As a dancer, it’s sorta my job to have control over my body, to be in command of every muscle and fiber so that I can move through space in a physical art form. I think that’s why most people assume that dancers are graceful people offstage as well.
But for me, that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Recently, I had to attend a photo shoot for a dance company I’d only rehearsed with twice. I didn’t really know anyone in the company well either, so I already felt a bit self-conscious.
Now, let me pause here and state that I am not in what I would say is my “fighting shape.” It’s been over two years since I have danced consistently, and I’ve lost a bit of strength and stability, which translates to “I’m not feeling as spry as I used to.”
Given all of that, yeah, why not get in front of a camera and try to look photogenic in a room full of strangers? Sounds like a great idea! What could possibly go wrong?
Because there was no set choreography yet to capture, the photographer crammed the three other dancers of the piece and me on a tiny square of dark grey background paper, and under very little direction, asked us to improvise a bit to get some photos taken.
If you’re thinking, “Man, that sounds awkward,” you’re completely correct.
It had about the same result you’d think it would: odd, ill-composed photos with perplexed looking dancers.
To change things up a bit, the choreographer decided to have us improvise one at a time. We were directed to perform a few movements to get about four to five photos a piece, then exit so that the next person could run on in to the frame and start dancing.
I stood on the side, waiting my turn, and when it was time, I did what I was told.
I ran on.
And as soon as my foot hit the grey paper, I started to slide.
Like, in slow motion. Limbs flailing. Unable to prevent disaster.
Down I went, like an exaggerated banana-peel-on-the-sidewalk skit, all the while screeching like an opera singer.
In any other situation, like with my last company for example, once I hit the ground and assured folks I was physically okay, everyone would have gotten a good chuckle. Heck, I might have even peed my pants a teeny bit from laughing hysterically at the ridiculousness of the situation.
But in this instance, no one was laughing. Well, I kind of was. But then I quickly stopped when I realized that everyone was just staring at me, stunned, mouths agape, not sure what to make of this aging lunatic that had just flung herself on the ground like a fish out of water.
After I lay there on the floor for what felt like 24 hours, the photographer finally ran over, and I thought, “Oh, thank God, someone is coming to my aid.”
But really? He was just trying to frantically save his background paper, smoothing out the edges and re-taping the whole thing down so that we could get on with the shoot.
The choreographer and the other dancers eventually started to make sure I was all right, and I reassured them that the only thing hurt was my pride as I lurched myself upright.
But deep down? I was mortified. Humiliated. And I certainly did not want to get my picture taken anymore.
It was all I could do not to pack up my gear, dramatically sling my bag over my shoulder, and yell “that’s it, I’m outta here!” before storming out and slamming the door behind me.
But I didn’t.
See? I tried to take the high road. The mature route. The harder option. Even though it sucked balls.
One of the dancers tried to make me feel better and tell me that it wasn’t as bad as I imagined, and that I fell very gracefully. To which, I giggled politely while hiding my tears and thanked her for trying to make me feel better.
However, the crinkled marks on the background paper told a different story of disaster and defeat.
I couldn’t high tail it out of the studio fast enough once the photo shoot was over, and having a week where I didn’t have to face the same people helped heal my wounds. So, now? I’m almost over it. Almost.
Thankfully, the photographer swears he didn’t capture my embarrassing moment on film but I am waiting for some kind of GIF of me falling over and over on a loop to make it’s way on the Internet sometime soon.
When folks like Jennifer Lawrence fall in front of an audience of millions, it’s adorable and endearing.
After a couple of days, I could tell the story and laugh about it. Because, c’mon, falling is pretty funny.
I guess it just goes to show that I’m never too old or too experienced to get humbled. That life will continue to knock me down, and it’s up to me to decide if I’m going to get up and storm out of the room, or stand up and get my picture taken, red-faced and all.
With grace, of course.
Do you have any embarrassing stories you can share to make me feel better?