There were four or five other little blond girls there, all of us with our Aqua Net bangs. My mom stood next to me as my new dance teacher came and introduced herself. She probably put her hand on my shoulder and told me she was glad to have me, that she liked my leotard, that she knew I would have fun. I probably stared at her and tried to assess if she would be a mean dance teacher or a nice one.
I probably silently begged her to not put me in the back row just because I was tall.
When my mother left, the teacher started moving strangely. "I'm dancing like a cat," she said, "Now I'm dancing like a bird. Can you move like a bird, too?" Uneasy at first, I followed what the teacher did, my arms out and in and up and down, fly-walking in circles and eights. Then I got comfortable and I took over my own body and let myself be modern.
A modern human dancer bird.
It felt weird.
The music wasn't on a tape like it was in all my other dance classes. There was no "Monster Mash" or "Puttin' on the Ritz". There was no kick ball change to the beat. Instead there was a lady with short hair who played the piano modernly. She bobbed her body as she played like she was a bird or a kitty cat, too. She probably wore a quilted vest. She was distracting.
When we were birds she would play flying music, when we were cats she would play prowling music.
Soon we were autumn leaves falling. The dance teacher said things like "Very expressive!" and "How creative!" The piano was pling plonging autumn leaferly. I probably had my eyes closed, flitting and falling around. I probably hoped that I was yellow.
Then we became thunder. The quilted vest scrunched and bowed low around the body of the piano lady as she reached far down to the deep and angry chords. The teacher yelled out over the crashing.
How does thunder move?!
How do you move thunder?!
SHOW ME HOW YOU CAN MOVE THUNDER!!
We danced around in a circle as she yelled, as the piano boomed discordantly, and moved our bodies like deep and angry storms. "Show me how creative you can be!" she cried. "Show me how powerful!"
My head and body filled with the sounds, I was almost in a trance. I did a cartwheel.
I didn't expect the music to stop then, the four or five little blonds to freeze and stare at me.
I didn't expect to be frozen thunder.
"We don't do it like that, Abby" the dance teacher said. "This isn't gymnastics."
Then I was frozen, too.
"Okay, girls," she said, clapping her hands to get our attention. "Watch me again. How can we be like tall grass?" She began to sway and bend. The quilted vest started to swish and dip, too. We all watched.
The other little girls thawed out before I did. They began to slowly pattern their movements after her.
It was hard to get the frozenness out of my joints and out from behind my eyes. I carefully watched the movements of the other little girls and the reaction of the dance teacher to see if she approved. She smiled serenely and nodded at them.
I slowly started moving, mimicking the little girls as they patterned themselves after the teacher.
Rocking to and fro.
Like tall grass we were.
Only now I was following. Following.
*image courtesy of gettyimages.com