last dance

Today was my last day of dance class.

I didn’t make that realization until I was walking in from the parking lot and toward the performing arts building. It struck me not so much as monumental as simply a page turned. By now it’s comfortable to wind down a corridor, greet dancers eating healthy, green-looking lunches outside the rehearsal studio, and slip off my own shoes as I step into the square, sparse space. For the near future, at least, I won’t be taking off my shoes before stepping into a classroom. I also won’t have to sit on the floor.

I’ll miss it.

Today, I needed to be there simply to confirm details about the Company’s upcoming tour of Eastern Utah, an extension of the semester to capstone the entire program. We’ll be visiting one more especially remote school for a performance and workshop with 7th graders. But this only needed about 15 minutes of my presence at the very end. Erik started to apologize that this tied up my afternoon, but I was honest when I said that I didn’t mind. I wanted to be there. I got to end in a similar mode as how I started: sitting on the sides and taking it all in.

Most of class was spent going over a couple of parts where we expect the group’s understudy, Hannah, to fill in for our final performance. I’ve come to revere “understudy” more than any other role in the whole production. We’re asking someone to be ready to step in for any of a number of parts, at potentially a moment’s notice. And so Hannah (and last semester, Eliza) dutifully observes whenever she isn’t in a section that features the entire ensemble. In the wings, the understudy is literally going through motions that she’s watching on stage.

So at this point, Hannah was mostly fine tuning everything as she stepped on Aysha’s marks. That’s where it was so fun to watch. Aysha helped Hannah conceptualize cues, explicit (on a given beat or movement) and implicit (sensing someone approaching alongside). The rest of the ensemble stepped along, helping actively or simply being reliably in their places. Hannah focused her gaze, occasionally looking out of the corner of her eye; but really no one watching the performance would be any wiser that she is performing these pieces for the first time.

(At one point I realized that I had to watch a little more closely. Hannah doesn’t know that I take an important cue from her. If I miss it, I either come out on stage too early or too late. This is important, since I am toting a leaf blower.)

Through it all, there was a lightness. It’s the end of the term and the dancers — students — are rightly exhausted. But as they stepped through phrases they began to add whimsical narration and dialogue. Erik and I smiled from the sides. “Okay, now this is where we get serious again,” Sam toned with ironic humor. I laughed. Truth is, in a lot of what they started to say while they went through the piece again, I started to see more new things, even after all the rehearsals and performances.

It was a fun last day of class. It embodied the joy and collaboration that I’ve associated with these dance classes over the past several months.

I got home and told Karyn about the last class, the work of an understudy and the ensemble, how we applauded for Hannah and how impressive it all is to me. “It’s cute how you talk about those dancers,” she told me. I guess, maybe. Mostly, it’s just that I admire the work, their creations, and how they’ve let me take off my shoes and step into their space. They’ve been generous to me. I’ll miss them.