I feel like I have to live vicariously through other dancers. Which is why I’ve grown to love So You Think You Can Dance. I have to be honest. I refused to watch the show for the first few seasons it was on TV. Really, I was just so frustrated with my aging, creaky old body that I didn’t want to see young, vibrant dancers at the beginning of their careers heat up the stage and make me feel like shit. I’m serious, and yes, I’m that jealous of people I don’t even know. But through the years, I’ve grown to really love and respect what that show is doing for the dance world. I love the amazing choreography, and how the program is willing to give choreography to former dancers on the show – what a way to channel amazing talent!
When I was probably 11 years old, I saw the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater perform Revelations. I will never forget the way the silk tapestry moved across the stage during “Wade in the Water” and I remember watching the late Gary DeLoatch perform “I Wanna be Ready.” During the intermission, my sister and I snuck up to the side orchestra box at the Folly Theater to get an up close look at Mr. Alvin Ailey himself. This was the defining moment of dance for me. I knew at that very moment that I wanted to dance, and that it wasn’t something that just interested me – it was in the very fibers of my being. Later, as a dancer, I participated in some fantastically terrible competitions, traveled throughout the US and to Seville, Spain in 1992 to dance at the World’s Fair, and fought tooth and nail with my former boss to prove that gymnasts must also have a dance background – a fight I would not win in the end.
Years later, I now live with constant pain from deteriorating discs in my lower back. I exercise irregularly, in tiny spurts, a process that both aggravates and annoys me to no end. I do yoga when I can because it’s the only way to gain balance and to center myself without excruciating pain. I try to explain this to people who knew me as a dancer and they just don’t get it. I don’t understand it myself, it’s like my spine has failed me. And it sounds ridiculous, but I absolutely adore watching those kids dance each week on TV. It makes me remember why I loved choreography. I remember why I loved being on stage. But mostly I remember why I was touched by dance in the first place – how the graceful, wonderful movements of the human body can inspire even those of us who can no longer move like that.