brain I would love to share with you. However, I finally decided the best idea was to start the blog with something autobiographical, something that tells my readers a little about me.
I don’t believe in the idea of a “life story.” Instead, I think every life is made up of many stories. In some, you are the hero. In others, you are the villain. And in many, you are both. I’m no different. As I was trying to choose one of my stories, something significant happened. I won’t reveal it now, because it will ruin this series, but, recently, I had a life-changing moment. And because of that, I will be telling my dance story first.
I have been a dancer for as long as I can remember. I didn’t take classes until I was about six years old, but I don’t remember ever not dancing. It’s one of those things that I didn’t become or find, I just always was. In my life, every room was a theater, every platform was a stage, and every moment was a chance to perform.
At age 6, I started dance classes for the first time. I took the standards like ballet, tap, and jazz. And I have to admit, I really wasn’t a fan. At that age, I couldn’t understand how standing at a barre for hours was making me a dancer. And I didn’t have anyone in my life who understood well enough to explain it to me. So, not understanding what the classes were accomplishing, I quit after two years and decided to take gymnastics. The idea of jumping and flipping sounded so much more appealing to an eight year old me.
For the next two years, I did just that. I jumped and flipped and swung from bars. Without realizing it, I built up my strength and flexibility, and developed some core skills that would help me on the rest of my dance journey. After two years, however, I got tired of gymnastics, too. If my parents had understood more about dance and my constant desire to perform, they probably would’ve made me continue. But they didn’t, (not their fault) and if I was bored, they definitely weren’t going to pay for classes. I can’t really blame them. I was a restless, impatient child who had energy in spades but little focus.
For the next little while, I was just a kid. Although, I was constantly in motion. I climbed trees. I climbed sheds. I climbed houses. I climbed everything. And I also jumped off of everything. I remember telling the kids at school that I could fly and, when they demanded that I prove it, I climbed on top of the playground equipment and jumped off, arms flapping all the way down. As Woody from Toy Story once said, it wasn’t flying but “falling with style.” But it convinced my friends.
Needless to say, my teachers were not my biggest fans.
When I got to middle school, I finally stopped climbing everything. But I still had this desire in me to dance, to perform, or to just move that never went away. So, for reasons I can’t even remember, I decided to take up figure skating. At this time I lived with my mom and my stepdad, and they worked very hard and tirelessly drove me back and forth to lessons every week. And this is where the bulk of my training came from. I absolutely loved ice skating. I still do. Figure skating combined everything I loved about dance and gymnastics.
And I was good. I don’t mean to say that obnoxiously or like I’m bragging, I just was. I was good enough that I flew through the training levels in about a year and reached competition levels in about two years. More than once, I had scouts approach me while I was skating to ask if I was interested in more coaching, joining the Ice Capades, joining Disney on Ice, or pursuing an Olympic career.
In my free time, I spent hours on my trampoline teaching myself tumbling tricks and listening to music. Skating, tumbling, jumping, and music were all very much my escape from the crazy in my life. I even formed my own backyard “trampoline team” (made up of mostly my family members and neighbors) called “Tramp Champs.” The fact that there might be anything wrong with calling a group of preteen girls “Tramp Champs” was totally lost on me.
By age 15, I was living with my dad and my first stepmom. (Not the person to whom he is currently married.) Without any adult support or guidance, I had no idea how to pursue skating, tumbling, dancing, or any of those things. Also, at competition level, ice-skating becomes expensive. Very expensive. And time consuming. Without throwing anyone in my family under the bus for things that are long since over and done, I had to quit ice-skating. And my trampoline finally wore out. Both of which were very difficult for teenage me.
Throughout high school, there was no dance for me. It was not something that was supported, encouraged, or even particularly liked. In the eyes of my parents (at that time), dance or gymnastics or ice-skating wasn’t something responsible adults did as a career. Or even just for a little while through college. Or even as a hobby. Those things were a waste of time.
So I did the occasional school play and watched with hungry eyes as other students danced and acted their way through high school. And by the time I started college, it was absolutely killing me. As I said before, dance was not something I did, or something I liked, or something I just wanted to study. Dance is part of who I am. So, in the haven of college, I went back.
Since my family, at the time, was not supportive of dance at all, I took every dance class I could as an elective in school without telling them. Now, that might’ve been dishonest, but as an adult, I was not obligated to tell them anything about the classes I took in school. Also, I went to school on a full scholarship, so they were not paying for me to take classes of which they did not approve. Finally, considering the abusive nature of our home and their decision to behave like immature twats, I felt ok about not telling them. (I did not have a relationship with my mom or my stepdad from age 13 to 21.) For the first time in my life, I had the freedom to dance. And that freedom was one of the greatest things I’d ever felt. Because I am a dancer. And I so badly wanted to dance.
For the next year or so, dance was my secret. I took pictures late at night or when my family wasn’t home, and I kept them, along with all my dance shoes and clothes, in my art locker at school. It was my personal catharsis until I was a sophomore.
That winter, my friend Dianne asked me to come with her to an audition for a local theater called NarroWay Productions. She had given my family tickets to one of their shows a few months before, and I loved it. However, I hadn’t thought about it being a possible performance venue for me. That night, I went with Dianne as moral support because she decided to audition for a speaking part. I had no idea that on a Tuesday in February of 2000, I was heading for a collision with destiny.
Congratulations! You made it through part one! Look for the next installment of my dance story soon.
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And, as always, remember to love one another. Love blindly, boldly, and without bounds.