Penelope’s Turn

As previously mentioned, I grew up dancing. From ages 5-15 I spent 90% of my time in my dance studio taking hours of class, rehearsing routines, and traveling across the Northeast for dance competitions. By my sophomore year of high school, I no longer wanted to devote all of my time to dance and chose to pursue singing and acting instead. I was lucky to attend a high school with a great dance program and continued to take dance as one of my classes during the day with one of the best teachers I’ve ever had, Miss P. Without her and that class, I would have never survived high school.

My last dance recital with my studio was super stressful. I had a lead in our annual production and was really nervous about it. Every year, our studio came together to put on a play-musical-dance production hybrid that we performed in the middle of each recital show. In years past we had done Cinderella, The Lion King, Grease, The Wiz, and many more. The high-level class of each age group would perform to one song of the show and the leads were cast from the senior class and the stand-out junior dancers when needed.

My first year as a member of the advanced senior class coincided with my freshman year of high school. This was the year that my dance teacher, Miss Millene, chose to write and choreograph an original production for the recital. There was a lot of talent in the senior class and she wanted to create parts to match it.

She chose to pen a coming-of-age story about a nerdy girl named Penelope who goes on a crazy adventure with her family in NYC over summer vacation, gets lost, and becomes a star. It was honestly the weirdest thing ever. In one scene, Penelope gets lost in Chinatown and is attacked by a dance troupe of Chinese dancers dressed in traditional garb.

I was cast as Penelope’s best friend and had to perform a duet with the girl playing Penelope to Christina Aguilera’s Beautiful. The worst part was that I had to dress like a total geek. I was at the age where I thought I was hot stuff and wanted to show off in tiny pretty costumes. We were allowed to shop for our own costumes since we were playing high school students and I ended up getting my entire outfit at Limited Too. I went for the “still dresses like a five-year-old” look with a tacky bright skirt, huge pink-framed glasses, and obnoxious scrunchies.

It was definitely a crazy experience, but I’m so thankful for having dance in my life. If anything, looking like a total dweeb in front of hundreds of people has taught me to never be ashamed and that you should do anything for a laugh.

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Wearing a Minnie Mouse dress makes everything okay (The story of Nuonkey)

This week has been a shining beacon of hope amidst a month of tough times and I like to think it’s mainly because my brother is home.

While I was super excited about getting tons of new music from him , I’m really happy to see Michael.  We’re pretty close and I really look up to him, even though he’s three years younger.

We haven’t always been friends.  The day he was born, my dad came up to me and told me that I had a new baby brother.  My three-year-old-self was not pleased.  I screamed “WHY IS GOD PUNISHING ME?!” and threw myself to the floor for a tantrum of epic proportions.  Dad let me wear my Minnie Mouse Halloween costume to the hospital to meet this little stranger and I finally calmed down.  The first picture of us together is me poking him in the face and laughing (this will be indictive of our entire future brother/sister relationship)

Growing up we fought a lot.  Indian burns, pinching, nail digging until one of us bled.  This is why I have garnered a successful career as a cage fighter.

We also spent a lot of time having fun together.  We’d team up to wreck havoc against our babysitters.  We’d play Santa Clause in our garage in the middle of July.  We planned surprises for our parents.

If you’re wondering about the title of this post, it’s my nickname for Michael. The summer after I turned 11, my family went to a balloon festival. My brother was being super annoying as usual and trying to make me laugh as I attempted to swallow a pill (Tylenol for a headache) for the very first time. I was spitting out water and cracking up and went to call him a monkey. However, it came out as nunkey (I spell it Nuonkey because I’m a complete weirdo) and the name just stuck.

I grew up dancing and my mom was always dragging my brother along to pick me up from dance class.  When I was 8 and he was 5, my studio started a boys-only class.  My mom signed him up and he was a natural tapper.  He was picked to do a duet with a cute little girl to “Ain’t She Sweet”.  It was pretty much the cutest thing ever and they did so well that our dance teacher decided to bring them along when we competed at our national dance competition in NYC that summer.  Both of our dances ended up in the final round for under 13 dancers.  At the awards ceremony, my dance placed 4th and his placed 1st.  He got a trophy taller than he was and $6,000.  I didn’t talk to him for the rest of that summer.

I stopped dancing competitively when I was 15: I love to dance, but to be great you can’t do anything else.  I wanted to move on to acting and singing and boys.

I’m so proud of my brother: he danced until he graduated high school and got better every year.  I saw him do his first contemporary solo when he was 15 to Round Here by Counting Crows and it moved me to tears.  He’s won lots of awards and has been selected to do master classes with some of the best dancers in the world.

As we’ve gotten older, we’ve grown a lot closer.  We spent a lot of time together this summer and I like that our relationship has grown so much as adults.

 

Dishonorary Girl Scout

I like to pretend that I was a polite, sweet child and that my shyness growing up made me an easy kid.  But that’s a lie.

I’ve always been crazy.  I’m hyper and weird and emotional and full of a thousand ideas.  And that’s what got me kicked out of Girl Scouts.

Okay, so I technically didn’t get kicked out. I was super busy with dance class almost 20 hours a week and something had to give.  But I did get kicked out of a Girl Scout meeting and when you’re nine years old that’s pretty much the end of the world.

It was fourth grade and I was really coming into my dramatic flair and comedic timing.  I was always on the hunt for a captivated audience for which to perform my stand-up routine on the woes of cafeteria food.

My school district had been overrun by Republicans and old people voting against our school budget year after year, so a lot of our specials had been cut or downsized.  The stage where we would have had our big fourth grade play (in which I surely would have been the star) had been converted into classroom space for art class.  There would be no play.

I was devastated.  With no audience for what would surely be my big break, I started partaking in shenanigans in other more inopportune times.

Girl Scout meetings were ideal.  There were about 20 of us, and I was definitely the funniest one.  We’d be quietly sewing our sit-upons and I would burst out with a crazy story or hilarious observation.  The troop leaders usually smiled along and let me be.  But not Mrs. Bowers.

A little background: Mrs. Bowers’ daughter was in my grade and she was also named Christine.  That’s right, she was a name-stealer.  We did not get along.  Mostly because I was awesome and she was stupid.

Obviously this stupidity ran in the family, because Mrs. Bowers was the worst.  I dreaded the weeks where she would run our meetings.

This particular week, we were doing some craft in the art room on the stage where I should have been becoming famous and not gluing glitter to dry macaroni.

For some reason, Mrs. Bowers insisted we be completely silent during this activity.  There was really no reason for it and I was feeling restless, so I started up one of my routines.  I had the crowd going with lots of laughs when Mrs. Bowers gave me my first warning.

I chose to ignore her and figured she would never follow through with her threat to remove me from the meeting.  I continued cracking jokes as she glared at me.  She finally yelled at me and the room became silent.

She came over, grabbed me out of my chair, and led me down the stage stairs.  She told me to sit on the steps and not move until my mom came to pick me up.  I could not believe her audacity.  Here I was, a burgeoning star, and she thought she had the right to silence me??? Who did she think she was??? I was going to be famous and she was merely a bored suburban housewife with no sense of humor and an ugly daughter.

I started crying (no surprise considering I cry at everything, including car commercials).  I could hear the sounds of my fellow Scouts whispering about me as they crafted.

That was my last year in Girl Scouts.  I finally chose to commit fully to dance where I could be a total ham on a real stage and get trophies for it.

Trophies are so much better than badges.