I’m proud of DJ, my senior in high school. Even though she sort of cracks on her father in this college essay, I thought she did a pretty good job! Hope she gets in!
When I was younger, my mom and I performed in Ira David Wood’s A Christmas Carol. This play has been running each December for 40 years in the Raleigh area, and more than 25,000 people see the annual performance. It is a spoof on Charles Dickens’ book with musical numbers intertwined. We were two of approximately 70 cast members singing and dancing across the stage.
What I enjoyed most about the play was that I got to spend time with my mom. It was special, just for the two of us. When she passed away from cancer in 2010, I decided my sisters needed to pick up where mom and I left off, experiencing the magic of performing. We dragged my dad along with us.
We tried out the year after mom died and surprisingly, we were all cast in the show. Our first rehearsals were easy, we practiced songs that we already knew because they were regularly played around Christmastime at our house. The next week got a little trickier. We were required to put dance steps with our singing. My sisters and I picked up the choreography in a heartbeat, but my dad struggled; he has two left feet. We spent the next few months teaching him how to do a jazz square while simultaneously lifting his arms in different directions. It was a challenge, but by the end we had him flawlessly placing his hands and feet in the right position on the right words.
In addition to vocal tryouts, each year I also attended the dance auditions for more advanced dance numbers. I have taken dance lessons since I was three, and it has been a way for me to escape. The problem was that I had never tap danced before, and one of the main dance scenes required that skill. I didn’t even own tap shoes. I returned to the dance auditions three years in a row, but never got cast as a dancer. I was only put in the chorus along with the rest of my family.
This year, I decided to give it one more go. I’ve spent thousands of hours in dance studios throughout the years, and I wanted to prove that I could perform at a higher level. I’d been working hard on my tapping skills at home teaching myself steps as I walked through my kitchen each day. Determined, but not expecting much, I arrived at the audition. The choreographer quickly yelled out tap lingo that was unfamiliar to me. I tried to act like I knew what I was supposed to do, but I really had no clue. I put on a huge smile and moved my feet in the general direction I thought they should go. When the cast list came out, I was thrilled. I was finally going to be a dancer in five main numbers, and one was tap! My persistence and hard work had paid off.
This December, I will be performing at the Duke Energy Center and the Durham Performing Arts Center for thousands of people, tap shoes and all. My passion for dance and the energy I have put toward it over the past decade and a half have paid off in ways too numerous to count. Not only do I find great joy in performing personally, but it also means a lot to be on stage with my family next to me.