This past weekend was the Perfect Storm of Uncool events: my birthday (not one of note, though my increasingly creaky back says otherwise), Mother’s Day and Li’l Diva’s annual dance recital. I write about the latter in this piece, which first appeared a year ago in Stamford Magazine.
It’s the heart of spring, a special time with weather warming, flora blooming and vacations approaching that ignited me so as a child but as an adult reduces me to ash.
Field trips to Cove Island, to Dorothy Heroy Park and – gasp – to “The City.” School concerts. School plays. Daily rehearsals for said concerts and plays. Little League practices. Little League games. Going back to the Little League field to retrieve a jacket left in the dugout. Funny how perspective changes when you go from kid to your kids’ chauffeur.
One event that rallies my spirit this time of year is my daughter’s dance recital. Li’l Diva has been tapping and twirling at Center Stage Dance Studio for eight years, and it remains one of the few activities she does without needing my encouragement or bribery. Makes sense as the girl has been shakin’ her groove thing since it was swaddled in Huggies.
(Sidebar: Li’l Diva gets her talent neither from me, your prototypical stiff-limbed suburban white boy, or her mother, a Midwestern girl whose town would have banned dancing like that one in Footloose if the elders had ever caught sight of her roller disco moves. Meanwhile, our son puts us all to shame. Excitable’s an untrained but fluid dynamo of wiggling hips and wavy “spaghetti” arms and legs. As a young’n, we might have fed him too much Jell-O.)
My daughter’s months of classes annually culminate around Mother’s Day in a two-plus-hour extravaganza. The recital packs The Palace Theater on Atlantic Street from stage to balcony rafter for a show ranging from tutu-wearing tots eliciting audience “awwww”s to soon-to-be high school graduates in Rockette-worthy kick lines. Li’l Diva has never been in either extreme, but her classes’ performances are usually memorable. Her debut show, at age 6, brought tears, laughter and a standing ovation from the audience.
Her first number consisted of basic movements choreographed to Conway Twitty’s “That’s My Job,” a country tearjerker about fatherhood that makes Harry Chapin’s “Cat’s in the Cradle” sound like a frat party anthem. Even if you weren’t the dad of one of the little angels on stage, you couldn’t help but reach for a tissue. Her second number, though, brought down the roof. Near the end of her class’s poodle-skirted rendition of “Born to Hand Jive” from Grease, the girls kicked up their heels … and the dancer next to Li’l Diva kicked a shoe off a good five feet. Her unshod classmate dropped to the floor, slipped it back on in one quick motion then – BOOM – jumped back in line to finish the number on cue. The audience went wild.
When the recital finishes, the theater lobby and adjacent Kiwanis Park fills with proud parents and assorted relatives handing bouquets to their performers and snapping photos. Those annual family shots we take with our tiny dancer tend to be some of the best of every year. That’s a bonus.
Well, that and the fact it ends to my driving Li’l Diva back and forth to separate tap, jazz and ballet classes every week. At least until dance does a buffalo shuffle right back into our lives in September.