Monday, May 22, 2006

My Little Isadora Duncan

Sunday was the Milwaukee Ballet School's bi-annual Student Showcase at Whitefish Bay High School, and Stella was triumphant with her class of 1st graders. They do the classes in order from youngest to most advanced, so it was indeed cool to watch the progression from clumsily cute little 4-year-olds all out of sync with each others plies, all the way up to the teenagers getting ready to audition for college-level dance programs and dance companies. You start to try to figure out: at what age do stage mess-ups stop being cute and start being disastrous? Couldn’t tell, because there really were no disasters among the older students. All very impressive, and nobody was really reaching beyond their grasp. Especially impressive was the final, ultimate advanced class: you couldn't even tell the lesser students were in pain during this one part where, while the clearly top three students and the "star" student were all doing their little solo bits, the rest held this same pose for a good long time that would have had me all locked up and in need of prescription-strength ibuprofen. I found myself watching THEM more than the soloists, I think, I was so fascinated at the prospect of having to hold a single pose while the teacher's favorite got to move around and not look altogether PISSED about it. (Though there was one girl who clearly was wishing she were somewhere else, doing something else).

But back to the person who was the reason I, Brian, and Stella's favorite babysitter (and ersatz cool big sister) were there: Stella. She was a little nervous about how her makeup looked and how her short hair pinned back would look. Actually, she was outright CONCERNED. "I look like a boy with my hair like this."

"Let's go to the bathroom and check in the mirror" I said, knowing once she saw herself all made up she knew nobody would mistake her for a boy. But she was already on her slippery slope of worry: "What if there isn't a mirror in there?"

"Don't be ridiculous," I replied. "This is a high school, and high school girls don't pee, they go to the bathroom to look at themselves and gossip! The toilets are only there to satisfy a building inspector." She looked in the mirror, and satisfied, I kissed her, told her to break a leg (which, by the quizzical look on her face, she obviously didn't get), and headed off to take my seat in the Whitefish Bay High School theatre/auditorium. Wow, WFBHS has some kind of theater. Its HUGE. You'd think this was some kind of "High School for the Arts" out of "Fame!" or something. They have a wall of fame with pictures of alumni who went on to become, actually, famous, like Kristin Johnston, who was the tall, beautiful, hysterical one on Third Rock From The Sun. And Jeffrey Hunter, who had an OK movie career going, then played Capt Christopher Pike in that infamous Star Trek pilot episode, was offered the starring role in the series, and in one of the stupider career moves ever, turned it down. He died a few years later, but if he was still alive, I don't thinkhis kidney stone would fetch enough at auction to build a Habitat for Humanity house. Anyway, I had my picture taken with Stella in front of Hunter's picture for the notoriety. Oh, and WFBHS needs to get a piano tuner to come in and have a look-see at their stage piano. I can't believe this evening's accompanist kept hitting the same bum note over and over, especially on classics that he can probably play in his sleep. That piano needs a tune up.

My beautiful Stella was in the "Pre Ballet III" class full of 6 and 7 year olds. She was lithe, disciplined, graceful, beautiful. She was the best dancer in the world to this mama's eyes. There was absolutely NOTHING wrong with her performance. I'm her mom. I can say this.

Actually, there was one great moment which did me both proud and elicited a wince from me. Turns out that between dress rehearsal that afternoon and the performance that evening, one of the girls in the class took seriously ill and could not make the evening performance. This was an issue because there's a part in their routine where they pair off and do that skipping about holding hands thing you see ballerinas do in Balanchine ballets all the time. It wasn't Stella's partner, but Stella and her partner, Lily, were assigned to take on the odd girl out. Right before the odd girl out reached for Stella's hand, Stella mouthed NO to her, as in "This isn't what we rehearsed over and over and over and over again for the past three months and even this afternoon." YOUCH! That only lasted a split second, then Stella and Lily grabbed the girl's hand and they finished the routine triumphantly: Stella's massive grin at the final pose indicated she knew she dun good. Stella is SO hard on herself -- and anal retentive when it comes to "how it's supposed to be" so this was a major breakthrough for her. I was proud as a mom can be, knowing MY kid was one the teacher could count on to handle an 11th hour deviation from the practiced routine. "That's the thing about live art, things happen and you need to roll with it and you did," Miss Jennifer told her afterwards.

I was more crass about it: "That's showbiz, baby!"

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