Therapy. That was what high school meant to me. Pacifica High School in Garden Grove, CA. I blossomed during my four year tenure. Freshman year held new wonders for me. I discovered that I was not the shortest girl on campus. That was real fear, and it didn’t serve my low self esteem that my physique was comparable to that of an eleven year-old boy. Teenage angst aside, my sophomore year saw me as an active participant in the Modern Dance Club. Loved my tall, willowy teacher as she was graceful and effective with a quiet demeanor. Either she was giving and gracious or just generous by nature because she deemed me fitting of a solo performance in our spring show. My own choreography. Inspired and amazed by my good fortune.
In my junior year I began a two year residency in the school drill team. All things fun. The morning and after-school practice sessions brought welcome structure into my life. I displayed talent and capability enough that I advanced to status as a line leader responsible for keeping the diagonals neat and tidy each time we marched. Sadly, my home life was falling apart as my parents prepared for divorce. The home atmosphere was grim. I felt completely invested in my high school life. My senior year ushered in the novel appeal of yearbook staff involvement. I learned a great deal about cropping photos and selling ads. A classmate had a car and she and I drove to various local businesses so that we might summon our professional bid to solicit their ad. Whoa, such freedom! Too much fun!
Nothing else could have spoken to me in such clear language. Oh, speaking of language, I received a Spanish scholarship in the final leg of my fourth year. Four amazing, rewarding years of active involvement and celebrated citizenship that brought me respite from an unfriendly family landscape. PHS.
He was 18 years my senior. Affectionately known as “Ale”. My cousin Larry Ekstrom. He had a shock of red hair. The only redhead in the entire kingdom that is my family. I had not seen him since 1970 and then I received the email invite to his memorial service to be held in August of 2015. Of course, I went.
He had characterized himself as having emerged from one of the more colorful branches of my family tree. His home for fifty years was a boat docked in the Sausalito Marina, slightly north of San Francisco. He was well-versed in all things nautical. He entertained while playing the concertina. Two adult children were in attendance at the service, Aimee and Aubrey. My first opportunity to meet them was presented to me while I enjoyed stories of Ale’s unique lifestyle in the marina.
We sang songs, took in a meal and viewed the photos provided. Evidence to Ale’s unusual way of life as I came to recognize it. Cousins.
Christmastime. A mixed bag. There seem to be very few Decembers without mar. I usually spend a good portion of my December nursing a cold and cough. Christmas 2016 was no different. I was down with a miserable cold for most of the month. But, that’s not the worst of it. From my dear cousin Dennis, brother to Larry, the subject of my story, came distressing news. Dennis has been given a diagnosis, and the bell tolls. I am saddened by this news, there is a bright spot, however. Dennis is a highly regarded and talented artist. He explained that as long as he can physically enjoy producing works, he will be okay. I pray he will.
Otherwise known as Dance Dance Revolution. Once a staple of bowling center, mall and even college arcades, not so easily found these days. I was introduced to this unusual game in the early two-thousands on a family bowling night. What was driving this mostly teen-occupied platform? And platform it is as a player steps up to take a turn stomping on the sequence of lights as the music plays. I tossed aside any reservations and the intimidation factor that a 40-something woman might possess and I prevailed upon the teenage boy taking his turn, “Can you show me how to play?” The young people are so skilled on this game that they do impressive stunts while they play. I love music and I love to dance, granted this game does not resemble any traditional dance genre. The music and lighted pads are all electric-dependent. One must step accurately enough to garner the top scores. Drop tokens in the slot, select level and music, then make certain to give a nod in the direction of that goth sixteen year-old who invested some time in the tutorial of an enthusiastic middle-aged first-timer.
Over the years since my initiation to all things DDR, the game has replaced my bowling interest on family nights out. My ambition is aimed squarely at the finer points of the dance game and proving mastery of my ability over a select few music choices. I usually leave victorious. So, what began as my curious approach to a novel arcade game has withstood the test of time. For some years now I have enjoyed the home version of DDR. It serves as a high-intensity exercise program with fun musical variety built in. I invite family members of all ages to try their footwork. Because I have noticed the disappearance of the more commercial version of DDR in venues that were once home to the game, I am happy to include this fun and physically challenging component to my lifestyle. I recommend the song choice, “My, My, My”.
A typo? No, it is the proclamation on my license plate. A man I met at the gas station pointed to the plate asking, “What university did you go to?” Hmm. Well, it does come off as a bit of a mystery. I tap dance. That is what I do. I came along in the world of dance quite late. No toddlers venue in the performing arts for me. Rather, I was a sophomore in high school participating as a member of the Modern Dance Club. Fourteen years old and high on the concept of becoming the prima ballerina. If only I had the talent. Well, I had a modicum of skill, and a great deal of enthusiasm. Prima ballerina wasn’t in the cards for me. However, eager and energetic, I became capable and controlled enough to manage routines I learned from my teachers. Even more fun was the joy in choreography. I have earned the praise generated from the fun works my dancers perform.
It was 47 years ago that I was introduced to the 5-6-7-8 of movement. Since my foray into tap I have enjoyed the percussive nature of my favorite dance genre. It is the only dance style that has a day of recognition attached to it — May 25, National Tap Dance Day in honor of Bill “Bojangles” Robinson the famed performer who, among other credits, appeared in many Shirley Temple movies. I have had amazing experiences performing in a variety of venues. It has been said that tap dance is a dying art. If that is so, I hope to give it a transfusion. It is a classic art form and it is mine. IM TAPN.