Sick to the neck – what made me stop dancing.

Sick to the neck – what made me stop dancing.

So for the past 10 days or so I’ve been MIA from my life. An ongoing neck injury that I’ve been putting up with for the last 10 years or so decided to go to the next level on me, and render me useless in any way, shape, or form. It all happened suddenly at 4am on Friday morning when I woke up in pain unable to move my neck in any direction, and feeling excruciating jabs of pain with every movement.  Not being able to find a position of comfort be that sitting, lying, standing, or crawling, I have just endured 10 days of absolute stillness (which is impossible with a three year old). No running, gym-ing, stair climbing, yoga and worst of all…no dancing.  [Watch me as I pick my soul up from the floor and try to piece it together with medical tape.]

 

20160123_143547I have subsisted on a diet of Magnesium tablets and painkillers, and have lost all sense of smell due to constantly inhaling the stench of ‘fast-acting pain relief’ creams. In my desperation to get back on the dancefloor and make the most of my time in NYC, I have subjected myself to trigger point acupuncture, and wait for it…..cupping.  While neither were very painful, and the cupping seemed a bit nonsensical to me, I must admit I’m amazed at how it makes me feel the next day.  All but a minor pain on my left side (now), all the usual spots that have always had some type of pain are actually pain free (could this be?).   I’ll give my verdict after I complete my five sessions.20160122_145345 (1)

I’ve been rather depressed and miserable for the last week or so, wallowing in self-pity, feeling eternally bloated, and just plain useless. It’s funny, you would think that I would welcome the forced rest.  No gym-ming, running, yoga-ing or dancing.  Woo hoo!! An excuse to lie down for the whole day and just sit back and chill.  No working on the lap top either as tilting the head down also causes sharp pangs to run down my neck and back. But no, I’m just miserable.  Why is that? Does everyone feel this way? Dancers, singers, athletes anyone? Do you get depressed and just plain miserable when you can’t do what you love?  Therapists, physicians they all say “rest”,  we look for reasons not to rest and justify our actions when we don’t; and then we’re rendered simply useless because we didn’t.   Now what?  Just wait?  The last time I was forced to “rest” like this was after childbirth.  You can imagine how well I took that (combine that with no sleep, being treated like a cow, and an endless supply of visitors).  But now, staring at my three year old running around, unable even to play with him (cussing under my breath trying to dress him and put him to bed) I start to wonder how did I become so dependent on dance to be happy? Is this healthy? Is this a genetic? A personality disorder more likely, have I somehow been groomed to be this way?  I have so much to be happy and grateful for and after a week of no dancing here I am feeling lost and with no purpose (really?)….Dr. Phil, Oprah, somebody help!

No man can tell a woman what to do with her body…

No man can tell a woman what to do with her body…

…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 .

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A meme from Facebook, I would credit appropriately if I knew the author.

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.

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Dancing legends watching over as I eat

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.

Don’t take the F Train

Don’t take the F Train

One of the problems of being a dance mom is actually finding the time to dance.  Between taking care of the house, the child, the husband, and running a business from the other side of the planet, sometimes taking a dance class, or getting to an audition or making it to a show is all but a mere luxury one only fantasizes about while simultaneously drafting emails, and cleaning up lego. So it came to pass, that after a week of playing the single mother while my husband was away on a conference, I decided that I would take the risk and bring my child to a class where he would sit quietly at the back playing on his Ipad.  Anyone with a toddler, a potty training toddler mind you, will understand the fear and trepidation with which I was undertaking this task.

 

So what class could be so phenomenal that I am willing to risk my dignity and my sanity? A hip hop class taught by the incomparable Lenaya “Tweetboogie” Straker, aka Tweetie.  Tweetie is without doubt one of the few dancers in the world today preserving the traditions of hip hop culture through dance (did I mention she’s been on Oprah?).  As well as being a lesson in history, culture, music, and of course dance, Tweetie’s classes are a workout and more.  She has you doing drills, you’re on the floor, up in the air, your quads are burning, your heart rate is up, your glutes are throbbing, and meanwhile you’re actually DANCING to one of your favourite hip hop songs. It’s not an aerobics class to good music, I can’t stand those, it’s an actual DANCE class.  A few years earlier (prior to a husband and child) I had brought Tweetie out to Australia for a workshop residency in my hometown, so I was anxiously waiting to take one of her classes again. This class was my reward for a full week of being a single mom with no help, and my child still being alive to prove my maternal skills aren’t so bad. So after a well-planned out morning of visiting Saint Nick at Macy’s, giving my son his favourite lunch of “chippie nuggets” (chicken tenders), and juice (now he’s really being spoiled) we make our way to the dance studio. He knows what’s coming, we talked about it on the train all the way there. “Mommy is going dancing baby. You’re going to sit at the back and watch Peppa on the Ipad ok.  No crying. No grabbing mommy’s leg.  If you’re good you can have a chocolate after.  Do you understand?” “I stand mommy”.  He had been a good boy all day, doing everything that was asked of him (all but sitting on Santa’s lap), so I thought we’d be right. Well, I was wrong. After the first ten minutes, it started.  The long drawn out loud whines “muuuuuuuummmmmmeeeeeeee”.  Standing up and following me. He was potty training at the time and so told me he needed to “pee-pee” at least 3 different times over 45 minutes.  At this stage not only was I embarrassed, I felt like the annoying disruptive “mature age” student in the class. So I made my apologies and left halfway through the class with my child screaming at the top of his lungs. My eyebrows furrowed and me totally disheveled carrying bags, coats,  toys and a two year old. Finally, we’re on the F train, heading home. Four stops, swap trains, three stops and we’re home. The day is coming to an end. Somewhere between the second and third stop, my darling angel whose screams have now stopped, grabs his crotch and says “I need pee-pee mummy”.  Really? We had gone pee-pee three times already less than 15 minutes ago, he needs to go again? “You need to hold on baby”.  Too late.  I could feel this warmth on my leg.  The warmth was spreading down and around my thighs.  Oh good god, my child was peeing on me.  Deep breath. I think to myself ‘no problem, he’s wearing 2 layers of pants, I’m wearing 2 layers of pants, they’ll absorb it. We’ll get home wash up and all will be over.’ Then I look down. There is a stream. Nay, a freaking river of my child’s pee flowing down the car of the F train. It wasn’t an empty car either, there were about 10 people in the car; enough to know where the source of the river was coming from.  I freeze for a second, and can feel the stares and gazes of the people on the train. My son starts crying now, he can probably see them staring and shooting daggers at us through their eyeballs. What do I do now? The wet wipes I have on hand aren’t enough for me to mop this mess up on the train. I do the only thing I can do. Hug my child closer to my chest, close my eyes and do not make eye contact with anyone.

Fast forward a few hours, when we’re sitting at home, dry and not smelling of “pee-pee” when I realize I left my child’s Ipad at the dance studio. Thank god for Uber Rush.

ash and tweetie
Tweetie and I, 2010 in Perth, Australia during her dance workshop residency