But there I was Friday, at a dance recital, and enjoying it.
I was not there for the dancing. I was there for my son, Max. No, he wasn't dancing. He was there for a girl. She's a friend. But she's not a “girlfriend,” he'll say emphatically.
Anyway, the young lady in question was in the Caribbean School of Dance recital being held that night at the high school, and I wasn't going to just dump him at the gate and leave, no matter how much he wanted me to. I brought a book and was prepared to while away the three hours lost in “Mutiny on the Bounty.”
But at the door we were told that wasn't an option. If I was going to come in past the gate, not even into the auditorium but just through the gate, it was going to cost us $15. Each.
Steaming, I thought to myself, “Well, if I've gotta pay thirty bucks, I'm going to by God enjoy this somehow!” So I settled back grimly to enjoy the dancing.
The first number didn't feel me with a lot of hope – it was older dancers, high school and 20s, I'd guess, and they were very serious about the art form. But there was part they did in slow motion for some reason. They were telling some kind of story but damn me if I could figure out what it was.)
But the next number was fantastic! Kindergartners who had been dancing for about 7 months, standing on stage beaming. They didn't really get what was going on, but they were on stage in the most beautiful dresses they had ever worn and you could tell how happy that made them.
The dancers shuffled one by one across the stage, hands held aloft in classic ballet pose (or signalling “touchdow”) and most of them sneaking a wave at the crowd. They were thrilled, except for one. The last kid in line was NOT a happy prancer. No. Hands at her side, head down, she stomped across the stage 'til she got halfway. At first I thought, “Oh, it's a little story about the sad one and the others all cheer her up.” No, there was no story and no make believe. She HATED it. Then she got halfway across the stage and noticed the audience. She lowered her head even further and covered her eyes, but went stoically on, keeping her place in line even though she was apparently crying most of the time.
For me, that was worth the $15 right there. It was the most honesty I saw on stage all night, probably the most honesty I've seen on stage in years. And the audience loved it too. There wasn't a dry seat in the house.
There were more kindergartners, and first graders, and it worked its way up the age groups, the dancers becoming more serious and “artistic” and self-conscious as they got older, until they got back to the adults and my mind wandered. There literally were hundreds of dancers, and the thing lasted a long three hours.
Max's friend was very good. After the show he waited at the backstage entrance for ages to give her the stuffed monkey he'd brought as a gift. It was almost half an hour. When she finally came out he was able to talk to her for about 12 seconds before her parents whisked her away. He seemed satisfied with that.
But for me, nothing matched that moment when one little ballerina seemed to say, “You can make me do this, but you can't make me like it!”