Monday, October 04, 2004

You down with T.A.P.? Yeah, you know me!

New job.
New attitude.
New hair color.
New tap dance class.

My friend, Doubting Seamus, was eagerly anticipating the start of the next tap class so that he could ridicule Natasha and me when we didn’t sign up. After he dropped out, and Nat and I decided to take a brief hiatus from tapping, Seamus was positive that we would never return. He just didn’t believe in himself and his manliness enough to stick it out for another session, and he wanted to bring us down with him.

I’m not angry, though. I pity him. It saddens me to see such raw talent as his go untapped, so to speak. But as countless episodes of Dr. Phil have taught me, you have to want to be helped before you can accept assistance from anyone. Once he has seen the error of his ways, Nat and I will be there to help him with his Maxie Ford combinations.

But getting back to the first tap class – Nat and I were a little hesitant going in because we never told Teacher we were taking a break. We weren’t sure what kind of reception we would receive.

Would she snub us?
Would she welcome us?
Would she remember us?

As we cautiously entered the studio, dusty shoes in hand, we were pleased to see several familiar faces. And when Teacher came in, her usual fifteen minutes late, she greeted us both with a huge smile and a, “Hey! They’re back!”

Everything was going to be just fine.

In addition to the four or five “regulars,” there were also about five new students in the class. Gosh. It seems like just yesterday that I was one of those awkward, needy Tap I graduates, trying to keep time with all the Tap II pros.

We started out with the usual tap bar exercises to warm up our ankles. Then, Teacher surprised us by diving right into some much more advanced moves.

Single double time step.
Double triple time step.
Soft shoe essence with break.
Grapevine combination.

Nat and I actually surprised ourselves by effortlessly falling back into these routines we hadn’t practiced for two months. Hey! It really is just as easy as riding a log. Or falling off a bike.

Teacher could see that some of the newbies were struggling, so she asked Nat and me to switch places with them so they were closer to her. Then, Teacher asked me to step in front of the class and demonstrate a few different steps while she went to her car to get some more CD’s.

“See how Jenny does the military cramp rolls? She’s not dragging her feet – watch her ankles. Good! Good!”

This positive reinforcement and unexpected position of authority triggered something inside me. Suddenly, I was drunk with power. As soon as she walked out the door, I grabbed Teacher’s cane and started pounding out the rhythm on the floor.

“Come on people! With the beat! You sound like a herd of elephant right now!”

The newbies alternately stared at the floor, and at my feet, which were just a blaze of shuffles and flaps. They were intimidated and intrigued all at once.

“New girl! Yes, you in the back! Look. If you can’t tell the difference between a shim-sham and a flim-flam, I hear there’s still room in Tap I! This is embarrassing! The holiday pageant is coming up in less than eight weeks and not one of you knows the ‘Happy Feet’ routine yet! I hope you like disappointing orphans and senior citizens!”

Just as I was about to have them all drop and give me twenty, I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror:

My knuckles, white from clenching Teacher’s cane.
Little spit bubbles forming in the corners of my mouth.
My eyes tightened and wrinkled with frustration.
The thick veins bulging from my forehead.

Oh god. I’m her. I’ve become that girl. I am Midge. The most hated of all tap students. What have I done?

So right there, in the middle of a flawless Cincinnati, I dropped the cane, grabbed my bag, and ran out of the studio. I’m not sure how Nat made it home that night since I drove, but I had to get out of there to collect my thoughts and lower my blood pressure.

I’m still planning on going back this week, but this time, I’m going to lay low. Teacher’s going to have to burden someone else with the job of demonstrating for the class. I clearly cannot be trusted with such a huge responsibility. At least not until I make it to Tap III.