WELL, THAT HAPPENED: Twinkle Toes

By on December 6, 2016

A dance aficionado falls into the arms of Dancers’ Workshop.

Bella Wood looks on as the author joyfully leaps through the air. (Photo: David Swift)

Bella Wood looks on as the author joyfully leaps through the air. (Photo: David Swift)

JACKSON HOLE, WY – In fourth or fifth grade, we went on a field trip to the Mainstage Theater, now the Pink Garter. I likely sat next to Christian Heuer and Willi Brooks as we laughed and snickered somewhere in the far back of the theater before the performance began. Like most impromptu school field trips, you were never really sure where you were going and what was in store until you arrived and the teacher made an announcement. This time around we learned that we were about to witness a dance production from a visiting dance company hosted by Dancers’ Workshop.

Cue the collective groans from the boy section. Dance? Why not just have something more manly, like that percussion group, Stomp? But as I sat there, first giggling with my friends over the lack of clothing and the bulbous crotches of the male dancers, I began to ease into my seat and actually start watching with curiosity. Not only was this pairing of movement and dance interesting, but also… I kind of liked it.

I distinctly remember walking out of the theater into the open-air lobby and feeling tears start to freeze on my face. I quickly wiped them up, and refused to admit to any of my friends how much I loved the show.

As I grew into my teenage years and eventually became an adult (loose definition), I found myself more and more taken by dance. When my mom learned about my affection for it, she reminded me that, as a kid, I would watch a VHS of a 1977 production of The Nutcracker by the American Ballet Theater, starring famed ballet dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov. Dance wasn’t a new passion after all; I had just finally begun to appreciate it.

In 2009, I got my first chance to be part of a full-length dance production. Dancers’ Workshop was putting on their winter student show, Alice in Wonderland, and actor Jeff Bratz I were called upon to fill the roles of the Carpenter and the Walrus. Even though our dance moves consisted mostly of bumbling around stage, picking up little oysters (played by spritely five-year-olds), I was finally surrounded by dancers. Sure, these girls weren’t the marble-carved Adonises that I’d witnessed in professional companies time and time again, but their passion was just as strong.

The following winter, I acted alongside Bratz again, and joining up with Emma Pope and Heidi Ramseur, the four of us became the older Pevensie children of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. I also got to double as Father Christmas and wore a massive, 20-pound robe, and a bushy white beard and wig. However, in our final scene, where the children grow into the kings and queens of Narnia, I had to do this barrel roll thing, and ripped my pants right up the middle in front of a packed audience.

When everyone rushed to my aid, convinced that, surely I was crippled with embarrassment, I shrugged them off and smiled. It didn’t bother me in the slightest.

“I ripped my pants while dancing!” I proclaimed with glee.

I returned to the Dancers’ Workshop stage a few years later in a takeoff of Cinderella, called If the Shoe Fits. I was granted the role of the Duke and was paired off with junior Bella Wood who played my wife, the Duchess. I learned that the role was more dance-heavy this time around and I’d be learning more than just mime-work and set piece spinning. Not only did I learn lifts and pirouettes, but I actually got to participate in a huge leap across the stage, as captured by David Swift’s photograph above.

Even though I’ve been on stage more times than I can count, dance gives me a rush like no other play or musical or improv performance can. And perhaps that’s because I was in love with a dancer in some past life, but whatever sparks this passion, I have Dancers’ Workshop to thank for bringing me into their company.

This Friday, I’ll be on stage yet again as Uncle Henry in The Wizard of Oz, and for those of you who are able to attend, you just might notice that even though I’m just in two scenes and mostly just run around in circles in a pair of unflattering overalls, I’m having the absolute time of my life. PJH

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