Smiling while dancing, I’ve learned, is a lot like tapping your head while rubbing your belly — it takes coordination.
As I’ve been reminded rehearsing for the Celebrity Dance Challenge, it’s something I lack.
A friend once described it as: “It looks like every step Jimmy takes is his first.”
I guess it was obvious to her when my 6-foot, 3-inch frame tripped over nothing or walked into a table.
“You’re just a lot of limb,” she said
Growing up, I tried most sports. However, when I was unable to connect bat with ball or reach the net, I instead joined cross-country and track, where all I had to do was put one foot in front of the other — but somehow still found ways to trip.
So when Rick Lubbers, my editor and a contestant in last year’s Celebrity Dance Challenge, asked if I was interested in representing the Duluth News Tribune at the 2019 event, which pairs Minnesota Ballet’s professional dancers with local notables, I’m not exactly sure why I said yes.
Sure, I had a bit of dance history. I was a dancer in my high school’s production of “Grease,” after all. But all I had to do for “Greased Lightning” was point my arm in the same direction as the guys in front of me. And if I got lost during “Born to Hand Jive,” there was always someone across the stage snapping and clapping in time that I could mirror.
If all else failed, I had strategically positioned myself in the back corner of the stage, where any missteps might be masked.
But for two minutes during the show at Marshall School’s Fregeau Auditorium, it’ll be just my dance partner, Sarah White, and me swing dancing on stage.
I’ll have to the remember the steps, lifts and flips — all while smiling and not looking down.
As we go through the routine, I might remember most of the moves, but as soon as I’m reminded to focus on smiling, I’m sure to misstep.
“If you feel like you look ridiculous, you’re doing it right,” White said to me on our final morning of rehearsal.
I, along with several other local dance novices, will be looking plenty ridiculous, to the enjoyment of friends, family and coworkers in the audience.
And that’s a good thing. It’s one of the Minnesota Ballet’s top fundraisers of the year, so ticket sales help support the company dancers who, unlike me, can coordinate and multitask in ballet and beyond.
On top of a rehearsal schedule that is itself a full-time job, the women and men in the Minnesota Ballet set aside what little free time they have to patiently walk people like me through the basics of dance, teach dance lessons, work another part-time job or enroll in college courses — sometimes all of the above.
And unlike me, they’ve got the whole coordination thing down.