Trillium Performing Youth will perform their annual showcase on Sunday Mar. 30 at 3 p.m. at The Lewis Theatre. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for students. All monies raised are for the TPY Scholarship Fund.
Kelsea Hower is a member of Trillium Performing Youth, better known as TPY. The following story is a collection of dance memories.
By Kelsea Hower
Stage lights shine bright into my eyes, penetrating even a closed lid and I squint. I stop, look up, realize that, while I can’t see them, there is a crowd of people, all eyes on me, waiting for my first move. Not even a whisper is heard, perhaps an uncomfortable silence, and I wait a moment more to gather courage from the lights. And begin.
To pick the right song is a difficult task. Listen to a thousand songs before you are able to pick just one. This song must have intriguing rhythms that can relate to how my body moves and how I want it to move, no words, and turns where the mood or tone of the song changes.
I dance every single day of the week, but this one is different; this one is for me, my college, my career, my future, my life. The audition unnerves me and I worry “What if I don’t make it, if I’m not strong enough or have enough stamina? What if I crack under pressure?” I look at the other dancers and feel faint with this fear.
Lying on the carpeted Green Room floor in my warmups, I casually chat with my cohorts about anything and everything, but mostly the dances being performed as we spoke that we watched on the screen in front of us. “While you’re up can you get me some grapes?” There was a table set with fruit and while I wasn’t hungry, the plump green grapes were hard to resist.
A pirouette, one simple turn in my already increasing vocabulary of them, is not as simple as it seems. “Chin up. Ribs in. Shoulders back. Butt under. Tummy tight. Supporting leg straight. High releve, high passe. Use your turnout …from the hips!”’ were all things my teacher shouted at me, to go along with “Spot. Spot! SPOT!!!”
“OW W W!!”’ she pushed my leg up higher. It felt like she was going to force it to the breaking point, that my leg would just snap off at the hip.
The last lovely day of fall Kathryn marched our tiny butts right back out the door as soon as we changed into our dance attire, down the three flights of stairs and onto the Carnegie lawn, right underneath the Ginkgo tree. We did stretches and a luxurious warmup to the music of the wind through the trees, the leaves whispering across the pavement. The loud laughter of these beautiful people, the dancers and Kathryn, kept me aloft after a hard school day, where instead of being outside all day enjoying it, I was stuck at a desk under artificial light, listening to a teacher’s drone.
Sarah and I “snuck out” of the house at 2 in the morning because I had the studio key. I took my iPod to make the silent darkness noisier. I also grabbed, as a last thought mom’s bottle of hairspray, for protection against the creepers that lounge around outside the bar at night.
Everyone dressed up for Halloween, everyone that is but me. I figured I was old enough to let alone the childishness. Besides, we’re supposed to be professional at dance. But they came to class decked out as goblins and geishas, fairytales and ne’er-do-wells.
“What if they made ballet in 3D?!! It’d be like the dancers were kicking you in the face!” I was quite proud of myself for this idea until Tyler pointed out that ballet is already 3 dimensional. Everyone bursted with laughter, including myself, even though I was slightly humiliated. Imagine though, a ballet movie that was made in 3D so you get the glasses and everything. Talk about being able to see their muscles. Ha!
I looked into his eyes, so close right in front of me. Nothing else mattered but those blue-gray eyes. People moved about us moving, but I never lost that connection. And I was lifted into the air. Weightless.
My head was resting against Maggie’s small stomach. I assailed my ears from the boys’ arguing about which count was right and talked to my sister about my day. I thought this kid liked me and that another needed to go fall in a hole.
The playground of the Gods. We journey there every year during Dance Festival. Tucked away in a quiet Charleston neighborhood lies a large playground that makes us all the small children that hid in our hearts. It’s filled with nooks and crannies to explore, mulch that if you touch it, turns into a molten lava vortex. And the annual picture of our dance family doesn’t stop the wondrous fun.
I remember these things, too.
A smooth, hard wooden barre, my friend, runs the length of the echoey room. A reflection of every flaw.
A bag that reeks of sour sweaty clothing. Why did I press my unforgiving nose into that moist fabric?
A tall, willowy young woman dressed in a black leotard that I aspire to be. Her extensions inspiring. Arches beyond humanly possible. Turns on a dot. Eight times.
Back and foot massage circles relieving stress by giving and receiving. Friends watching me dance.
Family dancing with me.
I dance in a titan theater, tall ceilings and seats that don’t end, and I think how lucky I am that dance found me. I reminisce. The memories flush back through every part of my body. All the long hours of sweat, hunger, exhaustion, heat, weakness and strength are a part of me now as I “strut and fret [my] hour upon the stage.” But catch this Shakespeare and company, those long hours signify dedication and hard work and mean everything to me. I trade them along with all else dreadful in my passion for nothing.