Monday, September 28, 2009


Think of this as a continuation of the previous post.

It’s Saturday morning. I climb into the front seat of our blue ’52 Oldsmobile with m daddy for the hour-long drive into Manhattan, my mom and brother left behind at home in Syosset, Long Island.

I wear my silver Capezio tap shoes. When I put them on, tie the ribbons into bows, my movements become audible, there for the world to hear. Tap shoes make you impossible to ignore. And I, too, adore being at the center of my world.

The Charlie Lowe Dance Studio is cold and bare, with wood floors scarred by years of metal-tipped tap shoes. The big windows and floor-to-ceiling mirrors bathe the large room in light, leaving no perches in which to hide, no background into which to fade. Music comes from a battered upright piano off to one side, with a real piano player playing real notes, unamplified, unfiltered and raw, like the dancing.

We take our places in rows facing a mirror. There is little clowning around. This is a hard-core, professional practice hall, serious stuff. I can hear the bark of the male instructor as he calls out the time step: “Hop, two taps change, brush out, stamp stamp,” again and again. I can dance it still; his voice, his cadence, echo in my body more than 50 years later.

I feel his look, that glare, as he turns to evaluate our form, motioning the best examples to the front to lead.

Several times a year, I perform in shows sponsored by Macy’s. I am given brassy tunes, such as “The Glory of Love” and “The Trolley Song,” somehow cute when performed by a second-or third-grader. Nothing fazes me. I relish being on stage, taking command of an audience. It’s easy, natural. I assume it as a birthright. So enamored am I with myself that the first time I hear Judy Garland, I accuse her of stealing my songs.

Performing is my passion. From the time I utter a coherent sentence, I insist I am going to be an actress. In the long, dark, narrow hallway of my Aunt Sally’s Brooklyn apartment, I gaze intently into a full-length mirror. No older than 5, I am singing with all my heart and soul, oblivious to family chuckling, rolling eyes or muttering about Sarah Bernhardt. I need no one to complete my performance. I enchant myself.

Fast-forward a few years. I commandeer the living room for acting out the scores to Broadway musicals, either alone or with my best friend, Carin. We leap and strut across tables and couches, emoting like crazy.

Fast-forward several decades. And I wonder. What happened – not to the cute, sweet, water-colored girl in fading snapshots – but to the tough, fearless creature willing to step into the world with only confidence as her shield? I miss her.

1 comment:

Brian J Boyd said...

Tic Tic Sliiiiiiiiiiiide ... and Tic Tic sliiiiiiiiiiiiide ...