(The title is thanks to Yo Gabba Gabba, my baby's favorite American TV show. Crack for kids, I tell ya.)
This weekend I had the privilege of attending a dance class at a conservatory lost out in a small town in the Pas de Calais. I got roped into it by one of my girl friends from my normal dance class, and went into it with a "eh, why not?" attitude. Having never danced at a conservatory (it's very different from the US) I didn't know what to expect, but I tagged along for the adventure.
The classes we signed up for were three hours of intermediate jazz (but jazz was more like modern dance, with a strong emphasis on ballet technique) split up over two days, and ... a musical comedy class. The beauty of my friend Marie is that she is a really fun girl who is basically up to try anything. Neither of us knew what to expect, but it would be okay since we'd attack it together. Besides, at such a small dance school in the middle of nowhere, we wouldn't know anybody, the classes would only last two days, and then they'd be finished. There was nobody to embarrass myself in front of, and nobody who would judge me or even likely remember me. It was the perfect situation for learning something new -- completely embarrassment risk free.
The courses were taught by a choreographer based in Paris who travels around teaching these kinds of "master classes". The jazz class was intense -- we had an intense warm up and intense choreography, but I felt good about it. After all these years I don't exactly have the right level for this sort of class anymore, but I wasn't alone and since it was just for fun, I didn't really care about messing up or making mistakes. By the time class was finished, Marie and I were grinning ear to ear -- what a great work out, and what a breath of fresh air from our usual dance lessons!
Then came our musical comedy class. I was nervous about having to sing in French, and sing and dance at the same time, and maybe even have to speak in French, but before I knew it I was even volunteering to speak! We opened with cabaret and then split into groups (there were many different ages present) where one group of us served as a "jury" like on a reality TV show, and the others would perform short dances, taking our critiques in between.
For me, participating on the jury was a risk. It was something new, but I wanted to force myself to do it. I always say that I think i'd be terrified to speak French in front of a group of people, and by doing this, I was taking one step forward towards conquering my fear. I have no problem speaking in public in English -- why should French be any different(per my last post)?
When he asked for 3 volunteers, I raised my hand and smiled at him. "Every jury has a foreigner, right?" and they laughed. I took my seat and played my role, using my accent to differentiate me from the others. I made a point of using all of the bastardized English vocabulary that the French use (C'est pas assez "clean", pas assez "fun") and everybody loved that. Then, little to my knowledge, it was time for me to perform a lip syncing routine with all of the dancers behind me. I improvised "Je suis bien" (don't know if that's really the title or not, or who it's by) and to my surprise and pleasure, Marie told me in the car yesterday after class that one of the women beside her whispered to her "elle est excellente!" while I was performing. It really made me happy to know that I could be just as outgoing and fearless in French as I am in English, and I feel like this "challenge" was a real success.
Laughter is a great prize for me, and the real success came at the end of the show. Throughout the little dance performances, the jury gets more and more agitated, disappointed in their work, and the more agitated we got, the more ridiculous their dances were. By the end, they were doing a Patrick Sebastien-style 100% disco dance, and it was the jury's role to cut them off and finish by delivering an improvised line. When at long last it was my turn to shine, I said "Oh my god (the french love this), je ne suis pas bien.." playing on my routine from earlier in the show. They were all in stitches with laughter! I was so pleased with myself, having made a joke that everybody appreciated and that was quite unexpected. It was such a great confidence booster.
On the drive back to Lille, the sun was shining and Marie and I were in good spirits. It was an amazing experience and so wonderful to really be using movement, my words and my personality to entertain people. Although we didn't have an audience, just making each other laugh was really fun. Now I'm thinking it might be fun to join an association, like the one I'm a part of for my pointe class, to do amateur musical comedies with the eventual goal of singing and dancing, in French, on a stage for an audience. I think that would be the ultimate challenge for me, and it actually feels like its within my reach.