Learning New Tricks

Liz Vestal

Don’t discount me. The “old” one. The one who creaks when she stretches, who doesn’t know her port de bras from a pas de bourree. The one who maybe didn’t pick up the combo at auditions but who can sing well or you needed a “mom/older sister” type.

Directors and choreographers- I get it. It’s your name on these productions, the dance numbers. You want it to represent you and showcase the best and the brightest. You think we don’t want to do our best? You don’t think we know that we aren’t the most talented, that we don’t look all that great in the little sparkly spandex number that really only 5-year olds should wear? Believe me, we know and it makes us all the more determined to do our best. To kill ourselves in and out of rehearsals. To ask you to break the combo down just one more time, to beg you to record the routine and put it up on Facebook- now please. We know we have a lot of ground to make up, and we don’t want to let you down. 

Photo: Diablo Theatre Company

Photo: Diablo Theatre Company

We don’t want to let our families down either. Families, kids, spouses, friends who endure hearing “I can’t, I have rehearsal” 3 or 4 days a week, only to find us rehearsing still on the nights we’re supposed to be “resting”. Families who pay to see us in those ridiculous sparkly spandex outfits that suddenly don’t seem so awful because it represents everything we learned in 4 weeks, 6 weeks, 10 weeks. We may not be dancers but damn it, we’re dancing.

We don’t want to let ourselves down either. We know people look at us, women of a certain age, when we tell them we’re dancing (not that we’re dancers- most of us wouldn’t consider that term applying to us) in a musical, or with a dance group or company. They think, hell YOU might even be thinking “how can you possibly keep up” and you know what? We think that too. At every rehearsal, during every combo when we are just a beat behind. But we know dancing is what makes us feel young, alive, happy, fulfilled. So we do our best to ignore that voice in our head and all those looks. And we come and practice, and go home and practice some more. Because we don’t want to give that voice in our head the satisfaction of being right. 

Agnes De Mille said, “Many other women have kicked higher, balanced longer or turned faster. These are poor substitutes for passion.”  Man was she onto something. Maybe we took dance as kids and burnt out then but we’re ready for another try. Maybe circumstances didn’t allow for us to pursue our dream of dancing until well into adulthood. Maybe we never stopped dancing but we had a few kids and suddenly our body isn’t capable of what we remember. Regardless I’m willing to bet us old gals have more passion for what we’re doing than anyone else in the room. 

All we want is a chance. The chance to show Ms. Director and Mr. Choreographer that with a little extra time and work (mostly on our parts, sometimes on yours) we can do it. We can be just as good as the girl whose legs are up to my shoulders, maybe as good as the one who’s danced their entire life. We’ll make you proud, our families proud, but mostly we’ll make ourselves proud. Proud that we didn’t let ourselves be intimidated by that roomful of teenage girls in their snazzy black leotards, that we persevered despite having minimal or no dance experience, that we pushed ourselves outside our comfort zone and achieved more than we ever thought we could

Because with age comes wisdom. The wisdom to know that you only have one life and one chance and you better give it all you can. Five-Six-Seven-Eight