Dance competition has sequins, `who-hooing' parents and lyrics that evoke memories


March 11, 2007|By JANET GILBERT

Professional interrogators know how to crack a witness with relentless questioning in a frigid, isolated warehouse illuminated by a swinging bare bulb.

But I may have inadvertently discovered an easier method for breaking witnesses -- one that is absolutely free of charge to the U.S. Department of Spy-Squeezing.

Just send them to watch a weekend-long dance competition in Bel Air.

I attended such an event last weekend and found that at the conclusion, my state of mind was not unlike that of a tortured prisoner of war. I was shell-shocked by the sequins. I experienced flashbacks of fringe and glittering tiaras. I was battle-worn by the enemy -- stage parents -- easily identified by their excessive "who-hooing" and "Go, Baby!" from the wings throughout their dancer's performance. Then there was the sheer duration of the event, which was 15 hours each day with only a few half-hour breaks, leaving the competitors and spectators agitated and off-balance.

But what really did it for me was the music.

Unfortunately, I cannot listen to a song and tune out its lyrics. And there was a lot of teen angst in the dancers' song selections.

I've always thought it somewhat snobby that professional dancers frequently select either classical or instrumental versions of songs to accompany their performances, but now I know why. Instrumental music allows the performer a bit of control over the emotion imparted, and in the best of performances, allows the audience members to invest something of themselves in the program.

But you can't really do much more than writhe along with a lyric like "I just poured my heart out/there's bits of it on the floor/and I take what's left of it and rinse it under cold water."

Sometimes a dancer would pick the same anguished song as another dancer, so we would be treated to a second or even third playing of a song about being angry and cutting oneself, or wanting to change so someone would love us, or feeling so alone that we wished either we or whoever dumped us would die.

Beautiful girls in shiny, sparkling costumes were reduced to dancing paradoxes against these depressing soundtracks.

By the end of the night, even I was feeling rather hopeless; misunderstood in a world of callous people out to expose me for the loser that I am. Moreover, I became convinced that all the people who profess their love for me were in reality performing an elaborate charade. I began to realize that life is full of loss and deceit and that perhaps I ought to go home and "learn the difference between living and alive," which was one of the more tormented lyrics I could not get out of my head.

Luckily, on the drive home at 12:43 a.m., I had an epiphany. I remembered that I used to write poetry when I was a teenager. Oh-ho-ho! As soon as I got home, I went to my file cabinet and took out one of the sorry tomes. Upon review, I surely embraced some happy-go-lucky sentiments between the ages of 11 and 19.

Here is an excerpt from an uplifting original verse from my angst-ridden teen years: "But I could wish/for timelessness on any star/in every far away beyond/and still be here/where you are not."

Because I believe that being uncomfortable builds character, I will share another sample with you: "Obscurity of night/where darkest black and sharpest white/become an eerie shade of grey. ..." That one is really quite something, no?

Get this: I used to read my poems to my friends, who loved them because I had somehow managed to put into words exactly how they felt.

And so the dance of growing up continues. After the competition, all the girls will download these wrenchingly sad songs that speak to their hearts, and I deeply, forlornly, understand why.

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