Once I realized I was never going to be a ballerina, I gave up on my love of dance forever. No, I never took ballet classes, or tap, or pole. I just always wanted to be one of the girls who did.
And then came Saturday Night Fever. I found the dance floor in 1977. I was sweet sixteen. We danced the night away at the Bel Rae Ballroom on Thursdays for the 18-and-under-only nights. They had a rotating mirrored ball hanging from the ceiling and the whole shebang. Say what you will about the 70s. Disco allowed me to finally become the dancer I always knew I was. I practiced the hustle in my basement, listening to the SNF soundtrack over and over . . . and over.
These days, aside from the occasional wedding, at which I will need at least three drinks before I do much more than tap my toe, I’m rarely found on a dance floor. However, I do find playing some good music can help get me up and moving when I’m not looking forward to it. I have a whole playlist of cleaning songs, guaranteed to get me up and dancing, duster in one hand, vacuum in the other . . .
My favorite pastime is to watch someone performing a task that they know well. I’m sitting here at McDonald’s . . yes, McDonald’s! . . . watching the ballet behind the counter.
The shift manager, switching gracefully between Spanish and English, has complete control. She choreographs the stage with the confidence of the greatest mistress. Her ballet company each aware of the other’s move as they have practiced every day. They make it look easy, as if one who had never seen the dance before, could slip in seamlessly.
There is one at the front, awkward and stiff, smiling nervously. If that weren’t obvious enough, he is overseen by a small girl watching his hands, his register, checking the receipts and listening to his customers. Quiet boredom resides behind her eyes. She is eager for this student to dance on his own.
I love to watch my local barista, the piano tuner, the window dresser, the phlebotomist, the forklift operator. I’m a regular balletomane. At some point, we were all beginners at what we do. Even the experts had to learn all the moves; the arabesque, the glissade, the pirouette. I like to watch and wonder what took the most practice to learn? What adds the most drudgery to the day? Why is it done that way, and what in the world is that thing?
Sometimes you are going to find performers who just should not have made the cut. As with any stage, “the show must go on!” Other ballerinas react quickly, the mistakes are covered, the ballet continues.
And at the end of the day, even those of us who dance at our desk are ready to go home. We release our weary feet from our shoes. We massage our aching muscles. We offer our final reverence before preparing to do it all again tomorrow for a new audience.