Over the weekend, I performed in my 4th showcase that Dance Austin Studio hosts. After each performance, I’ve written about how I’ve felt and I realize what an important place dance has in my life.
This time was no different, in fact, I realized just how much I need dance and those I dance with to fulfill my life.
I started dancing in 6th grade, taking a jazz class at a small gym with one of my friends. We performed a few times, and I still recall flopping when we had to pull red boas from our partners’ leotards. It was cringe-worthy!
A year later, I tried out for the dance squad at my middle school – I didn’t make it, but made it the following year after practicing my smile and wearing lots of body glitter. I continued dancing throughout high school, I served as captain of a team, competed across the state of Indiana, and even choreographed a piece for my senior project.
And then I stopped dancing. I used writing as my form of expression, and while obviously I still am (and will always be) a writer, I started dancing again when I moved to Austin two years ago.
I feel like I’m really lucky that I ended up at THE best studio in the city – or maybe that’s all the proof I need that fate is real. Dance Austin Studio has challenged me physically and emotionally, and I’ve done things I never thought I would get to do: audition, perform on stage, and most importantly, learn from some of the best dancers in the industry on a regular basis.
Over the last two months, my life has suffered a whirlwind of changes. Many of my readers know that among the general hectic nature of my life, I recently went through a family emergency that flipped my world completely. There were days I was barely going through the motions of life, and I forced myself to dance.
I may not remember a single thing I thing I learned during those classes, but I know my classmates were there for me – even if they didn’t know it.
That’s the other thing about Dance Austin; it has truly become my family. While I had acquaintances at the studio last year, some of the ladies have really embraced me, invited me into their homes, and even included me in dance pieces of their own. I don’t know what kind of shape I’d be in without these people, these experiences.
For this showcase, “The Aftermath”, I performed in a Broadway Jazz piece. I have always had a secret wish that one day, I’d wake up and my life would be a musical – very much like the blue bird scene from “500 Days of Summer”. Taking broadway jazz was pretty much that dream, realized, and then I got to be a KILLER stepford wife on stage.
It didn’t happen without hours of practice in and outside of the studio; many nights I practiced in my living room wearing slippers while my cat watched with wide eyes.
I was also asked to perform in a contemporary piece with a message of women’s empowerment. It was very powerful and a true honor to get to dance in it!
This was my first time doing jazz in (obviously) several years; first time doing any “dressography”, and my first time performing two routines, plus in both shows! Whew!
But as we probably all know, the more challenges thrown at you, the more you conquer, and the more you ultimately learn about yourself. This weekend, I can say I learned that I CAN DO IT. I can learn something completely new amidst chaos, and smile through it.
So I owe a big thank you to all the ladies that danced with me, a thank you to Chi Chi – the owner of Dance Austin Studio, a thank you to Caitlyn – my instructor and insanely talented choreographer who put up with me being zombified for six weeks, and a thank you to the Ultraviolets for inviting me to share the stage with you as part of such an incredible piece.
February showcase, I’m coming for you!
Last Thursday night, I did something I’ve wanted to do for a really long time – years, even. I took a dance class!
On the surface, I know it doesn’t sound like that big of a deal, but I’ll explain.
I started taking dance in 7th grade, at a small athletic club. It was a jazz class, and even though it wasn’t very technical, it’s where I learned the bulk of anything technical – turns, leaps, barre positions, and transitions.
We learned a routine, practiced for weeks, and we performed for our family and friends. It wasn’t my first performance, but it was the first time I made a mistake during one – and my dad burst into laughter, Uncle Frank style.
Later that year, I tried out for the middle school dance team. I didn’t make it, and I knew why. I practiced, but I didn’t smile! So, I worked my booty off for the next year, and tried out again. And I was thrilled when I saw my name on the list!
We practiced all the time, and we got to wear sequined uniforms and perform with Pom poms. Our coach was a Colts cheerleader. We even placed in a competition that year.
Once I got to high school, I tried out for their dance team. I made it, as an alternate. That meant, I’d have to learn all the dances but I may not get the chance to perform them.
When our coaches said we could go to dance camp that summer before school, I jumped at the chance. Although it was some of the hardest training I’ve ever received, it was a ton of fun. Because of my hard work at camp, our coach gave me a spot on the team – I wasn’t an alternate.
I was lucky enough to dance on that team all four years, and served as team captain for two of those years. Dance has never come easy to me, while I have always loved music, my body moves differently, and I have a terrible short term memory.
But the years of work I put in rewarded me in a way that’s tough to explain. Dance, as an outlet, a sport, and as a team was there for me for every downfall, from breakups and my parents divorce, to school stress and even, sadly, the death of our coach.
Dance gave me a way to cope and it gave me confidence. But once I graduated, I quit dancing, for no other reason than just… Writing took over.
But I’ve missed dance a lot, and lately I’ve really wished to get back into a studio. So, after some researching, I found one that looks fitting. They teach hip-hop, jazz, modern, funk, and even cheer. Holla!
So, I went to an advanced hip-hop class last Thursday, and although I struggled along, I had so much fun! My teacher was so nice, and suuuch a cool dancer.
I was so, so nervous going into class, I felt sick. I didn’t know anyone and I didn’t know if I would be able to keep up, or if I would just look ridiculous. But everyone was kind and just wanted to let loose.
After class, I downloaded the song we learned a dance to (Superego by Disclosure, below), and have done a little practicing since. Tonight is my second class, and I’m pretty pumped to see how it goes.
Truthfully, I’m probably about two twerks away from breaking myself – 30 feels like 50 should, but I’m determined to give these moves a go! (I’ll be sure to post video once I feel my moves are good enough).
Y’ALL. Where has this week gone? It completely flew by, and I’m pretty sure it’s because I kicked things off by making this pumpkin coffee cake for my coworkers.
Originally, this recipe called for sweet potato puree instead of pumpkin, but I wanted to jump on the pumpkin craze, plus, it’s way easier to buy a can of pumpkin puree. But, feel free to alter it to your liking.
1 box Gluten-Free White Cake Mix (14 oz.) box makes one 8 or 9-inch cake
1/2 cup pureed pumpkin (or sweet potato)
4 tablespoons light olive oil or coconut oil
1 tablespoon Ener-G Egg Replacer (made with 1/4 cup warm water) (or 2 eggs beaten)
1/2 cup vanilla hemp milk– or non-dairy milk or orange juice
1 teaspoon mild vinegar or lemon juice
2 teaspoons bourbon vanilla
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger, or 2 teaspoons fresh grated, if you prefer
For the topping:
2 tablespoons Organic Spectrum Shortening or coconut oil
1/2 cup organic brown sugar
1 tablespoon gluten-free flour
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
Mix the topping ingredients together in a small bowl; rub and crumble it between palms to create a sandy texture.
Place a large plate on the cake pan; quickly turn over and release the cake; repeat onto a clean cake plate.
Makes 8 to 10 slices.
The following piece is an original written by Holly A. Phillips in 2007. It was based on the song “Valerie,” sung by the one, the only Amy Winehouse.
* * *
He unfolded a black chair and put the acoustic on his knee; he closed his eyes and ran his fingers across the strings. It was severely out of tune, warped from the weather. He tightened the strings and worked them back to life, the sound becoming sweet.
It was 9pm on a frigid Thursday in November. The cold garage floor awakened him. Old boxes of music he’d just uncovered surrounded Mark.
“Can’t you commit to anything?” she asked four nights ago.
“Val, three years is a commitment,” he pleaded. “I am committed to you.”
“Make it official,” she said. “We are in our thirties, Mark. I want children, let’s get this show on the road.”
But now, it was too late. Valerie was gone, took her show on the road, but left Mark behind. Mark had, and still did love her. He never noticed any real problems between the two of them, until Valerie would explode over a late night dinner or during a sports program. She always said the same thing:
“Hello, don’t you see I’m here, too?” or “Mark, I worked on this dinner all afternoon, can’t you at least be on time or call me?”
Mark didn’t understand trivial matters, like calling. After all, they lived together.
In the garage, he moved onto the sky blue Fender and plugged in the amp; reveling in its static start. Mark moved about the garage, laughing at the chords he remembered and the songs his fingers had memorized. It was college again, only this time, he was alone in his garage wearing boxers, which were bigger — to compensate the beer he drank in those days.
Valerie was never a music lover like Mark. He’d grown up in a house, always listening to jazz and the blues. He moved through stages of interest, but played some rock in college with three of his buddies. They mainly did open-mic nights and frat parties, but it was some of the most fun Mark had.
The phone rang. Mark listened through the garage door that led into the kitchen to hear the answering machine.
“You’ve reached Mark and Val, leave us a message and we’ll get back to you.”
“Hey… it’s me, again… Mark, if you’re there please answer. I know it was me who left, but please, I really want to talk to you.” Valerie sighed and then hung up.
Mark met Val in college; they had a few classes together. They were never close until after graduation; they kept running into each other at coffee shops. Then, Val was bubbly and spontaneous. She was a dream. She’d show up unannounced with a homemade casserole and a bottle of wine, which they always enjoyed over a game of Scrabble. They fit together. When Mark was out with Valerie, he felt he could take over the city.
The relationship moved quickly, but it was natural, until they moved in together. Valerie was so buttoned-up all the time. She never wanted to relax and was always bringing up lunch conversations she had with her married friends. Those talks ended in Val muttering something about “free milk” and thing she would shake her ring finger in his face. Mark had never lived with a girlfriend before.
Mark got back to his music. He cleared out boxes, finding different pedals he once used. Each one warped the sound in its own way. Occasionally, he would stand up and sing.
There was a knock on the garage door.
“Great,” Mark said to himself. “Someone’s pissed about the noise.”
Mark pulled up on the large door to see his friend and neighbor, Kyle, standing in the driveway, equipped with his black, triangular electric in his hand.
“Hey man! Wow… been awhile,” Mark said.
“I know,” Kyle said. “But it’s alright. I heard some familiar music coming from out here, so I thought I’d join…”
Mark motioned Kyle into the garage and pulled the door down behind him.
“Great, man. I ran into a little extra time on my hands and been digging up our old stuff,” Mark said.
“Yeah,” Kyle said. “I haven’t played this thing since ’95. Kim was a little agitated when she saw me leave the house with it.”
Mark laughed as he walked into the kitchen.
“I bet,” he said. “Women worry, you know. But you don’t have to stay late — although it feels good to hear it all again.”
Mark cracked a few beers and moved back into the garage.
“Man, you kept all our old stuff. I don’t even remember half of it,” Kyle said.
“I know, but once you hear it, it really comes back,” Mark said, smiling. “It’s great.”
Mark plugged his guitar into an amp and started tuning. Mark worked the Fender, plugged in a pedal, and went to it.
Check out “Valerie”, part II, right here, next Friday, August 28.