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make your day dance

Taking our show on the road

November 12th, 2008 · No Comments · Tags: ··

I took one dance and 7 dancers on the road last week.  The schedule made a lot of sense.  We were invited to perform a cultural dance at an arts forum; a second opportunity to perform at a professional development conference was two days later.  Small group, recess-time rehearsals, short dance, two quick trips, good experience for the kids, piece o’ cake…


Ten students were interested. Several dropped out along the way, faced with the burden of choosing Tinikling rehearsal over tetherball at recess.

Permission slips were needed… Kelly and Danique got their grammas to sign almost immediately. I managed to corral our Spanish language interpreter to communicate with Juan’s mother at our start-of-the-year Open House — she signed, volunteered to drive Juan, and was even willing to pick up Steven.  Steven brought in his.  Shay’s permission came in after I said she couldn’t rehearse anymore without it. Janaea, Dayjanique, and Lanisha required the same threats.

Then I visited the space with the officials who were organizing the Arts Forum and discovered they’d changed the timing, so we were scheduled to perform an hour and a half later.  New permissions slips needed.

Costumes seemed like a good idea…  Dresses for the Thursday performance; dark pants & red shirts for Saturday. No one had a red shirt, so I scrounged.

Rides were needed… Danique’s gramma and Juan’s mom could drive. Shay’s mom could drive her, but no one else. Due to district restrictions, I couldn’t drive, but I could ride with my husband as driver.  What a treasure he is! Danique’s gramma would pick up Kelly; Juan’s mom would take Steven. Shay’s mom would take Shay. My husband and I would pick up Janaea, Dayjanique, and Lanisha at one house and take them home to separate houses.

Did I mention that hardly any of the parents return calls? That someone’s phone was disconnected? That one of the phones had a frequent message saying, “This voice mail is not receiving messages at this time”?  That when I called one home, my student answered, saying no one was home, only to reverse herself and put an adult on the phone when she found out it was me?  That one student had moved since returning her emergency form? That one student’s house didn’t show up on Google maps? That Lanisha came into my classroom the morning after I finally talked with her mother, with an expression that mingled awe, admiration, and sheer pleasure, saying, “You called my mom!”

Steven’s mom wanted to see the performance, so I arranged for Juan’s mom to pick them both up for the Arts Forum event. Our Spanish interpreter explained the timing and locations to Juan’s mom. Then, I learned Steven’s mom didn’t want Steven to go to either performance without her, so rides were needed for both events, along with a younger sister.  More communications in Spanish with Juan’s mom. Then, I heard Steven’s mom didn’t want Steven going in any car without proof of the driver’s safety record. By this time, we were communicating with Steven’s mom through an interpreter in Tagalog. Along the way, it was difficult to determine whether it was Steven or Steven’s mom who was reticent. Then, it turned out Steven might not even be home from day care in time to be picked up. Finally, Steven’s mom nixed the whole thing — on the day of the first performance.  Rushed notes in English and phone calls in Spanish went home to Juan’s mom, to tell her NOT to pick up Steven and his mom.

At the last minute, it became apparent I didn’t just need permission for kids to ride in private cars… I needed copies of driver’s licenses and insurance.  I enlisted another teacher to pick up Kelly. So Danique came with her gramma, Shay came with her mom, Jose’s mom brought him, and my husband and I picked up Janaea, Dayjanique, and Lanisha.  Steven couldn’t come. The performance at the Arts Forum went splendidly, with dancers adjusting to the new space on the spur of the moment and improvising around the hole left by Steven.  The audience warmed to them along the way, and it sounded like thunderous applause to the kids by the time they finished.

Two nights later, my husband and I picked up Janaea, Dayjanique, and Lanisha again (we clocked 80 miles that day), and Danique got there with her gramma. Kelly was gone to California… Shay called and said she couldn’t come… Juan didn’t show up. We rechoreographed to cover the missing: Kelly, Shay, and Juan.  At the last moment, Juan showed up, too late to change anything.  Waiting to perform, my kids were a bundle of nerves, alternately leaping down the hallways and tussling with each other noisily.  In position backstage, they were beside themselves, with Juan doubled up from a mysterious stomach pain (butterflies?) and the girls doing high kicks — but amazingly, quiet.  Onstage, they danced their hearts out — not polished like the other studio groups that were performing, but fresh, excited, and very present.

In their own words:  “It was very fun. This year was our first year that we showed this performance to adults. We was afraid but we did it. We was happy for the dance. It was the best performance. Tinikling was the best time of our life.”

…it wasn’t a piece o’ cake, but their excitement was delicious!

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