JoDee Luna: Performing arts coward. Needs reason to dance other than fulfilling her dreams. Terrified of public stages but will dance for blog comments. Due to appear on her birthday in a jazz/swing number at the Cedar Street Theatre. Only supportive friends and family welcome (or total strangers I will never see again).
Pathetic, I know, but there it is. The truth all out there in the open. My dancing confidence as if summarized in an online dating profile. Or, kind of like a beggar on a street corner holding a cardboard sign: “Will dance for food (of the soul that is like blog readers saying “Wow, you did it! You should be proud of yourself!”). I know, I’m a total sell-out for a little encouragement!
When my daughter, Andy, recently asked if I would join a dance number she choreographed, my heart did an airborne somersault and then landed with a splat into a muddy puddle of reality. “YES” came out of my mouth during lift off and then a groan when I realized I would have to be on a stage with people watching. You see, I love to dance but hate to perform. So I’m thinking, “Maybe before I go forward with this dancing gig, I have to go back to work out this fear!”
As far back into childhood as I can remember, I always walked on my toes and adored dancing. My mother paid for dance lessons that our neighbor held in her garage turned dance studio.
I vividly remember one particular time I got into trouble for lying, or rather exaggerating the truth, which had to do with my fear of performing. I was about seven at the time and loved my tap shoes. The dance instructor’s teenage daughter had a friend over and the two of them were sitting on a wall watching me get a kick out of the sound my tap shoes made. She then asked,
“JoDee, do a little dance for us.”
I stood there with my black shiny shoes frozen as if set in cement. I looked down at the silver trim edging the top of my shoes and hoped the girls would go away. I can still remember that hot, uncomfortable feeling up the back of my neck that fear induces.
Neighbor girl, “Come on JoDee, show us a dance!” By now she had a smirk on her face kind of like the Cheshire Cat in “Alice and Wonderland.” I know this because I quickly glanced up to see her face looming over me with those buck teeth moving up and down like a bunny rabbit gnawing on a carrot.
“Let us hear the sound your tap shoes make! Come on!”
Finally, my awkwardness became too much to contain and I ran for home clickedy clacking all the way.
“Now we hear them!” She yelled after me while they both howled with laughter.
Needless to say, I went home and told my Mom a whopping tale of emotional and mental abuse seven-year-old style. The next thing I knew, Mama Bear marched over to the neighbor’s and pounded on the door. What ensued will forever be branded into the hide of my mind, although I wish I could erase the memory forever.
The neighbor returned to knock on our door and I hid behind my mother’s skirt while these awful words sounded.
“Just for the record…” My dance instructor dropped the dime on me with her daughter’s rendition of the story. My mother was furious that I had lied and set her up to be the bad guy. The details of the lecture I received elude me now but the lesson learned is forever imprinted in my psyche: If you’re gonna frame someone, make it believable!
Seriously, I cannot say that I would have done anything differently because that neighbor girl never teased me again. No wait…I would have busted out a Gene Kelly move, laughed, and yelled over my shoulder, “Eat your heart out!”
So there you have it…my dancing saga. We will see whether I can summons the guts to get on that stage once again!