my house was made of straw

Hello again, dear carrots readers! I apologize for my absence. I blame the perils of academia. It’s been a stressful month, but now I’m back and ready to pro-blog-stinate. Or procrasti-blog? I’ll have to consult my Lewis Carroll portmanteau dictionary.


At six or seven, I tapped to a stirring rendition of “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?” See exhibit A: an early dance portrait.┬áIt was a bittersweet experience. The satin bows on my patent leather tap shoes were glorious. The costume involved gratuitous sequins. But I had not scored the solo at the end of the number: a brief moment in which a carefully selected young girl pig screeched in terror as a wolf hefted her onto his shoulder and ran off-stage. The wolf in question was an employee of the dance studio in a musty suit that read more dog than wolf, and the whole scenario was a little too redolent of abduction. But I was still crestfallen when my dance teacher chose Julia instead of me. My squeal, apparently, was not convincingly porcine. I should have tried method acting.

Despite such setbacks, I continued dancing.I spent a few summers with my high school dance team at a Universal Dance Association summer camp, where I learned pom routines in fast succession, vied for the illusive Spirit Stick, and performed a series of pseudo-military commands (parade rest!) with such precision that I won the coveted title of Drill Downs Champion. I’m serious, people. I HAVE A TROPHY.

[Side note: One year’s camp was hosted by UNC-Greensboro. The cafeteria served breaded fish fingers called “C Nuggets.” That’s right. Not “sea nuggets” — which would also be questionable — but “C Nuggets.”]

My high school team performed at football and basketball games. We also competed and failed miserably at a competition in Florida. It seemed terrible at the time — it’s the little pigs all over again! — but losing at Nationals in Florida really means you have more time to enjoy Universal Studios while the winning teams nurse blisters and wait for their turn on a blistering-hot stage. We tried again and fared much better in Myrtle Beach. Somewhere in my collection of embarrassing high school snapshots is a photo of my team on the garishly carpeted steps of the Myrtle Beach Convention Center. We’re all dressed in Carolina blue tank tops and sport curled high ponies.

We were called the Showcats.

(Shut up, Brian Soja. We were awesome.)

I danced for a few years in college, as well, mostly at scantily attended basketball games. The team’s coach my freshman year was a muscled guy named Ray Monte — although I cannot vouch for that spelling. He drove a car with vanity plates that spelled his name and running lights that reflected blue on the pavement.

[Another side note: I just asked Danny what such lights were called. “Running lights.” “Really? That’s it?” “Well, they probably have some street name I don’t know. Like pimpin lights.”]

Both dance team experiences were, for the most part, fantastic. I enjoyed them much more for the companionship than the showmanship, as I knew I wasn’t going to pursue dance post-college. Other girls on the team were far more talented than I was. I always felt a little juvenile and ridiculous around those skilled dancers — felt like I wore ghostly red satin bows above my dance shoes like phantoms of my early ineptitude.

But now, sometimes, I miss dancing. There is certainly satisfaction in mastering that series of small, swift movements that, together, make sense. I miss finding my pocket of space in a piece of choreography — feeling that bounded, predictable orbit where I move, next to another dancer in her own hemisphere. And I miss understanding that the great, polished swath of a dance floor was open for me to fill.

I’m a little too strapped for time — and a little too shy — to try out dance classes again, at least for now. In the meantime I’m working out my anxious energy through some exercise. Danny and I just started P90X, a home fitness program designed by Tony Horton. His enthusiasm isn’t as irritating as Billy Blanks of Tae Bo fame, and I do appreciate the slight bulge to his eyes whenever he gets into the zone. Look at that form! It’s GOOOOOORGEOUSSSS!

I think I’ll stick with it as long as possible. Academia, after all, is largely a sedentary affair. I might be able to pace the front of a classroom a few times a week, but that doesn’t compensate for the hours parked in front of a laptop.

Although I’m considering breaking out the tap shoes this semester. Comp classes can get dull, and nothing livens up a room like a kick-ball-change.