Harper didn’t know it, but the future of her dance career depended on this one dance. It all came down to 90 seconds of Itsy Bitsy Spider.
She enjoyed the dance practices, but from her first class, she was dreading the recital, which would take place on Muncie’s largest stage — Emens Auditorium — in front of 1,000 people.
I sat in the audience as a nervous dad. The first group of kids came out and one little girl folded her arms and stared at the floor. She was not dancing. Other little kids beamed under the spotlights.
For a girl who was still hesitant to say “hi” to her preschool teacher whom she had known for three years, performing on a stage was going to be a big deal. Harper is shy. She gets it honest. Annie, my wife, likes to take her time to get to know people, and, although I’m pretty social, I don’t mind time alone. I know personality tests label one as an introvert or an extrovert, but I’m both sometimes. Sometimes I get energy from people and sometimes I get energy being alone. I am, however, a proud member of blushers not-so anonymous (read my post on overcoming blushing). I’ve mostly overcome this, but my face still turns the color of Superman’s cape unexpectedly.
The stage turned purple and out came nine little side-stepping spiders with their arms stretched out. Harper was among them and she was smiling and she was dancing and she wasn’t shy because she was in that moment loving everything about it.
When she got home, she put on her tap shoes and danced until bed time. Harper is a dancer.
People often tell me they couldn’t do what I do. They say they would get too nervous standing in front of hundreds or thousands of people on a stage alone and delivering a talk for an hour. I never thought I could do it either, but then I practiced and prepared and practiced and prepared more.
Annie worked as a dolphin trainer at Six Flags in Ohio. She wore one of those Madonna mics, pumped up the crowd, ad libbed interviews with audience members, and dove and danced. The first time I saw her do this, I about fell out of the chair. A dolphin could have sprouted wings and flown from the pool into lake Erie and I wouldn’t have been more surprised than I was watching Annie perform in a wetsuit wearing a purple boa around her neck.
Annie practiced for weeks before she worked her way into a show. She had a blast working the coolest summer job ever.
In turn, I studied piano for seven years. I didn’t mind piano, but I hated the recitals. We had to memorize the songs. I practiced enough that I could play the song straight through, but if I got stuck somewhere I had to start all the way over. Of course, during the recital I hit a clunker and the song came to a screeching halt. Just like one never knows darkness until they’ve been deep inside a cave, one doesn’t know silence until they are sitting at a piano at a recital unable to remember a single note. It was horrible! I’d rather have hours of invasive surgery than experience another second of that silence.
I wasn’t prepared.
Nervousness can be overcome by practice and preparation and enjoying what you do. Then when you step out on stage, you can dance like everyone is watching and love every second of it. And your dad will sit in the audience and and cry because his shy little girl isn’t so shy after all.
Harper has many more stages in her future.