In February, I had one exam to give. An exam I wasn't really keen on, knowing that I would not be prepped well enough, and I couldn't possibly achieve the required 2-3 years work experience (which the exam demanded) from a downloaded pdf. I cribbed about it, and my friends cribbed with me. (Darlings that they are :) ), and I knew I couldn't escape it. It just wasn't an option. I had to gather myself and give it, and I tempted myself into doing so, by imagining how great life would be after I gave it.
So what, I thought, it's just one exam. How tough could it be? Study, study for about 2 months, and just give it. Piece of cake. Would have been. But it wasn't meant to.
Around mid February, the dance school where I shimmy and shake, decided to play host to an international dance congress and arrange a tempting array of workshops, from belly dancing, to the mambo, from salsa casino rueda to popping. And boy, was I tempted. Learning these styles from those awesome dancers?! Hell yeah!
And then began the turmoil. The balancing act. I asked my mom, and she gave me a bewildered look. Her exact words were, Whats to manage? Right. What was there to manage? Work, study, go for the workshops for three days. Have the syllabus covered till then. I was fretting for no reason. It still was a piece of cake.
A week later, that piece of cake decided it didn't want to be just a piece of cake anymore. What was the fun in that? So, it decided to morph. I got a call from one of the instructors saying I was selected for team A and that practice would start the next day, at sharp 6 AM. Whats to rejoice? Well, Team A was team A. It meant that we would get to perform, on the final day, in front of all those awesome international instructors and crowd, and come down from the stage receiving the showered compliments oh so modestly. And who was selected for team A? Me!
After rejoicing and making phone calls to share the happiness, to people who did not understand what team A was all about, but woohoo-ed anyway, reality started to dawn upon me. Morning 6am to 8 am practice. Then work. Then study? That piece of cake was starting to get lodged in my throat now.
The situation was still in control. I'd practice in the morning, it was just for a week anyway. Work. And then study in the evening. Plus, I had the weekend. No friends on weekends, no movies. Just study. I mulled over it, and finally decided, this is how it would be. Friends would understand. Ofcourse they would. Not that they had a choice anyway. Right, so I could still swallow that piece of cake. No worries.
Practice started as planned, at 6 AM sharp ( a minute late, and you were screwed) and I have never been that exhausted in the mornings. The song was a fast one, and I was literally all over the place. I spun off balance, and I spun too slow. And I elicited frowns and tsk tsk(s). Not being one to quit, though my body begged me to, I pushed myself harder. I used to come home dead tired in the morning, just about manage a power nap (which I made myself believe would carry me through the day), have breakfast and rush to work. To keep my promise of studying in the evening, I would try to read a few pages, often ending up digressing or sleeping in the process. Impressing my way into the final team meant so much to me, that I actually took time out to learn a quick handstand and did so disregarding the muscle ache. As fate would have it, the handstand for the girls was scrapped out of the choreography, and I was scrapped out of the dream team. I was annoyed, frustrated, and I felt like I had been on a roller coaster after just having eaten. My limbs ached, I was sore, I hadn't studied, and I wasn't getting to perform on stage. I was a mixed bag of disappointment, relief, fatigue, and tension.
And then to make matters better, or worse, my dance teacher put us in a consolatory team B. Team B would have 3 dances, and practice again, from 6-8 am. My body screamed no. My mind went into overdrive, and I had no idea if I wanted in or out. Say no, say no, study and just go enjoy the workshops. Hell with the performance.
But I said yes. By this time, my reasoning capacity found it hard to deal with my silly surge of ambition, and just gave up. It was the classic, if you can't beat them, join them situation. I wish I could say I had an idea of where I was going and that I had a "plan", and that I could answer the "Why are you doing this again?" question with some amount of aplomb. I couldn't. I was just going with the flow, too confused to reason with myself, and too deep to back out. So, I continued to get up in the mornings, go to work, and come home and read pages. I postponed all plans with friends/family till April, and my list of calls to return kept growing huge.
Somewhere in the beginning of the month, in which all this was supposed to take off or crash land, a close friend happened to come down for a visit. She was super excited and so was I. Plans for stayovers, parties, and hanging out were being made, and suddenly, 24 hours didn't cut it anymore. Each minute seemed to count, and I felt like I was chasing time while it leaped away from me.
She left in a weeks time, and I was a week and a half away from the event. I wasn't sure if I was in team B either, as I was against 5 girls who were a level higher in the school of dance, and while we had 6 guys to partner up with, one guy's place in the whole performance was questionable. And if he went, I was told I would have to go. So, the story went like this..I was practicing every morning from dawn, for two hours, for a choreography I had no idea whether I would be a part of, whereas I should have been reading more pages? Yes, that was the story.
Throughout this whole madness that had become my life, I hadn't lost those silly surges of ambition. Or stupidity. Or sheer insanity. Call it what you like. While practicing one afternoon, my dance teacher thought it would be a neat idea to put in 16 spins on the introductory piece of the music. Naturally, he asked us to show him if we could do so. Having come straight from a friends place, I didn't have the customary socks with me. And the rule in dancing is, you don't spin without socks. Especially not on a rough terrace floor. But, as I mentioned before, my reasoning capacity had called it quits, and so with nothing to stop me, I spun. X into 16 times. I can't recollect X.
X must have been a nice whole number though, and it made its wholeness known. The next day I got up with calluses all over the soles of my feet. I felt proud. I shouldn't have.
A day later, they grew into a big blister, that spread from my little pinky toe to my big non pinky toe, and covered the ball of my right foot. I went for practice anyway. And I danced.
Again, I probably shouldn't have.
It doesn't take a genius to figure out that the situation with my foot got worse. The next morning, I had to miss practice. The blister was full, it was soft, and I couldn't touch the ball of my right foot to the floor. I limped, and it hurt. Since I had to balance my weight on my left foot and the side of my right foot, I started having back pain. Realising it wasn't going to harden soon or burst with the puss and water it had lovingly accumulated, I had to get the blister surgically drained. This meant that the skin had to be cut off post draining, and I couldn't dance for two days. I was a week away from the event.
As luck would have it, (yes, luck does figure into the story somehow), dance practice was canceled for those two days and was rescheduled for the weekend. And that wasn't practice, that was going to be elimination. It was deciding time.
Having been warned not to dance for two days, I spent those two days revising that sequence in my mind. I believe (at the risk of sounding corny) that if your mind can conceive it, you can achieve it. It was time to put that belief to test. I'd revise expressions, the sequence and imagine the body movements. I had created a third person view, and I would critique my dance in my head.
D-day came soon enough ( it always does). By now I had rehearsed the sequence mentally, more than those X into 16 times that gave me that monumental blister. And then, I showed it off. I danced with abandon, while my mind counted each beat.
My face was pulled into an (hopefully) oomph-ish pout (smiling in salsa makes you look like a dork. Unless its once of those island songs that go la la la la la) and my mind kept guiding me.
Lopsided smile now, pout now, little steps, count your spins, spot your partner, listen to the beat!
When it was done, I stood, huddled amongst the group, mentally preparing myself for disappointing comments and decisions. Being slightly more realistic than optimistic, I don't believe that the effort you take necessarily transforms into those amazing moments of satisfaction people keep dreaming about. Sometimes it does, and it almost always does in movies, but I'm no actress.
Excellent energy... very good expressions... you are obviously in. But obviously! Mine would say something like You are still not getting the spins right. A tsk. Next time maybe, practice your spins. I'd be lucky if the critique was just limited to spins.
I sighed, and broke out of my reverie (if that's a right word for such kind of musings), to look up at the object of such assuring praise. And my teacher was looking straight at me. I looked down, embarrassed. Couldn't he just praise that person without having me feel bad? Must he be so direct with his disappointment?
Really good... Nice..the 6 couples are done then. Practice this week, and I'll see you guys on Wednesday.
Great. I was out. He, as decided, had taken the 6 good couples.. wait a minute, did he say 6? Did that mean I waaa... I looked up, and was suddenly engulfed in a hug. Peeking over the shoulder of my partner hugging me, I saw smiles directed at me.
You are in baby! We are performing. Wooohooo! Told yaaaaaaaaaa!
Oh my god! I was in! I was in, babbeeyyyyyyyy! I was in. It was done. I would perform, and now with this tension of being selected gone, I could focus on the exam preparation. I could still swallow that piece of cake!
With the team being selected, my dance teacher asked us if we were competing. I avoided his gaze and admired the neighbouring trees instead. What green leaves!
Trees don't do much to make you inconspicuous though. He asked me about my participation directly. And I wished the Earth would just open up that very moment, and give me refuge.
I have an exam, I said, for work.
He wasn't impressed. He raised an eyebrow.
No time, I sputtered.
Time for what? You just have to go on stage, wait for the music to play, and dance. He looked at me, disapprovingly.
And suddenly, he had an idea.
Lets simulate the enviroment here. I'll play random music, and you all pick up the beat and start dancing. Let's do it!
Whaaaaaaaaat? I looked up at the sky, and almost expected to see God with a huge grin on his face, enjoying the scene on that hot terrace.
So I parterned up with a friend, and waited for the cue music. It was the cha cha.
I would love to elaborate on the cringe worthy dancing that followed, but I'm in no mood to thoroughly entertain you. So, the gist of the dance on random music with the correct style was as follows :-
- I couldn't dance on beat
- I couldn't follow the leads
- We wouldn't even be considered as competition
4 days before the competition and the performance, we were given our costumes for trials. The fabric was a skin hugging one, and also one that had a tendency to ride up. Plus, it was 2 inches way too short, in addition to being short.
Was this a sign? Was I not supposed to do this at all? Were these signals from those almighty people above, telling me to take a U turn? Or was it a test of patience and perseverance?
I was confused.
And the confusion wasn't about to end. The day before the competition, we realized, we being my partner and myself, that we couldn't co - ordinate a costume. We had no colours in common, and finally we decided to go - him all black, and myself in a red singlet and a black skirt. Those were dull costumes. I then called a friend, who I remembered had a nice blue costume. She told me she didn't have it with her,and redirected me to another friend who had a golden costume. She agreed to let me have it, and we decided to meet in the evening, so I could try it out, lest there be any problems with the fitting.
We didn't meet that evening. That meant I would be trying out the costume the day of the competition, and no alterations could be made if it didn't fit.
I slept that night, very exhausted.
Tomorrow would be some day. And maybe I would choke on that piece of cake.