Lent 2014 – 29: How the Leaves of Change Changed it All




I took my friend Amanda to the ballet tonight. It was the first time that either of us had been and it was a rather enjoyable experience. I discovered that ballerinas are so skinny because they spend a lot of time running around in circles on the stage without really going anywhere. I learned that I prefer happy, upbeat numbers as opposed to the stoic ones. But, try as I might, even though I found the dancing to be beautiful, I still had no idea what each dance was about. I mean, the one titled “Auschwitz” was pretty self explanatory, but the others were slightly more evasive in their meanings. I was mildly disappointed with the costumes since I felt like they didn’t put much effort into fitting them on each girl and they looked a bit frumpy. Only one number was accompanied by live music, the rest were recordings. The seating was comfortable and spacious and the view of the stage was actually quite good. So, over all, I would give the experience a B+.

While I was watching the dancers tonight I found myself thinking, “That could have been me.” That could have been me on stage if my mother had not pulled the dance rug out from under my feet at a very young age. Let’s go back to where my dance career came to an end. The year was 1986 or 1987. It was a crisp fall day in the suburbs of Detroit. My sister, Lala, and I were outside playing in the leaves. We were laughing, singing, and enjoying the bond of sisterhood. My mother called out to us and told us that it was time to put on our tights and leotards so that we could go to dance. We said that we would come inside in a few minutes, but then the exuberant color of the leaves overtook us and we continued to throw them above our heads as we would laugh and laugh. My mother yelled out to us again; we were running out of time. We were about to go inside when the warmth radiating from the grown lulled us back into a trance while the Earth struggled to hold onto the day as the sun was quickly releasing it’s grip and setting in the West. My mother called out one last time and said that if we did not go inside immediately we would never dance again. The sun knew what we did not; time slips away quickly and sometimes you have to let it go, or you will end up in the dark with your ballet slippers tucked away for good. Lala and I continued to play well into the evening and, as my mother was true to her word, we never danced again.

I remind my mother of this story from time to time just to let her know that I have not forgotten her dream crushing blow. The truth is, I would not have lasted in dance very much longer, for the same reason that I would never last in the military: I refuse to take orders.  The picture above is from my one and only performance; I’m sure it was a sold-out show.  was Thumbelina.  Let me stress that for you again I, Erin Elise, was Thumbelina! However, my dance teacher saw fit to put 15 other girls on the stage and tell them that they were Thumbelina as well! Ha! Everyone knows that there is only one Thumbelina!  I followed along at each practice. I completed each step during rehearsal, but during the recital I claimed what was rightfully mine.  I stood at the end of the line of 16 girls; we spanned the width of the stage.  When the time came for the line to dance to stage left, I danced to the middle of the stage and stayed put, I was right where I belonged, center stage.  I spun, I twirled, I danced my heart out amid the whispers of the teachers backstage trying to usher me to join back up with the other girls.  Why on earth would I do that?  I was a Prima Ballerina Assoluta! I am a Prima Ballerina Assoluta even though I have not worn my ballet shoes in 27 years and I refuse to listen to anyone who tries to tell me otherwise! So while my mother kept me from going to dance, she was never able to take the dancer out of me!

“Thumbelina, Thumbelina tiny little thing
Thumbelina dance, Thumbelina sing
Thumbelina what’s the difference if you’re very small?
When your heart is full of love you’re nine feet tall.”

-Danny Kaye

Until tomorrow….

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Aunt Beulah
    Apr 20, 2014 @ 14:38:42

    You gave me a happy Easter morning with this story. I laughed aloud. Every word in it was delicious. My picture of you spinning and twirling as Thumbelina won’t soon fade, and including Danny Kaye’s lyrics was the perfect finishing note. Thank you.


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