It’s dance season. I’m pushing a broom across the floor, collecting an impressive pile of bobby pins, sequins and orange and green feathers. I like to think we have two seasons of dance in our theater. Spring dance is filled with feathers and fuzz. Winter dance has an endless supply of snowflakes. Either way, the detritus has a way of hanging on long after the dancers have departed.
A few weeks ago, we carefully laid the dance floor. First came a thick layer of carpet padding, the foam rolls shedding showers of orange stubble over us, covering our chests and arms as we carried them, treating the unwary to hefty static shocks as they were unrolled. After the foam came a layer of thin masonite boards. And then on top of this, the five-foot wide rolls of vinyl dance floor itself. Taped down, with all the seams covered over, the stage had become a brand new surface - solid to move on, but with enough spring and forgiveness to take care of the knees and ankles of the dancers.
With the floor in place, we are ready to host a whole string of dance schools for their spring recitals. And with Covid restrictions lifting, they come in their throngs. So many wonderful, encouraging teachers with so many dedicated students. Every style and every level are represented. The nerves and charm of the five-year-olds doing their first step-touches. The lyrical ebb and flow of contemporary. The energy of tap and jazz. The pulsing thrill of hip hop. Color and sound.
Dancers’ feet are so loud – and they make so many different noises. Tap shoes click, brush and slap. Hip hop sneakers squeak and pound the floor. Ballet slippers rustle like papers on a desk, and crackle like a young fire, while pointe shoes clack the floor like towers of wooden building blocks.
No matter the production, every dance show is underpinned by a small army of volunteers. Parents and friends who make the show happen. Encouraging backstage, fixing costumes, dispensing band aids and ice packs. At one performance I watch a dancer run up to a gentleman backstage who without bidding produces a handful of bobby pins form his front pocket. Meanwhile, human crocodiles of ladybugs, swans and princesses are led in excited whispers to the stage, then back to dressing rooms again. It’s like Noah’s ark, but with fewer smells.
Although, it has to be said, closing the dressing rooms at the end of the night, the nose is indeed assaulted by a palette warping cocktail of scents - the boys’ rooms a healthy mix of body spray and teenage funk, the girls’ an intertwined mixture of eight different hair sprays. We leave the doors open overnight whenever possible.
I have given up trying to decide which is my favorite dance company or dance show. Week by week, I fall in love with whatever group is on stage. Each time, it’s thrilling. From the opening number of a show through the wild finale with every soul on stage, to the curtain closing and a hundred shrieks of celebration, hugs and tears when the dancers think they can’t be heard by the audience ten feet away. The performers bring their talents and make something new and beautiful in front of our eyes.
We end our run of dance performances with the ballet. The music is loud, on a par with the most intense hip hop jam. A full on wall of sound enveloping the wheeling dancers on stage, Prokofiev’s soaring strings flooding the audience like a giant wave as the Prince and Cinderella dance their passionate adagio. It’s glorious.
The final dance performance ends on Sunday afternoon. Two hours after the curtain closes, we have taken down all the backdrops. The floor is swept into one final nose-tickling pile. Tomorrow, we will rest. Then Tuesday we pull tape, roll up flooring, strike static sparks, and stow everything in its place in the basement. In forty-eight hours, there will be no sign of dance season.
Except for the orange and green feathers, of course. We’ll have those until it’s time for snow.
Music: "The Best Things Happen While You're Dancing"