Howling Mad Girl vs. the Ballet Master of Doom


“Bow down to your Master!”  ~From The Last Dragon

And Kiss My Converse!

Memories come back to me in funny ways. As I was re-watching The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. this week, it struck me that Lord Bowler was none other than Sho’Nuff, the Shogun of Harlem, from The Last Dragon. Hit me like the proverbial ton of bricks. This made me remember that Prince (’80s Prince) produced The Last Dragon, which led me to think of dancing, then to Black Swan, and then, inexplicably, to a memory I’d all but suppressed. (If you bear with me, I promise this will be pretty amusing.)

The year was 1986. Dance was all the rage, and a person could still get away with wearing legwarmers in public without fear of bodily harm. Aerobics were the best way to get and stay fit for women. My mom, in those years, was a semi-professional dancer with the grace of a springbok and the elegance of a leopard. She loved everything terpsichorean. She was born to play that role, and naturally she wanted me to share in her love of dance. Our family was comfortably middle-class, and so my mom enrolled me in the Humboldt Valley School of Dance, which was actually the utility room in a neighbor’s house.

There was only one problem. Okay, there were multiple problems.

First problem was, I had no natural inclination to dance. Still don’t. It’s all well and good for other people to want to dance, but I am not one of those people who wants to coordinate moves to music. I’d much rather just fight them. That was the other major problem. In a class full of dainty little girls who seemed thrilled to wear pink all the time and tie their hair up in buns, I was the tall girl with unruly hair who would much rather dress in camo and whose recreational activities included blowing stuff up in her backyard.

But my mom, bless her, thought it was worth a chance. Many ugly ducklings turn out to be swans. So my Saturday mornings of sugary cereal and G.I. Joes were traded for the opportunity to learn grace, control, and a sense of beauty.

I can haz tutu?

The phrase “doomed from the start” would be putting it kindly. I was a rhinoceros in a room full of gazelles. And there was the ballet teacher, Mrs. Christensen (not her real name; I’ve tried to apply brain bleach to remove all memory of her but have been unsuccessful thus far.) She really was the Ballet Master of Doom. It didn’t help that her own precious little daughter was in the class, and was also her nemesis.

Mrs. C was the kind of woman who affected a vaguely European accent in the hopes that it would make her sound smarter. Even at the age of seven, I knew that wasn’t working for her. A conversation I seem to remember:

Mrs. C: Heather! PAY ATTENTION and point those toes!

Me: But Julie won’t leave me alone. She called me an [expletive deleted].

Mrs. C: She would never say such a thing! Now, follow the music and…

[Various grunts and the sound of a flying Bruce Lee-esque fist]

Mrs. C: Good heavens! Girls, what was that?

Me: (sheepishly holding fists behind back) I told you, she wouldn’t leave me alone. I had no other choice.

On that particular occasion, I think I gave little Julie a black eye, which, needless to say, didn’t go with her pink tulle ensemble. There was also the time when I actually got into the music (it might have been Debussy, whom I’ve always liked) and ended up concussing myself on the barre. Kind of a pas-de-owie.

I don’t remember how many Saturdays I had to give up before Mom finally understood that I was hopeless when it came to ballet, and the only role I might be able to aspire to was that of Mother Ginger (the lady with the huge skirts) in The Nutcracker. I never had to force myself into another black leotard or wrestle my coarse hair into a bun. After that, it was strictly horseback riding (which I took to immediately) and happy afternoons spent blowing various GI Joes to smithereens with M-80s.

Where was I going with all of this? My remembrances always seem to take me up and down, around, and back again.

I often wonder whether my early traumatic experiences at the hands of Mrs. C and her bratty daughter were the root cause of my general dislike of dance. I’m one of those people who would rather get a bamboo torture treatment or a vacation at Club Gitmo instead of sit through a Dancing with the Stars marathon. Because I never learned the art, I harbor resentment towards it. Sort of like how people who were bitten by dogs as children tend to dislike being around dogs. I’m not sure.

My mom, at her age, continues to dance, and dance well. Me, on the other hand? I never stopped wanting to be a soldier of fortune. But I think Mom’s cool with that now. She gets me A-Team toys for my birthday, and I get her dance DVDs.

Sho’Nuff.

RIP Mr. Sho'Nuff

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~ by Howlin' Mad Heather on January 21, 2011.

3 Responses to “Howling Mad Girl vs. the Ballet Master of Doom”

  1. great stuff !!! i’ll be a constant reader

  2. Awww. I’ve always been a fan of dance, I think it stems from being amazed by seeing Michael Jackson on TV as a child. I can totally understand people not liking it though. I love the way you write your blogs btw, they’re so inspiring yet blended with a certain amount of humour. Look forward to reading more 🙂

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