On the first day of my internship teaching theatre to French kids in Marseille, I arrived at 3:30, just as the director had told me. When I stepped timidly into the brightly-decorated little building, dressed meticulously as one does on the first day of Anything Official and Scary, I was told that I was supposed to help with another class before the theatre class.
The DANCE class.
Dancing isn’t exactly my forte. Actually, I have moves like a windsock in a tornado. I’m gangly, I’m awkward… I just don’t have the right coordination for real dance moves. And by dance moves, I mean maaaaybe the grapevine, on a good day. When someone tries to teach me a dance move, I have to stop, think, and concentrate harder than anyone should ever have to in order to get the limb in question to move like that.
When I received this news, the class was just about to start. I smiled, nodded, and felt myself moving towards the stairs. Is it too late to run? Can I leave? What would they do? Stopitstopitstopit. They’re four. They’re FOUR. You can dance with four year-olds. No problem, piece of gâteau, easy as pâte en croute. I went downstairs to the dance room.
The teacher hadn’t been warned that I was going to be there, so when I walked over to her she just blankly shook my hand. There were six kids, all between the ages of four and six. She didn’t introduce me, and the class started too quickly for me to introduce myself, so the kids had no idea who I was. I was just the freakishly tall, old kid in the four-year-old dance class. I waved. They stared.
I didn’t know how I was supposed to help, so I decided it was best to just do the moves along with the kids and help them when necessary. The teacher turned on the music and put us in two lines, and told us to leap across the room in pairs—one from each line at a time. Of course, I was at the back of one line so that the four year-olds could see around me, the towering stranger who had suddenly joined a dance class with people half her size. The first two kids leapt across the room. They are pretty cute, I thought to myself. One of them had a flouncy little pink dress that bounced when she jumped.
After the third and last pair of kids had taken their first leap, I had a horrifying realization; in less than ten seconds, it would be my turn. And with six kids leaping in pairs, when all the kids had gone, there would be no one from the other line to leap across the room with me. So there I was, Gargantua, a total stranger, leaping across the room all by my lonesome while the four-year olds watched. The wooden floor thudded and creaked with each of my five-foot-ten leaps, and the song ended in the middle of my awkward solo journey from one end of the room to another.
The next music she put on was in English. I’m not sure how many of those kids spoke English. But I pray none of them did. One song said, “Big girl, shake all that over here, you’re beautiful,” and another’s chorus was, “Suck that lollipop harder.” It was bad enough when I was surrounded by tiny French children to whom I was just an odd, tall stranger who had just leapt across the floor all by herself. But this time, the official soundtrack for the second go-round of the solo leaping (oh yes, apparently this was something we needed to do multiple times) was made up of candy-related innuendo. Super.
But wait! There’s more! As if I hadn’t crawled far enough into the level of Hell where us poor sinners are subjected to an eternity of four-year old boogie, in the next segment of the class, the teacher actually stopped the class to correct my moves. The kids were staring. The music asked me if I liked it sweet. I didn’t.
It wasn’t until the end of the class that the teacher finally introduced me, but by then, the damage had been done. There was no taking back the gawky leaping, the failure to do the moves the teacher made up for four year-olds, or the fact that even they were dressed way more Euro-classy than I could ever hope to be. I wasn’t asked to help with the dance class again. And you know what? That was just fine with me.