To Pee Or Not To Pee, that is the question…

I think that one day I might implode.

There are times that I’m juggling so many things, I strategically have to ponder how I will get them all completed.

The other morning, I decided I could make it to Super Cuts for a quick trim before heading to school to see Stephanie receive a Senior Dance Award.  It was 10:38 AM and the Awards Assembly started at 11:20.

I walked in the door, and the one employee shared that two folks were in front of me.  I asked how long that would take.  She estimated she would have me in the chair by 11:00.  I did the math – that’s about 11 minutes a cut.  If I got in the chair by 11, I’d be done by 11:11.  I figured the drive to school was about 7 minutes so I assumed I’d arrive with sixty seconds to spare.

As 11 approached, I had the urge to pee.  Super Cuts does not have a public bathroom.  Hmm.  I didn’t plan for that in the schedule.

At 11:02, she was sweeping the gray hair off the floor from the gentleman who had preceded me.

Sweep faster!  I thought.

She called me over at 11:04.  I sat.  She snapped the hug bib around my neck.  The store phone rang.  She walked away.

Dag gone…

I pondered leaving.  But I’d invested nearly 30 minutes of my life to this point, and I was looking pre-tty scraggly.  I then questioned how long I could hold my bladder off.

I could skip the haircut, drive to school, pee and easily make it to the assembly by 11:20.  Or, I could go for the cut, hold it in until she was recognized, and then take a leak.  And even then, I might be late.

This Is not an unusual dance in my mind.  I am constantly working to pack as much in as humanly possible, often to the detriment of the tasks I am to accomplish and to my own mental wellbeing!

She walked back over.  I had to decide.

“I’m in a hurry, please just trim it up.  I’m trying to get to my kid’s award’s assembly.”

I figured if she cut less hair, it would take less time.

I estimated I could control my bladder until 11:45.  Certainly by then she would have had her moment on stage.

At the end of the cut, the stylist offered to get a warm towel to wipe off my neck.  I LOVE a warm towel on my neck!  But I refused it.  I also refused the receipt, which I never do.

I bolted out to my car, ran through two yellow lights, and pulled into St. Mary’s school on two wheels.

I walked into assembly and the dance teacher was speaking.  As soon as I took my seat, she invited Stephanie on stage.

I clapped, then peed, then sighed in relief.

Damn, I must be living right!

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The Dj’s Calling My Name

Bruce and Bailey Dancing 2

I remember several dances in high school – Elizabeth Hall was my girlfriend.  Like other couples at that odd stage of life, I put my hands cautiously on her hips.  Her arms were draped around my neck.  We weren’t like Sam and Diandra, they were clearly more comfortable with each other than we were.  I don’t think the Keywanett dance was the first time he’d cozied up to her.

In college, I took social dance as a PE elective.  There were more girls than guys in the class which was a bonus for a Freshman who was desperately trying to expand his social circles.  We learned the Fox Trot, the ChaCha, the Waltz and, most importantly, how to Shag.  Next to public speaking, that was the most practical class I took at NC State University.  I use the knowledge gained from Roxanna, our instructor, much more than my understanding and memorization of the Periodic Table in Chemistry.  Perhaps important for some careers, there is scant opportunity at the YMCA to put to use the fact that Berkelium has 14 known isotopes and that its atomic number 97.

One night after my class ended, I persuaded a group of friends to join me at Cheers, a local club, that had three distinct dance rooms:  pop, country and beach music.  It was there I decided I’d focus more on my beach dancing skills.

We were in the pop club and had run into my ex-girlfriend.  She had dumped me the week before, and it was important that I impress her.  I wanted her to get a real sense of what she was missing.  There was a large area where folks would congregate to show off their moves, but the pinnacle was to make your way to the front where there were several elevated stages, a place for the advanced to exhibit.   One stage was set apart with vertical bars as if you were dancing in a cage.  I grabbed a friend, and we forcefully jumped in front of others so that I could be on display for all, and particularly my ex to see.

It started out well but deteriorated quickly.

As Michael Jackson belted out You wanna be startin’ somethin’, you got to be startin’ somthin’, my red bottomed Dirty Buck landed on a piece of ice the previous entertainers had left.  My leg popped out from under me, and I did the most amazing, yet unexpected, split one could imagine.  I worked diligently to pop back up as if simply completing a planned John Travolta Saturday Night Fever maneuver.  It didn’t work.  It was clear to all who saw me this was ugly; a spontaneous accident.

My focus away from spastic, freestyle gyrations to more controlled movements led me to observing and working to perfect the more cautious Shag.  It is amazing how many genres of music this dance can endure.

Some couples learn to move in sync, to anticipate the other’s next step on the floor.  Lisa and I had gotten to that point.  We even practiced in the kitchen, killing time while waiting for the ground beef to brown.

There have been moments over the past six years when I thought I would never enjoy dancing again.  But, I am fortunate to have three daughters!  I have taught all three the basic Shag steps.  And now, they happily fill in when the dj calls my name.  With three, my dance card stays full all night long.

My niece told me that young folks her age don’t know how to dance.  I think, for the most part, she’s correct.  Hopefully my girls can pass along what I’ve taught them to future generations.  Without their guidance, I shutter to think of my grandsons trying to impress girls on the dance floor with my gene pool.

The Coveted Puffy Shirt

Puffy shirt

I got the puffy shirt!  Only for half of the shows, but a puffy no less.

Two years ago in Ira David Wood’s A Christmas Carol, I was cast not only as a townsperson, but also as a dancer in the second act’s Fezzy Wig dance.  The entire cast is on stage for this number but only about twelve are dancers.

It was perhaps the most stressful, nerve-racking thing I’ve ever participated in – including giving a speech to over 1,000 people, having surgery and riding The Beast, my first roller coaster.  Although I can shag and step to the beat when Let’s Groove Tonight is played at a wedding, sticking to set choreography that someone else is dictating is much more difficult for me.  I like to feel the music and do what comes naturally – can be a beautiful thing.

So, last Friday when I received an email from the play’s choreographer, not the same one from two years ago, informing me that one of the male dancers had “hurt” his foot and would not be able to perform Fezzy Wig the opening week of shows, a hinge of nausea overcame my being.

I wanted to know what was wrong with his foot.

“What do you mean ‘hurt’ his foot?  Is it broken?” I asked.  “Have you seen it?”  “Could he possibly get better?”  “Can I see a note from his doctor?”  “Can I take him some soup?”

He’s like 15.  He has to have a quicker healing cycle than someone my age.

I considered sawing a toe off.  I mean ten is a lot, and that would have to top his injury.

I would be filling in with only one practice and a dress rehearsal between me and 2,000 audience members who had paid money to attend this show.

Thankfully, Stephanie was also in the dance.  The floor in our den needs to be refinished because I made her go through each step with me countless times Friday night and Saturday.

Surprisingly, and thanks to a patient and diligent instructor, I caught on fairly easily.  Mind you, I made a few logistical changes to the dance steps to better fit my abilities.  At one point, because of my position on the stage, I was to do a 540 degree turn, and gaily clap across the stage to my next position.  I cut my spin down 450 degrees to 90.  I was afraid I’d get dizzy and land in the orchestra pit.

In addition to dancing, we are also supposed to sing.  I can’t walk and chew gum.  That ain’t happening.  I tried, but I continue to catch myself mouthing 1, 2, 3, 4 rather than come and join our rondelay.  I don’t even know what that means.

I’ll have to admit I’m sort of proud that I stepped in and thus far have not fallen on my behind.  Oh, and the best part of the dance for me?  All male dancers get to wear a puffy shirt – like Captain Hook!  Argh.

Come see Ira David Wood’s A Christmas Carol at DPAC this weekend:  https://tickets-center.com/search/durham-performing-arts-center/a-christmas-carol-tickets/?venueId=6022&performerId=6&venueName=Durham+Performing+Arts+Center&performerName=A+Christmas+Carol&vaid=123&pfaid=269&tagid=102&atid=1&nid=1&cid=86145766985&akwd=christmas%20carol%20%2Bdpac%20%2Btickets&mt=b&network=g&dist=s&adposition=1t1&device=c&ismobile=false&devicemodel=&placement=&target=&aceid=&random=9232261882099785294&vx=0&locp=9009736&loci=9060500&gclid=Cj0KEQiAqK-zBRC2zaXc8MOiwfIBEiQAXPHrXuGYDX_ueDQKslaw6_I0OLXEMrRa6OcXxXnS4uiEBf0aAq8N8P8HAQ

Sunday Post 200: Sing and Dance!

Sometimes we just don’t let loose.  You ain’t lived til you sing and dance.

This is some of the choreography from the play the girls and I were in this Christmas, Ira David Wood’s A Christmas Carol.  You don’t get the full effect without the costumes, but this is essentially our biggest number.

Next time you get the chance, let it out.  It’s therapeutic!

 

(In the new year, I’ll be posting every Wednesday as usual.  I’m cutting back on the Sunday posts though.  I’m too busy right now to keep up with writing two blogs every single week.  I’ll toss one in when I have something interesting to say.  Hope you’ll keep up with me mid week!  Thanks for reading.)

 

Purchase Danny’s Book Laughter, Tears and Braids: Amazon or Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh

DJ’s College Essay

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.

40th Anniversary of Ira David Wood’s A Christmas Carol

It’s Christmas Carol Time… Again

I think I'm singing on key...

I think I’m singing on key…

This is our fourth year performing in Ira David Wood’s A Christmas Carol and after being cast as a dancer last year, I had a pretty strong inkling that my talents were fully exposed.  I assumed I would, from this day forward, dance on stage.  In fact, I was fairly certain that talent scouts from other shows would be after me and frankly, I have no more time to perform.  I was saving it all for the fortieth anniversary show of Charles Dickens’ play right here in Raleigh, NC.  I wanted to please my hometown constituents.

Much to my surprise, not only did other talent scouts not call, but I was not asked to shake my legs this year in our annual Christmas performance.  Oh, I’m in the big numbers with all of the other townspeople, but the second act party scene with leaps, jumps and herkies, will not highlight my abilities as was the case last year.

I was deflated.  I sulked for days after receiving the news.

I complained to the girls, “How could this be?  How could they not see my talent with movement?  I mean look at these jazz hands!!”

DJ reminded me, “YOU CANNOT DANCE!  You don’t even march correctly! Didn’t you learn that in preschool?”

“Have you seen me shag?” I protested.

“Did they shag in the 18th century?  Do you remember how long it took to teach you Shuffle/Ball/Change?”

“That’s a VERY complicated step!”

I guess they decided they wanted to focus on my vocals, or perhaps my acting abilities.

We are reminded to act like it’s cold in the play, it is set in December.  And I shiver like a pro!

I mean, I can sort of understand that perhaps they wanted to give others a chance to shine.  And, well, maybe I am better with all of my focus on shivering.  That’s really important.  Sets the entire tone for the show.

I won’t be in the second act dance number this year, but DJ will.

Bailey ACC 2014 2

In fact, after three years of trying out to be a dancer, she has been cast in five big show stoppers.  In one she’s wearing an outfit that is actually a bit revealing.  Thankfully she has a feather fan that covers most of her business.

I estimate that I’ve spent $26,000 on ballet and jazz lessons over the past 18 years for that child.  Incidentally, that is the average cost of a wedding in America.  I should have just taught her myself.

But I guess the investment has actually paid off.  She’s knocking it out on the dance floor this year.

I would strongly suggest that you come to see her.  This is the 40th year of the production, big things are in store.  And you might even catch me bustin’ some moves in a few of the big numbers.  I’ve been practicing!

40th Anniversary of Ira David Wood’s A Christmas Carol

Dance Coach Danny

DJ is in this dance troop at school. It’s called Orchesis. I think it’s Greek for “shake yo’ bootie.”

This spring, all of the juniors and seniors get to perform a solo. They pick their own music and choreograph their own moves. It’s pretty cool to see.

Since my big debut as a dancer in A Christmas Carol, I thought it appropriate for me to sort of give her some guidance as she began to brainstorm about her performance.

“DJ, you need to be creative. In past years, a lot of the solos have looked the same.”

“What do you mean dad?”

“Well, they all throw themselves on the floor, thrust their chests out, gracefully hold out their limbs… I mean, they look good and all, but it’s the same. You need to come up with some new moves.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about…”

“They all do the same thing – you know, like this:”

I think she got the point. I’m looking forward to her creativity.

Purchase Danny’s Book Laughter, Tears and Braids: Amazon or Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh

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Sunday Post 144: Dingy Dingy Ding Dingy Dingy Ding Ding

When the girls were young, we used to listen to a Disney Channel CD with tunes from all of their favorite shows:  Rollie Pollie Ollie, Bear and the Big Blue House, Winnie the Poo and, our favorite Out of the Box.

We’d play the music and dance all over the house.

When Listen to the Rhythm from Out of the Box came on, the girls would argue about which one got to be held in dad’s arms, dancing together as the tune blasted.  The song had an incredible beat –

Listen to this rhythm, that we’re gonna play

Listen to this rhythm, then do it the same way

It goes like this…

Dingy dingy ding

Dingy ding ding ding

Boom cha-ca la-ca la-ca boom cha-ca boom

Each time it came on, we’d have to play it three times.  I’d dance with the first one in my arms, then the second and finally the third.  We’d spin around in circles, we’d laugh, I’d dip them at the end, head reared back and the giggles flowing.

Last weekend, Stephanie and Michelle were cleaning out the stereo cabinet.  Inside, they rediscovered that CD.  When our song came on, we reverted back to the good old days.

I can hardly pick DJ up and certainly can’t spin her around while riding on my hip, but the other two insisted.

All four of us paraded around the kitchen remembering the moves of years gone by.

It was bitter-sweet.  Memories of Lisa filled the room.  Our nanny of 11 years, now in a nursing home the victim of a massive stroke, also top of mind.  She watched her fair share of Playhouse Disney with our three kids.

When the song faded out, I said to my girls, “When I’m 80 and you’re 50, let’s turn that song back on.  I’d like to continue the dance until the day I die.”

“Don’t ever get rid of your CD player dad.”

“Don’t worry.  It’ll be here to play the music, and I’ll be here to dance.”

By The Underwear

Michelle, my Co-ti-llion!

Michelle, my Co-ti-llion!

Sometimes as a parent, all I have to do is ask one, simple question and the information starts pouring out.

“Michelle, how was cotillion today?”

“OMG!  I was dancing with this guy and we were shagging, you know, to beach music.”

“Yeah.”

“He went to turn me and his coat button got stuck in my hair!  It wouldn’t come out.  It was so embarrassing.

Then, this other boy I danced with kept counting out loud.  1, 2, 3 – 1, 2, 3.  Like he was saying it where I could hear him.  I mean seriously?  It was so annoying.

And one boy I danced with was tiny.  He only came up to my chest.  He was soo cute.”

“Yeah.  Maybe don’t tell him that.  Guys usually prefer to be big and handsome.  Not small and cute like Moosey.”

“Yeah.  Oh, but Kimmey danced with a boy and he hung on to her underwear.”

“What?”

“It was sooo funny!  He grabbed her waist and held on so tight that he had her dress and her underwear in his hands!  But don’t tell her mom.”

“OK.”

“AND THEN, the boy I was sitting beside right before snack time asked me if I could run fast.  When I asked him why he wanted to know, he said he wanted to be the first one at the snack table because he didn’t like to stand in lines!  I was NOT RUNNING, in a DRESS, at COTILLION, to get Ruffles potato chips and stale cookies!  Dad, that boy really needs this class.”

“Sounds like it.”

“They taught us to sit like girls today.”

“Mmm.  How’s that?”

“You cross your legs but at the bottom, not at the top.”

“Why’s that?”

“I guess you cross your legs so you don’t show anybody your underwear.”

“Makes sense.  Might make that boy want to grab ’em huh?  What’d he look like?”

“I don’t know, but I didn’t dance with him.”

“How do you know?”

“Because no one held me by my underwear.”

“Ahhh.”

Purchase Danny’s Book:  Laughter, Tears and Braids

Join the merry dancing…

Bruce Waltz

So this is the third year the girls and I have tried out for Ira David Wood’s A Christmas Carol.  It’s a spoof on Dickens complete with musical vignettes; plays to around 30,000 people each December.  This is the 39th anniversary of this hilarious but meaningful production.

This would be the third year that I nearly vomited as I sang my one minute solo to audition.  This would be the third year that one of my kids nearly had a breakdown on the way to the theater.  Interestingly, this would be the third year we got in!  Oh, and Uncle Jesse is joining us for the 2013 season.

All three of my girls have very good voices.  All three can dance.  There is but one in the family who is deficient in these two areas:  me.

Now I can carry a tune, but I won’t likely be one of the 30 on stage who are selected to have a personal mic stuck to their forehead.  But who gives a hang?  I understand the tape they attach it with leaves a rash on your skin.  Plus, there are hanging mics all over stage picking up my tenor sort of like an FBI bug.

I was sad to learn that every man in the triangle area of North Carolina who can march to a beat was busy for the month of December.  I discovered this fact when I was cast as a dancer for the Act II Fezziwig Broadway dance number.  Usually in this scene I’m positioned on a bridge and told to sing while tossing around an empty pewter beer mug, which I do quite well.  I guess through the years they have been overwhelmed by my grace on stage.

And the worst part of it?  DJ is my dance partner.

The first night I felt like I was on Dancing with the Stars.  She was the instructor.  And she was mean!

“Daad.  I told you to stiffen your arms.  I should be able to hit your hand without you moving (and then, she hauled off and knocked the hell out of my open palm).”

“Ouch.”

“Arms?  At this point I’d just like to be moving in the same general direction as the others on the stage!  If everyone else is going right, I’d like to as well.”

“Move your legs faster!”  “You’ve got to remember this part!”  Is there cement in your shoes?”  “Move, dad, move!”  “Ahh.  How did I end up with you?”

At one point the men have to run across the stage and hoist ourselves up into the air – arms straight up, both legs off the floor, one behind the other.  Immediately after, we rush back across the stage and repeat the Lords a Leaping.

The first night I looked like Donald Duck impersonating Mikhail Baryshnikov.

In another segment, the guys have to fake left, spin out in the opposite direction into a 360 (arms in the air), fake right and spin back around to the left.  When I get through I feel like I’ve been on the Tilt a Whirl.  But that’s not all.  We then have to jump up, legs and arms outstretched like a big X as if we were performing at the German beer joint in Busch Gardens.

My daughter keeps stressing the small things, “Dad, turn your palms in,” she firmly reminds as she yanks my outstretched hands.

“Why do they need to turn in like that?  People don’t walk around with their palms in the air turned inward.  It’s not natural.  Are you planning to read them and tell me my fortune?”

The other night I had a nightmare.  We were all on stage, and I was dancing my heart out, but the lyrics to the song had changed.  Instead of “Join the merry dancing, in the fire light,” the cast belted out, “Did that dude fall off the stage, into the orchestra pit…”

I awoke as I was falling, the tuba right below me.

The next day I told DJ she had to give me a break.  We’ve only practiced twice and she’s expecting Gene Kelly.  She’s been taking dance for 14 years, of course it’s easy for her.  I’m the oldest person in the number, by about two decades, and I’ve never had a structured dance lesson in my life!  I asked her if she’d thought she could come to the Y and run an effective board meeting for the next day.  I think not!

Don’t let this keep you from the play.  As DJ reminded me, it’s only a 2 minute song.  Besides, I will learn it or die trying.  I love a good challenge.

Purchase Danny’s Book:  Laughter, Tears and Braids