Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Not So Tiny Dancer

Driving home from Long Island to New Jersey, I passed The Plattduetsche on busy Hempstead Turnpike. Known mostly for their Octoberfest and summer beer garden, the Plattduetsche is a popular German restaurant. I don't have memories of being wasted on bitter beers. Nope, for me the first thought that comes to mind is my yearly dance recital I looked forward to while growing up.

Between the ages of 7 and 11, I spent several hours a week at Miss Diane's School of Dance. Miss Diane was married with kids, so I'm not exactly sure why we didn't call her "Mrs." Diane - I blogged about this once before - why are most teachers "Miss" regardless of their marital status? I'm just saying...

When I first started taking dance class, I wore soft shoes for ballet and shiny black patent leather shoes for tap. The class was divided into 30 minute sections - one for tap and one for ballet. I couldn't wait to wear "toe shoes." I had to wait until about fifth grade before I was allowed to buy toe shoes. Some crap about the foot being strong enough to support the body weight. I don't know exactly... but what I do know is that the day I finally got to wear those fancy toe shoes was one very important day. I loved the way they smelled. I loved the way the satin ribbon tied around my little chubby ankles. They actually felt like steel-tip slippers. I loved the way the toes were so tough that I could actually squeeze the tip of my toes and not feel anything while wearing those pretty, pink satiny shoes. I guess that explains why I loved wearing steel-tip Doc Martens later in my angst-ridden teens.

I remember the other girls had these awesome plastic boxy bags they'd tote their shoes to each week. They kind of reminded me of the boxes you kept your Barbies in. For some reason my mom didn't think these boxy style totes were practical. I was stuck with my free canvas bag from our local bank or whomever was giving out tote bag swag that year. Mom was always practical that way. In fact, I recall my dance costume making a great Halloween costume in a pinch.

It's hard to believe I performed five years worth of dance recitals at that German restaurant. I remember the prep. I remember trying on my fancy costume. I remember how unbelievably exciting it was watching my mom spray my tap shoes silver, then applying colored bows and ribbons to the tops once they were dry. Miss Diane asked that we do this every year to our shoes to dress them up. We were also asked not to wear any underwear or undershirts under our costumes. Not wearing any panties felt very unnatural and was only done when wearing a bathing suit, but I followed her rules. She also asked us to avoid eating, although we were allowed to consume a light meal hours before the recital. I loved how my mom would always save me a few forkfuls of her fancy wedding-hall style-dinner the night of our performance. Once we were finished with our numbers,  I'd run to find my parents at their table and Mom would sneak me a couple of bites of her prime rib and mashed potatoes.
We would wait all year just for this late spring dance recital. Many of the girls would receive flowers or wrist corsages from their parents. The very first year I was one of the few girls going home flowerless. My parents had to deal with me crying after that very first recital. They were simply unaware that other parents bestowed beautiful corsages and flowers to their daughters. It was a tradition for our family of four to stop for ice cream after my recital. I'd prance around Friendly's in my festive costume as if I was this big deal dancer.

Miss Diane handed out a small trophy to girls who put in three years at her dancing school. On the fifth year, students received a larger trophy. Sadly, I can't find any of these at my mom's house. I think they were the only trophies I've ever earned because I didn't have to actually excel at anything. I simply had to submit a check each week and stick out dancing classes year after year. How difficult was that?

My mom says she kept me in dance classes to keep me active - she thought it was a great way to burn off calories. I guess that one hour per week wasn't enough to prevent me from being the chubbiest kid in our dance class. Why were dancers so darn skinny? I don't think this mattered much to me back then. I had a great time, skinny or not. I wish I had kept in touch with the kids from Miss Diane's. I wonder what happened to them all. Did any of them become backup dancers for Paula Abdul or something in the '90s? Hmm. You never know!


Maxie said...

Our dance recitals were in a huge auditorium and they actually sold flowers there! I don't miss the practice, but the actual recitals were pretty damn cool

rachaelgking said...

Your shoes? In that last picture?


TS Hendrik said...

I wonder if the whole "Miss" thing somehow came from the south? Down here for some reason they call women Miss whatever the first name is, and men Mr. first name.
The first few months I thought a couple of people I worked with were patronizing me.

Ally said...

@Maxie - I preferred the annual recitals yes!!

@Lilu - Those silver shews are horrible - look at the funny pointy toes and those big-ass bows! Ha ha!

Jane said...

All dance teachers are Miss. It makes them feel younger!

SLynnRo said...

AAAAAH! Ballet box! I actually used mine to store barbies in!


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