Liz Vestal Chirico
- OnStage Massachusetts Columnist
I startedcommunity theater when I was 28, and dance when I hit 32. I’ve been singing since I could speak (God gifted me with a good voice or so I’ve been told) but it still took until college for me to seriously sing with the intent of improving vs. just belting out the latest N’Sync hit in the car. It’s not that I didn’t know these things existed; I always loved the performing arts. I would see the shows in NYC, buy the soundtracks and spend countless hours in my room or in the backyard putting on my own version of the shows. With me as the star of course. Hell I even had my Tony award speech written and rehearsed.
For many reasons, taking dance lessons, singing in choir and participating in theater simply wasn’t an option for me as a child. Did I want to take dance with my friends or join the high school chorus groups? Of course. I’ve always loved that world, of music, expression without words, dreamed of becoming a character who’s more than me. But it just couldn’t and didn’t work. This piece isn’t about poor me, if only, what if; instead this is about embracing that any time is the right time to followyour dreams.
At 28 I was single-ish, bored and unsure of myself. Thanks to an ad at Starbucks, I found theater. I auditioned, was cast in the chorus and immediately hooked. I swore once grad school ended and my nights freed up, I would be back on stage. Fast forward to 3 years later. I was back on stage only this time armed with a year of voice lessons under my belt. See I knew singing was my strength and if I wanted any hope of being cast as more than “3rdchorus girl on the left” (still one of my favorite roles though, see my earlier post about the joys of the ensemble) I needed to work at it. The same as I worked at anything else in life.
Now fast forward another couple years. I have never been what you’d call coordinated. But I grew up idolizing Ginger Rogers, Gene Kelley and CydCharisse. I wanted to dance and dance like them. I started small, tap dancing. It came (fairly) easy to me and I loved it. I stayed with tap my happy dance zone until this past winter. That’s when I pushed myself WAY out of my comfort zone by auditioning for and joining a dance company. My comfort zone is currently like a dot on the horizon to me since I’m not only tapping but also in contemporary, lyrical and hip-hop numbers. And if you’ve ever seen a picture of me you’d know that me and hip-hop are not synonymous. (Unless hip-hop suddenly became very preppy and obsessed with matching their purse and shoes). It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done, dancing, and I would be lying if I said it’s been easy. Far from it. There’ve been more tears and thoughts of quitting than I’d like to admit. But I’m still here (please read that as Elaine Stritch, this is a theater blog after all).
The point is, it’s never too late to dream. It’s never too late to chase after your dream, to give it everything you have and then some. Had I danced and sang and performed as a kid I might have burnt out by now. I probably wouldn’t have invested the time and energy into rehearsing and practicing as I do now. I definitely wouldn’t appreciate all I’ve learned, how I’ve grownand all it’s given me the way I do now. My dream of calling myself a dancer is within reach- my first dance showcase is next month (in MA if you’re curious!) and beyond that it’s to keep doing what makes me happy. To keep singing, dancing, pushing myself beyond my limits. Because all the good stuff happens when you have no idea what you’re doing.