…Except Bob Fosse. A little thing I picked up in New York, on the Upper West Side in Advanced Theatre Jazz, with none other than Diana Laurenson .
Diana’s class was the first class I took when we moved to NYC. I don’t know if I took the class or if the class ‘took me’. Because ever since, I have been addicted to this class. It is my therapy, my ‘me time’ and, when my life seems to be a constant of cleaning up other people’s mess, and problem solving trying to keep everyone else happy, this 90 minute class is the divine spiritual intercession of my week. And no, I’m not being ‘that’ melodramatic artist.
Diana’s classes have covered everything from classic American Musical Theatre Reperotire. Dances I watched as a kid on old VHS videos (does anyone still have one?) and unsuccessfully tried to copy. The thing with Diana’s class is, you don’t get taught the steps and the choreography alone, you’re immersed into the feeling, and the very essence of the character that you’re dancing. Diana has an uncanny way of getting you to think and see through the eyes of greats like Fosse and embody the dance – not just ‘do the steps’. Her years of dancing amongst the legendary gives her an insight that up and coming teachers and choreographers today simply don’t have. She has history, and knowledge and experience. A sad truth of the circle of life is that people like Diana, their experiences, and their stories will soon only be in texts books (or blogs); she’s a walking, talking, smiling encyclopedia of theatre dance. I can’t describe the privilege I feel when Diana walks into the studio, presses play on the stereo and I hear “It’s show time folks”, and Di’s voice echoes “eyes up to the mezzanine”. In my head I’m center stage at the Broadway Theatre glowing in the spotlight. From the warm up, to the “simple ballet barre” as she calls it, and the stretching combination it’s SHOWTIME. You’re performing your warm up, flirting with your fellow dancers through your eyes and your face, heck even your titties are flirting with every pendulous swing as you try to present that epaulement ‘the way Luigi would’ as she says.
To me, the electricity and energy that I feel in this class is the epitome of what I imagined New York to be. There are professional dancers, up and coming stars of the future, some who have danced in the past on the big stages, and here they are sharing their energy with people like me. We could be dancing in a derelict barn in the mid-west, and somehow because of Diana it would feel like we’re on the boards of the world’s most prestigious stages. That’s the power of Theatre Dance, or maybe it’s just Diana’s superpower – being able to get her students to travel in time, to another place, and tell great stories through dance.
I’ve come to accept that my ‘dream job’ of dancing in a Broadway production (Chicago if we’re being precise) will likely stay merely a dream. But here with these dancers, with Diana, I feel like I’m living ‘the dream’, (albeit for only 90 minutes every Sunday). While I battle daily with the voices in my head that focus on my failure in never having booked that ‘dream job’, the voices that consistently remind me of what I haven’t achieved, what I haven’t accomplished, what I should have done, and what opportunities I didn’t have, questioning every decision I’ve ever made, my Sunday afternoons with Diana have made me realise that my dream is simply to dance, dance with people like her, with that energy and that passion. People willing to travel through time, and to different places with me and tell a different story each time. In her class I get to do that. So when I say this class is my therapy, it actually is. It’s not about that ‘dream job’ or that one ‘big break’, it’s about fulfilling your passion every day and basking in that joy you receive from that passion.