I remember when I was a dancing tween and teen. I was dancing at my neighborhood recreation center with a dance ministry. The ministry was unaffiliated with any church, and was basically run as a pre-professional company.
Whenever my teacher created a new dance, everyone was given equal opportunity to learn it, but you had to take a test before you could perform it at a show. She'd randomly call you in groups of 2 or 3, and sometimes if she felt like it, you'd have to do the whole dance by yourself.
There was no hiding. Either you knew the steps or you didn't. But tests weren't just about knowing steps, you had to DANCE. Perfect steps but no expression on your face would earn you a failing grade (yes, she gave letter grades) and the title "moose face." Ha!
While some of my friends practiced little and earned the grade A++ (ahem, Best Friend), I remember standing in a corner practicing the dances a million times while others were being tested. The true self-test was when I turned my back to the current tester and could do it without looking at them.
Best Friend would laugh at me because he picked up quick and had the memory of an elephant. Not me.
I discovered early that I dance best on the power of muscle memory. For me, that requires insane repetition before I get to the point where I don't have to think about it anymore. I just do it.
So here I am, back in a professional company situation. I'm learning repertory, jumping into new parts of a dance days before the performance, and I've got to rely on my memory - that which lives in my brain and my muscles. As discussed last week, it's my job to know the dance, and if I can't figure it out in rehearsal, I have to figure it out on my own time. It's exhilarating and nerve wrecking all at the same time.
During last week's show at LIU, I think all I could think while I was on the stage (and as Ms. Charlotte Adams of UIowa would tell us before we go on stage:) "Don't f*** up." I didn't. Not too bad anyway.
For some reason recently, performing feels new. Like I haven't done it all my life, though there is video footage in the Mosley Family archives of me, 5 years old in a white tutu with gold sequins twirling on stage.
I don't think I'm doing it enough. Maybe to do with that Iowa hiatus? I think I shouldn't be nervous the way I am before I go on stage. Or maybe that never goes away?
Maybe, I'll just always be the girl in the corner doing the dance a million times with her eyes closed to make sure she knows it before the test.