Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Our Latest Obsession

One of the things that is great about being a child is discovering new things to love. Sometimes these things come and go, but if you're fortunate, the love is an enduring one that becomes part of who you are.

When I was little, my mom enrolled me in a ballet class at the park district. The doctor thought it could help my hip and strengthen my leg. My mom confessed much later, "And I thought it might give you a little more grace and less clumsiness."

It possibly helped my leg; if you know me, you know it had absolutely no effect on my clumsiness, but the real impact it had on me was the beginning of my love of all things dance-related. It was like being injected with some indefinable substance that has never left me.

I began to watch ballet performances on TV and countless Fred Astaire movies and read dance novels and biographies. I devoured the Noel Streatfeild books about children growing up to train for a life on stage. There was no way in real life I could move my feet that way, but in my mind I always could.

Another plus was growing up in a suburb of Chicago. My parents had absolutely no interest in sports, but they loved the theater and took us to all sorts of performances in the city. I've seen musicals, operas, ballets, so many productions. There is nothing like the thrill of live theater.

Shortly after Darren and I were married, I bought us tickets to see Riverdance. This is when it first came out, and was on its first run to Chicago. On the way there, Darren said, "I just want you to know that this is one of those things I'm going to because I love you." I think there might have been some mention of poufy guys in tights or something too. We got to the theater, and he upgraded our seats to the main floor (because the balcony of that particular theater was a deathtrap we discovered), and we settled in for the show.

It was indescribable. Never in my life have I had an experience like that. Never in my life have I seen a crowd reaction like that. Of all the many shows I had ever seen, this blew them all away. Darren said, "We're going to see this again." We walked out of the theater after, only to stop at the box office and buy more tickets for another night.

That was about thirteen years ago, and I've seen a lot of shows since then but nothing has ever surpassed or even matched up to it. I have the soundtrack, and I usually pull it out on winter days that I find so depressing--it lifts my spirits. I turned it on last week in the kitchen while the girls were sitting at the island, having supper.

I had my back to them, and I realized that they had stopped talking. I turned around and each of them was moving in her chair and kicking her feet. "What IS this, Mama?" Lucy called over the high volume. "Riverdance!" I answered. "WE LOVE IT!" they yelled, "Can we get up and dance?" So they danced around the kitchen, the music taking control over their feet.

I pulled my laptop over to the island and searched a bit on youtube until I came up with some footage. All this week they have sat and watched video after video of Riverdance. "That's the principal dancer," Lucy will say importantly. "Can we see the finale?" Elaine will ask. Then they take the soundtrack up to their room, put on their Sunday Mary Janes, turn up the volume, and dance their little hearts out.

"I'm going to be an Irish dancer when I grow up," sighs Lucy. "Me too; I'm gonna be in 'Riverdance'!" says Elaine. "Can we go and see this on the real stage?" they ask. On a whim, I check the home site to see if any time in the future, a company will be touring near us. Blow me away, Riverdance is coming to our small city this spring. Can you believe it? To the theater about 8 minutes from our house. By hook or by crook, I will get those two little girls there to see it.

So, the fever has spread to them too. May it never leave, and may it bring them as much excitement and joy as it has always given me. Here's a little taste for you (I have yet to figure out how to upload video. Alysa, help!) This onscreen gives only a fraction of what seeing it live is like. You've got to see it though. And when all the chorus takes the stage near the end, if you tilt your head and squint...you just might see me dancing up there with them. I do, anyway.


Jill said...

I have to agree...Bill & I saw Michael Flatley in "Lord of the Dance" while I was pregnant for Mary - and it was nothing but amazing!

Alice said...

That's great--on all the videos, MF is the girls' favorite dancer. Lucy said, "He is the greatest dancer!" I was like, "Yeah, he says he is too!" She goes, "That's a little braggy. But I still like him best because he doesn't just dance, he FLIES!"

We saw Colin Dunne, and he was awesome too.

Juliet said...

I would never relate clumsiness wtih you. Now on the other hand I seem to bump into everything in my way. I have bruises to show for it.

Thanks for the video. How do they do such dancing? Lots and Lots of practice.

Oh by the way, I think I did see some blond lady on stage, but she wasn't dancing, she had tripped and landed on the floor...was that you?

Ann-Marie said...

Can you believe I've never been interested in dance? Well, I'm going to check this out! I've heard marvelous things from lots of people about it!

I do remember being entranced when Shirley Temple danced around in those little tap shoes, though!