"I Don't Usually Do This...."

Monday, December 07, 2009

I can’t dance. At parties and weddings, when the music starts, I usually slink off into a corner, sipping a drink or chatting with the other wallflowers in the room. Dancing is not my strong point, so I tend to avoid it.

My friend Desiree Godsell, on the other hand, is a classically trained dancer who’s studied at the Alvin Ailey School and the Martha Graham Conservatory. Right now she’s touring with recording artist Santigold.

When she told me she was putting together a dance team, I thought, "That will be fun to watch." When she told me she wanted me to be one of the dancers, I thought she was nuts. I am the last person who should be on up on a stage, dancing. People will want their money back.

But Desiree had a vision – she wanted to choreograph and perform a routine with a team of adult women from all walks of life -- with extensive dance training, or with no dance training at all. "People love to play basketball, and there are intramural adult basketball teams for them to play in," she said. "And people love to dance! If people love to dance, why shouldn't there be an outlet for them to do so?"

So, our intramural adult dance team was born. Desire called us the Brooklyn Colored Girls Dance Team. Our debut performance was to be at a joint show with fellow dancer Lia McPherson called ROAMING. For four weeks, we met at the Union Street Dance Studio and rehearsed our moves. The real dancers picked up the routine right away. The rest of us usually went left when we were supposed to go right, or dipped when we were supposed to gallop. I was starting to have second thoughts about performing in front of an audience. (Have I mentioned that I can't dance?) But, as soon as I started to seriously consider backing out, it was too late. The show was right around the corner.

On the day of the performance, I tried to match the mood of the real dancers, who were focused and intense backstage. After putting on my costume and makeup, I peeked at the audience, and panicked. What was I doing here, dancing in front of people? Again, it was too late for second thoughts. The music started, and I stepped on the stage.

The three-minute performance went by in a blur. But, I didn't bump into anyone, and I managed to do all the right moves at the right times. In fact, I think we were a hit. Desiree said it was fun to introduce people to dance who wouldn't otherwise take an interest. "We were dancing to pop music, and we can do that, because it's just another musical selection," she explained. "It doesn't have to be Philip Glass that we're dancing to. We're still doing the same type of movement quality that you would see a write-up about in The New York Times -- the same movement styles, but in a more approachable way."

When it was all said and done, I have to admit that I had a great time dancing. Even rehearsals were fun. And I can't wait for our next performance. So, am I a dancer now? "If you can move, you can dance," Desiree said. "Maybe you don't have the technique, but there's no way that you can't express yourself through movement and have a fun time doing it. Everybody, I think, can dance."

Even me.


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Comments [4]

Toni Sciarra Poynter from New York City

I, too, am a "regular person" who dances - three times a week at the Alvin Ailey Extension for adults. And I, too, had never danced onstage--until our fearless ballet instructor Kat Wildish started the New York Repertory Workshops because she believed that adult students should have the experience of performance. Our first performance took less than an hour and there were more performers than audience members (20 friends and family on folding chairs in the studio). In less than 2 years, the Workshop has grown to three sold-out Student Showcase performances over a weekend, in the glorious state-of-the-art Ailey Citigroup Theatre. Choreographed works by teachers represent many dance styles--classical ballet, modern, hip hop, jazz, theatre dance, tap, African dance, and more. I have learned about controlling nerves, dealing with mistakes, managing my energy, handling blinding lights, slippery floors, and costume mishaps - not to mention all the things I learn from the videos that show me what I need to work on in class. Please come join us as a performer or audience member. It is not to be missed if you are an adut who loves to dance.

Dec. 10 2009 05:39 PM
Stacie from Brooklyn baby!

Great story Janaya! I loved the performance and truly believe that we all have innate creative power. Kudos to you for taking a risk and discovering the joy that can come from it.

Dec. 08 2009 03:54 PM
Denise from St. Louis

Wow! Great story. I wish had been there. The cheers are so genuine. When are you coming to my neighborhood for a show?

Dec. 08 2009 01:48 PM
Terrell from Brooklyn

Yes. We are all dancers!!!
It was a great show!!!

Dec. 08 2009 11:48 AM

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