Dance Like Everyone is Watching

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.

 
5 comments
Steve Contos says:

Kelsey think of the first time you played DM all by yourself, no other staff to bail you out and the Capt. was too busy driving the boat to bail you out…you just had to screw that courage up and Git Er Done! I think any persons degree of “stage fright” depends on that stage and what they have to deliver, if you get hit with it as a DM or an Instructor someones life may very well hang in the balance due to your fright. Or if what you are delivering is yours or belongs to someone else? When I did stand up it was me and my jokes, no one else to rely on, just like you and your presentations of YOUR work. Stage fright there is quite understandable. to be honest I have always been scared to death of speaking in public but I overwhelmed that fear with the fact that I had something that needed to be said and that usually got it done. At Ralph’s memorial service I was scared to death to go up there and speak even though it was in front of friends and acquaintances because as hard as it was for you and your presentation I was also told I had to make it about the amusing parts of his life…WTF?? With all of 15-20 minutes to prepare all I could do was see Ralph laughing at me as I sat and sweated it out and a lot of the people there told me they rawly saw him laugh, lucky for me I had seen this happen many times and that was all I needed.

Kelsey says:

Stinger, Being a DM and instructor definitely taught me a lot of self-reliance. It also helped me from a public speaking perspective.

I had a buddy ask me if I wanted to do standup and I about puked on him just thinking about it.

I also spoke at Ralph’s service and was really nervous for a whole host of reasons. I remember how we got so little time to prep. No preparation = being way nervous and worried if I was going to make sense and also keep my shit together. Ralph would’ve made fun of us so much!!!

Miss that guy. Harper and Griffin would’ve loved him.

Rebecka Vigus says:

There is a name for those of us who are both introverts and extroverts. I have never overcome the blushing. I have just learned to live with it. It tends to abate once I get started, but sometimes I too look like Superman’s cape. My daughter used to find me in the audience and she danced for me and and any other family members who might have tagged along. Go Harper!

CathyShouse says:

Love this! I, too, had memorization problems with piano. One time I couldn’t remember the starting note. From false confidence, I had left the book at home. This was in a series of recitals at a university so I was moved to the next time and played it masterfully then, if I do say so. i was in high school and fairly accomplished. :) Just my luck, the room was packed when I forgot and nearly empty the day I remembered.

Kelsey says:

Cathy, I never knew you played piano. I was horrible. What a nightmare, but I would still like to pick it up again one of these days. My parents are ready to give me the piano I learned on, but we don’t have a place for it. We should consider getting the kids started soon.

Also, sorry to hear about your experience. i will never play piano in public again!!!

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