paidiraiompair: (stepping stone)
paidiraiompair ([personal profile] paidiraiompair) wrote2016-03-17 08:43 pm
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Looking out from the foot lights

 "dancing is an important part of music, but so is crying. ~ Katie Melua

My first bio in a program for dance had the line "I have loved dance since the moment Papa put my feet on top of his".  "Juking" as it was called in our home took the forms of Irish jigs, jitter bugs, texas two steps, the twist and later the hustle and other forms of line dancing.  It was turning on the giant stereo record player/8 track in our big living room way up loud.  It was laughter of teaching each other the latest steps.  As the generations gaps of my vastly spaced in age brothers came and went, this one private in home tradition could put a truce in on-going fusses, or put closeness to teen siblings for maybe an hour. Though tastes varied, we could all agree on Hank Williams, Elvis, the Beatles, The Eagles and any thing on the infamous Saturday Night Fever album.  As the only girl, I got to learn them all. It was often silly, but always happy.  
I performed in my first theatre play at 6, given the main role due to a freak ability to learn large amounts of dialogue quickly.  In the front row would be Papa.  For the next 10 years of plays, and as times changed, into the newer styles of performance art, he was there for all of those too.  (My first paid gig was as a gymnastic dancing piece of carpet, hand to God). He said to me in his lilting accent something he would say often, the world of abstract art not being his forte, "Baby, I didn't understand a bit of it, but you were the very best one".  
  He was there like that for all of us, despite the wide and often unconventional paths we took.  For me, I did some sports and a brief time in band, but theatre was my passion. No one was prouder than him when I won the lead role at 13 in the high school senior play.  For 30 years, even when I was only the stage manger, lighting or props designer, he was there.  He watched every show I directed, even joining the board of my own business production company.  And when I changed my focus to learn integrated dance, he was right there opening night, and every year.  Pride in his eyes, "Baby, you're so graceful up there".  That validation, bias as I know it was, always meant more to my heart than any review.
This year's big intown production, included a piece about the U.S. immigrants of the early 20th century, and I was portraying a girl from Ireland.  I was looking forward to this tribute to my Gaelic ancestors and thought how my father would enjoy it.  As I was about to leave for the theatre, I got the call.  Health wasn't going to allow for the 4 hour round trip from Papa's home to see me.  Of course I said it was fine and was more worried that my family was well and taking care of themselves.  Then I started the drive into town.  I navigated the streets with slow silent tears, feeling a bit foolish.  I pulled myself together, started the makeup and hair process, putting a Pink Floyd mix-tape in my ears. Warmed up and game face on, I lived up to the standards of performance I always strive for in my work.  Every audience deserves your best show.  
As the last number faded to dark and we made our way forward for bows, the lights came up.  There in the those same seats were now the applauding smiling faces of my children.  I fought the tears back and winked to them and made my way backstage.  In the lobby I hugged them and said how happy I was they came and other small talk.  Later, sitting briefly outside between shows, I let myself cry, not just in saddest, as I wrestle with the reality that my Papa, is in fact, very likely mortal.  I also had tears of joy.  I don't just dance for myself, for my own spirit.  I dance in the love of the family who always supports me, But for now on it will be in the faces of my kids, proud I hope.  Just like the show, LIFE too, must go on.  And I am damn lucky.  


note: this image is of a stepping stone is on the sidewalk near the neighborhood I raised my family