It’s Terry Teachout’s observation that writing begets writing; it’s merely my experience. I’ve been updating this blog fairly regularly and the other writing in my life is flowing. So — the story I promised in the backblog.
I was (am) a big-boned female. If my facial resemblance to both parents was not so pronounced, one would doubt that those fine-boned, high-metabolic types produced me. But they apparently did and, like Topsy, I grew and grew and grew. (Aside: Can one say “Like Topsy” anymore? Is it unPC? I haven’t read Uncle Tom’s Cabin for 20 years and I’m not likely to read it again and it’s possible that it’s fallen out of favor. If so, my apologies.)
So, 5-9 by age 15. Broad-shouldered. I looked 19 or 20. And, for some reason, I decided to take beginning ballet with Anne Allen, the mother of a good high school friend. I sucked, of course. But I ended up working crew for Anne’s dance troupe and appearing as a Comet can in her updated version of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. To be a Comet can, you needed to be able to a) count and b) hold up a heavy canvas costume strung on hula hoops. I was a pretty good Comet can.
My senior year, the musical was “Carousel.” I could write an entire novel about that production and, in a sense, I may have. The initial choreographer was this strange hippy (can I say that?) who asked those who wanted to be chorus members to just perform to the music free-form, shades of Zilpha Keatley Snyder’s The Changeling. (An aside: I’m told Snyder will attend this year’s Edgars(r) banquet and I’m not sure I can meet her without collapsing at her feet. The Changeling! The Egypt Game! The Headless Cupid!) Anyway, I didn’t make the cut and that was fine with me. I had my four lines during “What’s the Use of Wond’rin’?” No small parts, etc.)
The hippy didn’t cut it and Anne was brought in to choreograph. She called me at home and asked me to dance in the show. “But I’m not very good,” I said. “But you work hard and I know you’ll do what I tell you to do,” she said.
The big number was “June is Bustin’ Out All Over.” Anne took it into her head that three girls would be lifted — that pretty, straight-up maneuver you’ve seen in many musicals, where the girls look so light and airy. And she decided that my hulking mass would be among them. I still remember the name of the poor boy who had to lift me — Dave Boyd. We rehearsed at Slayton House, in the Wilde Lake Village Center. Anne was tough and those rehearsals were hard. I remember her saying to Dave: “You’ll have me to thank for those muscles in your arms.” And me, too, of course.
Well, we did it. And I was grateful to Anne because she made me feel a little less hulking, a little less monstrous. I was still 5-9. But I could be lifted.
Anne’s candor wasn’t always easy; she once yelled in dance class: “You have a potbelly. Get rid of it. I’m entitled to have one because I’m middle-aged. You’re not.” Anne, I still have a belly. It’s just the way I’m built.
But I have less of one and I don’t feel quite so hulking anymore. And I’d like to think you’d be impressed if you could see me in yoga, bending my body in ways that I couldn’t at age 17. But then — I probably wouldn’t be trying yoga at this age if it weren’t for your observation that sometimes it’s enough just to work hard.