Rough Diamonds & Cosmic Dancing
Episode 02:27:2023 - Prompt: Ambition
Where Ambition took me…
“I danced myself out of the womb. Is it strange to dance so soon?” sings Marc Bolan in Cosmic Dancer.
I danced way too soon.
Perhaps I took a few months of ballet, as evidenced by a photo of me in a white leotard in front of bursting pink azalea bushes. But my chosen style was intuitive with some mimicking of Twyla Tharp’s choreography in my favorite musical, Hair.
My grandfather was a hair stylist. He was also a pianist. Musicals, show tunes, the lyrical classics. And I, his only grandchild, was his lead Rockette. I could do no wrong in his eyes. Singing, dancing, costumes, it all felt so natural.
Until I auditioned for the European Dance Development Centre.
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I didn’t consider myself ambitious at the time.
I was twenty-three, living in Berlin, and thought if the right person saw me, they’d know how to mold me into an amazing dancer.
But how would I get in front of the “right person”?
I had heard of the EDDC through actual dancers and theater artists. I assumed the new program was looking for raw talent, the unusual applicant who doesn’t even know her abilities. (Oh yes, I had watched Fame, A Chorus Line, and All That Jazz many times!). I believed the diamond in the rough myth, and I knew there was an expressive dancer inside me.
To prepare for the audition, I took one Butoh class.
Why Butoh? I loved the stillness, the shapes, the intensity. I thought I might stand out if I could bring some of the Japanese art form to my audition. I would present the elusive allure of discovery for whoever could see it in me.
Because I had little money I made my outfit. I know, cliché, but I did. I made pantaloons out of a silky fabric I dyed orange. The color left me nowhere to hide. As I looked around at the other hopefuls, I noticed only diamonds. There were no hunks of coal at this audition. I could have bowed out without anyone knowing.
Instead, the adrenalin of ambition coursed through me.
The hope I would be seen for my potential kept my legs moving through ballet, through modern. My cheese popcorn colored pantaloons in stark contrast to the leotards. Next up, an improv class where the judges could see who we really were behind the training.
This was the time for coal to shine.
We were instructed to relax, to “not perform”. I realized trained dancers have a hard time relaxing. Always with perfect posture, hands draped over knees, legs curled around each other.
We were asked to come up with a lie and improvise a move to that lie. The young dancer ahead of me told an uninteresting story and performed a perfect pirouette.
Ha, I thought. That’s not improv. My turn!
I stood in front of everyone, said my father was homeless but was really a king, and drew from my Twyla Tharp well with a wild spin, a dramatic fold, my arms raised high and slowly – Butoh style – settled onto one knee like a court jester.
They clapped, as they had for everyone.
Of course, I was not offered a place at EDDC, but I look back at this act of ambition with affection. If I hadn’t seen it all the way through, I might still be wondering about that missed opportunity I had to be a great dancer.
I was able to let it go and just enjoy dancing.
Video of me dancing. You are invited to laugh.
YOUR TURN: AMBITION takes time to unfold. Don’t worry about getting it all “in one scene”. It could be a meditation on the theme as much as a success or fail experience. Just write 150 - 200 words (basically, my section about the audition at 185 words).
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My great ambition in seventh grade was to move up from the 7-2 track to 8-1 classes. Mission accomplished and doing well in eighth grade, I decided I was ready for my next ambition: to be popular. What thirteen-year-old girl doesn't want to be popular, at least secretly? So, I adopted a "birds of a feather flock together" tactic. That is, sit at the popular girls' lunch table. Never mind that I brown bagged and they had money to buy their lunches. Never mind that I was leaving my friends behind. Never mind that my feathers were entirely different from the popular girls', which became obvious the first day I approached the coveted table and asked, "Could I pull up a chair?" Why they said okay, I will never know. The girls' conversations revolved around three topics: shopping for clothes two-hours away in New York City, complaining about their mothers, and gossiping about the popular boys. Since I had nothing to contribute, I listened bored out of my mind. When my family went to New York City, we packed a picnic lunch and went to the Bronx Zoo, a really interesting place. My mother was pretty interesting, too, and unfortunately didn't provide much to complain about. And the popular boys? I was going to marry Paul McCartney, so why would I be interested in the thirteen-year-old, well-to-do guys who pushed and shoved in the lunch line, told stupid fart jokes, and laughed milk out their noses? My ambition to be popular lasted maybe two days before I returned to my forgiving friends.
The timeless adventure of travel-by-thumb will never die because we refuse to let it. See it on the map, decide to go. How many opportunities are there to explore Bruny Island, a speck off the southern coast of Hobart, Tasmania? After boarding the ferry by foot, a ride was spotted. A classic Volkswagen hippy van. Sure enough, as we disembarked the short journey, a stocky middle-aged couple rolled down the window. “Need a lift, mates?” Not a second had we been in the van when we’re handed a couple of ice-cold ciders. “Cider, mate?” Where y’all headed? We’ll take you there. But if you’re not in a hurry, how’s about a few stops along the way? We’re fishermen and we have a house in Ouse. Heard of Ouse? Probably not. Anyway, on the way to yours, we pass our favorite oyster farm. Like oysters?”
We spent the next three days in the attentive care of new friends, Archie & Gregg. A little ambition, a lifetime of memories.