I Won’t Dance, Don’t Ask Me

Totally Tubular Time Machine is in its first week of rehearsals. Wednesday I began working with our musical director Lynn on the show’s opening number “I Got a Feeling” by the Black Eyed Peas, and it’s finale “On the Floor” by J-Lo – though in our version, P. Diddy stands in for Pitbull.

Between vocal and dance rehearsals Saturday, along with two other cast mates who i will be closely associated with. Decked out in bright orange hair, a silver suit, and David Bowie face paint, we had a business meeting in character in front of an unsuspecting onlookers. Back when I worked at Hershey Park, I often referred to this as audience-by-hostage. however, we seemed to be at best entertaining to a small family of bridge-and-tunnel tourists, and at worst strange and annoying to the waitstaff.

Six P.M. brought us over to Champions Studios to work with our choreographer  Janine Molinari – or rather her assistant Bobby, since Janine has another show opening Tuesday. I’m glad to see people are working on so many new things. Bobby, Janine, and the entire cast are incredibly supportive and encouraging, but that doesn’t change the simple fact that I. Cannot. Dance.

I am a terrible dancer. I demonstrated this thoroughly at the audition back in August. We were taught a not-so-small section of the choreography from the “Single Ladies” music video by Beyonce. It’s a complicated dance and it’s not designed for men, especially of my build (read: fat). Always 3 beats behind, i barely plowed through the first 8 measures before being asked to stop by the creative team.

Singing, I can do. I hit them with some Bon Jovi and some Meat Loaf and then wowed them with my brilliant improvisation talent. Dancing was the big red X on my head shot and resume, and I was shocked when they called to let me know they wanted me in the show. Actually, I wasn’t shocked. I nailed the audition, save for the dancing, and hoped that my skills in the other departments landed me a role. I was shocked to find out I wouldn’t be singing in the show, and that there’s a lot of dancing I will be doing.

Last year, I challenged myself harder than I ever had chasing an all-movement role in an otherwise all-puppet play. I was given the title role of Golem in the Czechoslovak American Marionette Theatre’s revival at LaMaMa and it was an amazing new experience for me. I worked my ass off (well, at least 5lbs) and was showered with compliments and praise for my performance. I felt amazing. I remember being frustrated at rehearsals, but our choreographer was patient and worked with me to create movement that was natural for my body. This was not the case this evening.

Recreating pop culture icons is the essence of TTTM and since most pop musicians these days also come with signature dance moves, we all have to train our bodies to copy what the audiences will be expecting. My body has no training. I don’t exercise. I eat more sugars than I’m supposed to (I’m diabetic). I don’t take the medication I need for my thyroid condition. And, the two movement classes I took in college were enough for me to realize that I have no innate talent for dance.

Dance is the most beautiful thing the human body can do, and that includes really well performed sex. I love dancing, I am just terrible at it. In college, I dated only dancers (unfortunately, this had no correlation to their talents in the bedroom). Dance is an art, a sport, a show.  And when it is done right, when a person has a rhythm and a grace and a command over their body, I can’t peel my eyes away. I am captivated, hypnotized by their sway.

Yesterday I was reminded how incredibly powerful dance can be. I watched our Michael Jackson, our Vanilla Ice, our Justin Bieber, our Madonnas (we have two), our Lady Gaga, our J-Lo, our Britney Spears, and even our Katy Perry perform beautifully after only a couple of hours of rehearsal. Many had solo numbers or belonged to small sets. I was thrilled to see them all. My smile stayed until the group dance numbers where i was required to participate.

My hair was still bright orange, as was my shirt, and so in a room of people wearing mostly black and grays, I stood out. Weighing 270 lbs. in a room full of people in top physical form, I stood out. Struggling to keep up, remember moves, catch my breath in a room full of unison professionals, I stood out. I was hired for this show because of my ability to stand out. This is not how they meant.