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dance

Breaking, from “The Fault”

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Photo by Krista Mangulsone

When they reached the door, the knob was cold, and it wasn’t “eightish.” It was 9:37 p.m. She was surprised that she hadn’t stayed later on purpose. What had taken the most time was talking with the class coordinator at the art center. She was positively thrilled to have a volunteer instructor signing up.

“So many people want part-time gigs right now with the economy, you know.”

The woman at the desk leaned toward the office window, inviting the new teacher into her tedious chinwag.

“If you ask me, it’s usually just an ego boost for the prima donnas who never made it.”

The short, chubby woman wore too much rouge, but she was attractive, radiating the same kind of quirkiness that trinket shop owners in American tourist trap towns label as “sass” or “creativity” that is expressed in multi-colored reading glasses, spunky short haircuts, excessive eye makeup and bauble-wearing, and an inexhaustible admiration for Joni Mitchell and Emerson Lake and Palmer.

These kinds of women always have mints or chewing gum, she thought, as she allowed the talk to pass beyond her face and float toward the gargantuan local impressionist painting behind her. She tried to listen or empathize, but all she really wanted to do was get upstairs to check out the mirrors and see if they really had a decent practice space. Continue reading “Breaking, from “The Fault””

When her bones crack, from “The Fault”

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Photo by Jimmy Bay

That evening she was wearing her tights again, but this time she skipped dinner to begin exercising at the studio. She thought she’d leave the house before he returned, but that day, he didn’t come home late. Just as she was lacing her tennis shoes, the loud rubbery smack of the front door frame insulation startled her.

The kitchen wall clock read five forty-five.

“You’re really serious about this, aren’t you?” he said, as he reached to grab her hair that was wound into the fist–bun again.

She batted at his hand, insisting that he was “messing it up.”

“I’m growing out my bangs, so it took forever just to get it all up, okay?”

Mark smiled and apologized for his junior high flirting that still crept into their interactions from time to time. Although he knew it was more annoying than affirming, it was a remnant of their dating days when she learned that he wasn’t really all that funny at all—just charming and thoughtful in the same way small sons can be when they’ve been told that they’re good. It was that brand of corniness that was somehow simultaneously boyish and paternal that was occasionally endearing but never sexy.

She resumed tying her shoes.

“You’re still going to leave?”

When she didn’t answer, he offered to make dinner.

“Maybe we could watch a movie or I’ll rub your back.”

This sudden interest surprised her, so she hesitated in collecting her bag and keys. Her cheeks colored when she observed his obvious intent, but it drained when she looked at him. He tried again. Continue reading “When her bones crack, from “The Fault””

Dance Lessons

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“Shoes, Mommy. Shoes.”

My toddler begged me to put on my dirty pink flats. I didn’t want to, but there’s no other way she will watch the “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” on YouTube.

“Sha-sha-sha-shoes, Mommy,” she whined.

Only once when she was just 17 months old did I show her scenes from The Nutcracker. It was mid-September, and for four months, she insisted that we watch ballerinas and twirl in the living room while I wear those shoes.

My daughter is too young to know that I’m no ballerina and have no business calling myself a dancer. Right now, for her I am the Sugar Plum Fairy who changes her pants and teaches her everything she knows about dance. Eventually, she’ll discover that I know very little. She might even be ashamed of me.

I always wanted to learn how to dance, and by the time I found out that there might have been a chance for me, it was already too late. My first dance teacher said it was a shame.

“You really are a natural,” she told me.

I tried not to cry because I believed her. My emotions choked my gratitude. To fill the silence, she asked me to look in the lost-and-found crate outside the door. For two weeks, she had been trying to convince me to take some shoes that a real ballerina had left behind.

“Take those. I’m sure they would fit you. They’re good shoes. Use them in your classes in Texas.”

I remembered a few of my friends explaining the rite of passage of earning pointe shoes when we were in late grade school. At 23, I received my first good pair of ballet flats. I will never dance on pointe. Like my instructor said, it’s a shame I started when I did.

Being called “a natural” pierced me. The high compliment fell from my instructor’s mouth and shattered at my feet. Like my belated entry to the world of dance, those words were overdue. I turned 30 before I realized that all those hours I spent hours locked in my room stretching and pushing my body to bend made my body feel right. With no one looking, I was free to let my limbs speak through nameless movements with a structure and rhythm of their own. That I could communicate beauty and art with my body never took root, and it should have. Continue reading “Dance Lessons”

Madonna Taught Me How to Dance

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She told me it was a shame I started so late.

“You really are a natural.”

I tried not to cry because I actually believed her. My emotions choked my gratitude. To fill the silence, she asked me to look into the lost and found crate outside the door. For the last two weeks, she had been trying to convince me to take some shoes a real ballerina had left behind. Continue reading “Madonna Taught Me How to Dance”

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