Almost a year ago now, Andrew and I got into probably one of the biggest fights we've ever had in the 6 years we've been dating because I wanted to go to an audition. The project sounded ridiculously cool - a collaboration of dance and a live band to tell a love story - and with the opportunity for leads, no less. I went to the George Woods Band website and literally within 5 seconds of hearing the opening strains of Overture/Rewind I knew: I HAD to be in this show.
And so things worked out, Andrew and I compromised, and I danced my heart out at the audition, and a few days later, I got an email that damn near reduced me to tears, offering me one of the leading roles, the role of The Sun. And hours upon hours went into that first singular performance - stolen shoes, girls nights out where we shared our own love stories and had our own personal freak-outs about the state of the show and whether or not this crazy thing would be ready to put on the stage. But of course, when the day came we rose to the challenge, and we rocked it. And then seemingly as soon as it had started, all of that work that we had put in evaporated - it had been wonderful, and beautiful, but suddenly it was over.
Heartbeat I cast, pre-show (photo by Zachary Stephens)
So when I found out that we got to do it all again, and this time not just once but 3 TIMES, I felt like I was potentially going to explode with happiness. This show, and the music and people who surround it, have attached themselves to my heart and soul, and the opportunity to be a part of that again was just beyond thrilling. Things were slow to start - the apprehension of having to find chemistry with a new dance partner, drastically fewer rehearsals than the previous run, a new location, and actually having a real person job all led to there being times when I questioned whether I was good enough to reprise the role, and how we would ever manage to pull the entire show together. But little by little, the pieces fell into place. The 'meet-cute' song which had originally been - well, cute - became a sassy romp that involved taking shots and ended with a little Center Stage style bedroom innuendo. The addition of one of the most gorgeous songs I've ever been lucky to dance to fleshed out the emotional struggle of leaving someone who you know you still love. And suddenly, my character, which previously been sort of a flat stand in for a human being, because someone and something real. And better yet - it felt like me.
As much as the camaradarie of running is incredible, there is something about the mutual experience of being involved in a production that is just magical and indescribable. I remember laying on the floor of the studio at 11:30 pm while the male lead ran around in a bizarre Halloween mask while in the background, 3 of the ensemble dancers were being drilled in the world's craziest turn sequence. We were just over halfway through our second full run of the show of the night, and everybody was going just a little bit crazy. On our second run through of "Stock In The Stars", my character's introduction and one of my big pieces of the night, I was so overtired that I couldn't stop laughing - at the way my dance partner was looking at me, at the fact that I was dancing at 11:30 in the evening, I don't know. As ridiculous as they were, those moments are the ones that you look back on fondly as something utterly ridiculous that you all did together.
The dress rehearsal was, to put it lightly, a disaster. As they say in theatre, a bad dress rehearsal means a good show, and thank goodness that old adage has never led me astray. I fell nearly on my face running up a spiral staircase, got kicked in the head, fell out of every turn humanly possible, and went from giddy to grumpy in about 5 seconds flat due to overtiredness (again) and hunger. The "You Are The Sun" dancers stood giggling in the curtain, thinking that we would be called onstage any second, only to find that everyone else had taken 5 for food...only that 5 was already over. It's challenging to describe in words the bond that develops when you share something like that...but it does.
Dress rehearsal ridiculousness
And then, finally, it was here. With a call time of 3 pm on Thursday, there was infinite time to get ready. Time to run through every piece, remember what the balcony feels like one last time, run through that solo again. Backstage, between bear hugs and endless love, finding a moment to run through the preshow ritual. As I lay on the floor, "Common Threads" flowing through my headphones (Tosa West theater tradition, one that I loved more than anything...some traditions stay with you.), I looked up at the stage lights, feeling the pulse of the opening band flow through me, and I knew: this is where I was meant to be. And this - to dance, to be on stage, to perform - is truly what I was meant to do.
That first night, of course, things weren't perfect. The crowd was small, and no one seemed to entirely understand where they were supposed to go or what they were supposed to do. But no matter - 20 people or 200, the show was on, and no matter what happened, it was wonderful. But Friday - that was where the magic really began. The entire day at work, all I could think about was how lucky I was to have the perfect day job by day, but to live my dream by night. There are so many small moments that happened backstage that I wish I could relive forever, but to summarize, there was love. So, so much love. Everyone stretching, warming up, in their own worlds, but also inextricably connected, knowing that something special was about to happen. And was it ever special. It just so happened that this performance, where I got to dance out a love story, fell on the 6 year anniversary of being with the one who I just happen to love the most...and this performance, from start to finish, was for him. Curled in a ball on stage for "The Wedding Song", I found myself near tears thinking about just how damn lucky I am to be here, on stage, doing what I love, surrounded by people who I love, and being cheered on by people who I love. Truly, does it get any better than that?
Dipping with my real life love after the show :)
Saturday, off day, brought the absurd excitement of seeing my own name and face splashed on Boston.com (dream come true? You betcha.) And then there was Sunday.
There are certain moments of clarity in life where you look around and just think to yourself: this is where I belong. This, right here and right now, is me being my most perfect, truest self. And performing this show on Sunday night, from start to finish, was truly one of those moments of clarity for me. The moment the lights came up on Overture/Rewind, I was nearly in tears. And then came the Stock/Marry Me combo, during which I became so caught up in the moment that afterwards I couldn't even remember doing parts of the piece, Jen missed a cue because she was so enthralled with how amazingly we were performing, and 3 bars of the song got skipped and yet somehow, without missing a beat, Keil and I looked at each other and perfectly in sync, started off right into the exact same moment in the dance. During Marry Me, the only thought in my mind was "this is perfect. I am having SO MUCH FUN right now." And that was it - it was beautiful, it was fun, it was joy. It was me at my best, happiest, me.
The show continued - sure, there were issues (ripped monitor cables, crazy exes, slow music paces) but I was in some place beyond it all. I nearly fell of my damn cube during Trying to Get Back because I was just so INTO it. And then - holy shit - Never Gonna Bet The Same. I knew - KNEW that if there was one dance that was going to leave me in tears tonight, this was going to be it. And the emotion that I felt during that piece was more than anything I've ever felt while dancing before, but I held the tears back. Until. I threw myself into the final turn in the piece, and without a thought or a question, I nailed the most perfect triple pirouette I have ever done in my life. Ever. I have NEVER done a triple in performance before. It tends to be when I'm dicking around in the studio or wearing socks on carpet or something ridiculous. But tonight, in this perfect show, it happened so naturally and yet so unexpectedly that as soon as I finished it I burst into what must have been the ugliest laugh/crying that has ever been seen. I was overwhelmed with joy.
Before I knew it, it was over, and I was enveloped in bear hugs from friends and castmates alike. The only emotion I could feel was love - for my friends, for everyone involved with this show, and for being able to follow my passion. Too many people give up on doing things that they love because life gets in the way, there's to time, it's too hard to find people to do with it. I was one of those people for 3 years of my life. But God, I would not give up this feeling, the chance for that one moment where suddenly you get to step back and allow yourself to experience pure joy, for anything, ever again. When I first became a part of this show, I was excited because I was the lead; because I had proved everyone wrong who thought I wasn't enough. I was doing it for them. This time, I did it for me. Because it is what I love. Because it is where I belong - on the stage, with the lights slowly coming up on something beautiful. And being where you belong, well, it doesn't get any better than that.