Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Maybe this is the Excedrin talking

My mom was here for an overnight visit Sunday and Monday. I mentioned to her that I had found an old pin of hers that had her highest bowling score from back in the day engraved on it. For some reason it was in one of my jewelry boxes.

Her score was 187. She told me she got that score when she was on diet pills (this would have been in the 70s or 80s, I believe).

"Boy, did those things work," she said.

She told me the pills made her stronger and more focused. Basically a super-version of her regular self.

But after a while she wasn't feeling so well and she decided to stop taking the diet pills, at which point her bowling team wondered what happened to their star player.

I've already told you about my desire to lose weight, so I won't bore you with that again, except to say that the thought briefly crossed my mind that maybe I ought to give diet pills a try.

And then I remembered that I can't even take Excedrin without getting giddy and jumpy and wanting to start a ballroom dancing club. Seriously. This has happened twice.

I used to be a newspaper reporter. On two separate occasions at two different newspapers I was dealing with a migraine that I had to get rid of to keep working into the late-night hours. So both times I went to a nearby drugstore and bought Excedrin. And both times I found myself in an exceptionally good mood and hardly able to sit still. And both times I couldn't wait to get my work done so I could get started on forming my own ballroom dance club. And the second time this happened was when I made the connection:

Maybe this is the Excedrin talking.

I was a ballroom dancer before ballroom dancing was cool. (It's cool now, right?) I started when I was 11 and I was pretty serious about it throughout my teenage years. Along with my brother and my other dance partner, Martin, I would compete several times a year and perform anywhere we were invited. We competed at the national championships at BYU every year, and Martin and I even placed 4th in the waltz and quickstep at the nationals in 1995. That was my biggest dancing accomplishment, I think.

Now a decade later, some of the dancers we competed against are gracing the "Dancing with the Stars" stage. It's fun to see them doing so well and having that opportunity. They wouldn't remember us, but they were the standouts back then, so we remember them.

Our dance teacher was an awesome teacher and a shady businesswoman. My parents had finally had enough of her financial dishonesty and decided to take their business elsewhere. Which meant that if we wanted to keep taking lessons, we had to make a big drive every time.

First we went to Nancy. She was about a three-hour drive away and we saw her every couple weeks. She liked to pick on me. She once pointed out to me and the rest of the class that my legs were not very pretty. Thanks a ton, Nancy!

That didn't last long. After that my mom set up lessons with a few different teachers in the Provo area (about a 4-hour drive from home every other week). The most exciting part of that was taking private lessons from Rick Robinson, who was a legend to us. He was one of those dancers who was so captivating that even if there were 99 other dancers on the floor, you couldn't take your eyes off him. And now we were under his tutelage. He taught us the best routines we had ever danced, and they are still the routines we feel like dancing when we hear a good cha-cha beat.

I say "we" because often when my little brother, Joel, hears a good cha-cha beat he'll reach out his hand to me and indicate it's time to dance. Even if we're at the grocery store or somewhere equally as inappropriate for putting on a dance recital. And I have a feeling if I weren't so shy about it, he'd actually dance the whole routine with me, right there.

I don't remember how long the Provo lessons lasted, but it became too expensive and time-consuming to keep making the big trip. We were still performing locally, but we weren't learning anything new and we weren't competing so much anymore. I did try to start a ballroom club at my high school, but ballroom wasn't cool yet so it fizzled.

Then I went to Ricks College. I had been out of the dancing scene for a year or two, but I was excited to get back into it there. I danced on the summer team and then the fall semester started and it was time for auditions. For some reason I wasn't sure if I was actually going to try out or not, but at the last minute I threw on a skirt and headed up to the MC.

Auditions were a disaster. The whole thing lasted for about an hour, and they picked all the new members from what they saw in that short time period. I had three chances to dance, and each time they had the men choose their partners, so I had no control over who I danced with for my audition. They had about 10 couples dance at a time, for about 90 seconds at a time.

My first partner had just learned the basic cha-cha step that night, so we danced the basic cha-cha over and over and over and over. The next guy had been in a social dance class during the summer term, so he knew a little, but not a lot. And the last guy was on the team, but hadn't taken lessons. So he knew all their group routines, but none of the basics and he was trying to lead me in all kinds of crazy things I had never learned. So I never really got to show anything that I knew, and subsequently I did not make the team. As a further blow to my ego, my best friend, who had danced other types of dance all her life but who only knew the few ballroom steps that I had taught her, made the team. I was happy for her, but so sad for me. This was also the week that I didn't make it into the choir I had hoped to be in. Just an all-around bummer.

Joel and I did participate in one more competition, at Ricks, where we placed 6th or something in the novice category (is that right, Joel?). Eventually I was encouraged to try out for the "Winter" team, and so I did. This time I made it, but it was around the same time that I really got into journalism and was working for KRIC-FM. I had to leave dance practice early every time to make it to my on-air shift, so after a few weeks I decided to leave the team and focus on my radio job, which I really loved. I was top dog there, or at least I felt like it... and it was a good feeling.

After a couple more hometown performances my career in ballroom came to an end. I didn't know it then, though. I'm glad that our last performance was one of our best. Joel and I choreographed a really fun swing number for a benefit show my mom put on in our hometown. I didn't know then that it would be the last time I would perform in front of an audience, and I wish so much that I had a recording of it.

It's something I really miss. I also really miss singing with a group (and I don't mean church choir... I love participating in the church choir, but that's not what I'm talking about). I've tried off and on to rally others to participate in both ballroom clubs and singing groups, but no one is ever as excited about it as I am. Maybe someday I'll take enough Excedrin or diet pills to get something going for real.


Roxanne said...

I hope you get the opportunity to dance again. It is really hard to give up something you love so much.
Did you ever get hooked up with the Ogden 5K? I just found out that the full, half, and relay are sold out. The only thing left is the 5K. Bummer! I hope you are still wanting to do it. I promice I will help you.

Diana said...

This was a GOOD post! I love learning all this about you and now, I'll have tons of stuff to quiz you about when we go for our little walks. :) I can empathize with missing things. After finishing playing softball in college, I'm done. I, unlike you, knew it was my last game which made it that much harder.

Are you doing the Ogden 5K? That would be fun! You totally should. If I'm not physically in a different condition, I'd totally do it with you and this Roxanne person. ;)

*LaUrA* said...

I laughed out loud at you taking the Excedrin and then getting giddy and trying to form a ballroom dancing club...because I have recently had a similar experience with the pain meds I have been on for my surgery...I swear I am floating and can save the world and raise 20 children when I take these pain pills...I actually LOVE them...I only have 2 left though and I am coveting them like Gollum covets his precious ring. ...I may or may not need an intervention;)

This was a great post though and I remember watching you and Joel and you were so fun to watch. I would totally join your ballroom dancing club...it would be so fun to learn!

*LaUrA* said...

I had a thought...maybe you should hold a workshop or start a class for young kids...surely you have the skills to get kids started in ballroom dancing right...I think that would be so fun! And you can make some extra cash. Just a thought.

jen said...

It sounds like you and your mom perform well under the influence of caffeine. :)
I think you should find a place to dance - even if it's a community dance club and nothing really serious. If you love it that much, you should find a way to get back in it.
I miss singing, too. So I just belt it out in my car. :)

Rachel said...

I know how you feel. I didn't do ballroom, but I did do modern for a long time and I miss it. I am so out of practice now, though that I would be scared to start a club or anything like it. I like Laura's idea though. A workshop for kids would be a great way to dance again, with out so much pressure!

wonder woman said...

I LOVED learning all this about you!! I've only ever "cheer" danced, and took social dance at BYU-I, but Superman and I used to swing dance all the time. I love any kind of dancing.....I wish there were places to do it here that weren't lame. :o) Even Valentine's dances for the adults....SOMETHING!

p.s. I'll bet there's a community choir up there you could join. A lot of places host Messiah sing-alongs. I wanted to do that this year but didn't find out in time. Just a thought.

Liz Brown said...

I've always wanted to dance and my mom wouldn't even put me in anything local whatsoever. That's so cool that your parents went to such great lengths for you guys!

The way you talk about singing in a choir or dancing in a group again is how I feel about playing in a band. Sure, I'm just a school band geek, never even made it to college, but that was 7 years of playing!

If you want to start a dance club I would totally join! (if I didn't live a few hours away, that is)

**nicke... said...

i would dance with you! i am going to find a ballroom class around here so that spencer will take the class with me.

Kristina P. said...

Emily, have you bailed the blog ship?

Trevlyn said...

I found your blog after googling "excedrin good mood". I thought I was crazy explaining to my doc how great I felt and that I loved EVERYONE when I popped Excedrin! Now I know I'm not imagining it! Just had to share! (: