Chopping the Clogging

4 Nov

This is so difficult!  I think in trying to narrow and keep it entertaining and show-case certain sholarshippy characteristics I have omitted some pertinent facts and timeline and history.  I really need to get a move on with this essay because the deadline is fast approaching.  So sorry, readers, but here is another outline/brainstorm of my last scholarship piece of writing.

Brainstorm of what Clogging Made me:

responsible, dedicated, practice, commitment, flexibility, team-work, show, positive, teacher, patient, choreographer, student, fast learning, excitement, travel, priorities, time management, organization, performer, following through, memorization, balance, calm under pressure,

Logistic things I need to make sure to sneak in:

-clogging is like tap dance with double taps.

-Appalachian roots

-I started as a 2nd grader

-clogged for 8 years

-did performance/show and competitive dancing

-taught clogging for 5 years

Possible Outlines:

1.  Chronological–>indicate what I missed–car ride–practice–blend competition pre-song and festival charateristics–finish with how I experienced more important then show I missed.

2.  Dramatic–>start with pre-song–go back around to how I had to prepare with the practice–talk about car ride–then address what I missed–wrap up with super characteristics.

3.  5 Paragraph Essay Style–>Talk about TV show–in last paragraph that compares my friends and me, insert the longer pertinent paragraphs of practice, performance, etc.

I like this as a possible intro:

1.  the blue two story Pinkerton’s Studio of Dance.  All of the lean and graceful ballerinas leaned nimbly on the benches in the hallway.  Jazz dancers in black spandex pants and soft shoes stretched on the floor.  The tap dancers with their shiny black shoes did homework on the stairs between classes.  And then there were us cloggers.  We had a hardier build, and were loud, and well, not as proper, compared to the lithe, graceful dancers within Pinkerton’s walls.  I walked into the mirrored room and put on my worn, white practice shoes, tying the purple sparkled laces extra tight, and stomped the double tap on the floor for good measure.  The toes of my shoes were black from working on my buck steps and a hole was just starting to form on the ball of both shoes, since the majority of the Appalachian-based steps required slamming the ball of my foot to the floor.  Since most of the other types of dance required leotards for practice, the studio was uncomfortably warm for my tee shirt and gym shorts.  I was sweating already.Our teacher switched on a country song to warm us up.  It sounded extra loud and twangy over the soft, classical echoing down the hallway.  We had to have loud music to hear the beat over our tapping.

Eating my “dinner” of string cheese, a cracker pack, and an apple, I spelled the fourteenth word on my spelling list.  My mom was quizzing me during the twenty minute car ride into Carson City for clogging class.  We would not have time for homework after class, because it went right up to my bedtime, and tomorrow would be an early morning.  During my years of clogging activities, my family and I had to maximize our time.  Every moment was utilized, because with clogging and school, there was not a lot of time to spare.

For clogging performances, all the girls in my group had to apply blue eye shadow and bright red lipstick so our features could be made out under the harsh lights.  The stage makeup was ugly close-up, but you could see that we had eyes and lips when we were on stage.  We also had to wear our hair in high ponytails with the strands in back falling down in curls.  My hair wanted no part of these acrobatics.  My mother would put curlers in my ponytail early that morning.  While I patiently sat on the toilet lid, she would roll small strands of my hair in the spongy, pink curlers.  I hated pink.  Then showers of sticky hairspray would coat the locks.  Fumes choking everyone in the vicinity.  I would wear my pink curlers until I was in the wings of the stage, with my clogging instructor frantically yanking and untwisting the curlers back out.

Using my peripheral vision, I scanned right and left, to make sure I was lined up in perfect formation with my teammates. Despite the downward angle of my head, I could tell the lights were bright.  Staring at my own, freshly polished white leather performance shoes, I could only hear the chatter and rustling of the audience that had amassed in the large auditorium earlier in the day.  I tried to remain calm and collected, but I could hear my own tense breathing as I anticipated the first notes of “Twilight Zone,” which would cue the beginning of the dance.  Hoping the music would be loud enough, cued to the right spot, and playing at the correct speed, I worried more that the stage would be slick under my taps.  Experience and the knowledge the sticky Pepsi they had poured over the stage was sure to do its job and provide traction helped assuage my  nerves.  At least we are not dancing outside in the middle of a gravelly street in wind and rain or blazing sunshine, like we had to do for performance routines, I told myself.  I adjusted my arm just slightly, feeling the sequence of my fuchsia and turquoise lycra costume brush my shoulder as I did.  The grinding synthesizer echoed throughout the room and without thought, I stood straight, smile pasted on my garishly made-up face, and threw my arms into a left arrow to begin the dance.

Sometimes nerves would cause team members to wander off track and you would have to steer them back in the right direction. Pretending you were having fun and there was no problem or deviation from the routine was ingrained in all of us, as we had practiced showmanship along with the steps until it was second nature.  Luckily, during this performance everyone was in their proper place and remembering their cues and steps.  We did not have to employ any flexibility or perform damage control.

As I did the buck joey I knew there were only a few steps left in the song, one more line formation, and then we would do our final toss.  Then, we would have exactly three minutes to line up on the wings of the stage for our entrance to “When Doves Cry.” This meant running off stage, hastily throwing off our pink satin shorts and peeling off our pink and turquoise leotards and slipping into our purple leotards with the sheer purple split-leg pants.  Remember the headband, I reminded myself as I  completed the last vine of the song, making sure my right toe was pointed and that I elevated my knee as high as possible on the forward crossover.

My friends at school would talk about “The Simpsons.”  To this day I have never seen a full episode, so at recess when the subject would come up, I would be lost, and feel a little left out.  As my best friends laughed about Bart’s latest antics and Homer’s ineptitude, I would just listen, not having anything to contribute to the conversation.

While my friends were gathered around their television watching cartoons with their family, I was at clogging practice.  Or studying my spelling words in the car as my mom drove us to clogging practice.  Or at some performance at a festival in a park somewhere.  Maybe I was just out in the driveway, shoes on, practicing my steps for our newest dance.

Though it was no fun to be in the dark about the coolest shows of the time, I do not regret my enthusiastic participation in dance.  While my friends were sitting, I was working my calf muscles and strengthening my lungs by doing a series of fast double-steps, stomps, and windmills.  Instead of mindlessly watching the sit-coms, I was using my mind to memorize not only countless steps, but a wide variety of songs, as well as choreography that went with each different routine.  By missing that family-time in the evenings, I was learning to work with a diverse group of people in a team, adapting to variable audiences, and taking instruction (and criticism) from clogging instructors and judges.

Aside from not knowing who exactly Krusty the Clown is, whatever happened to Lisa’s saxophone, or if Marge ever got a hair cut, I think I fared pretty well with the life skills I accrued.

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