This post isn’t actually about fish, or birds, for that matter. It’s about me, and it’s about dance.
But it might be a little birdbrained.
Back home in Montego Bay I was president of the UWI-Western Campus dance society. It looked like I was pretty hot stuff, but I’d always known that on the scale of dancing I always end up measured ‘wanting’. Despite my own feelings of inferiority, the pond that was the MoBay dance scene was an exceedingly small one, and I was a fish slightly bigger than average. Especially when it came to the more contemporary dance forms.
I garnered the reputation of being a trained dancer (somehow) and was actually invited to teach children in regular Saturday classes and, later, people my own age on occasion. All this attention did swell up mi head. The only time I remembered my mediocrity was when confronted with classically trained dancers from Kingston or elsewhere. On my own? I was the bees’ knees, you guys.
Which is how I ended up taking over the reins of the Dance Society at WJC in my second year of medicine. I was by no means the best dancer in the society – one of my classmates is actually classically trained and amazing, and another member of the society has been dancing for almost as long as I’ve been alive – but I was a good dancer with the drive to push people.
I left Montego Bay at the end of second year to come to Mona for the beginning of my third. Immediately at the top of my list of things to do was join the infamous UWI Dance Society. I acknowledged my weaknesses (or so I thought) and was “appropriately” prepared to learn, unlearn and relearn everything about dance. I showed up for auditions late, breathless and slightly tired from a 4 hour bus ride into town, bumbled through the jazz number and checked my email avidly for the next few days.
I was placed in Intermediate A, one step up from Beginners and two steps below Advanced. Relief warred with mild indignation. I’d heard that most first time auditionees were automatically placed in Beginners and had to work their way up from there. But Inter A? Really? Not even B? I wasn’t looking to be placed in the Advanced class – heaven knows I’m not there yet – but I was let down because I expected a validation of whatever meagre skill I thought I possessed.
Intermediate A trains with the Beginners, which means that instead of dancing with people whose technique and style I can be challenged by I’m dancing with people on my own level and below. On top of that, the classes are so big I feel like a nonentity when I’m there. I always place myself off-centre at the front of the class, but I still feel out of touch with everyone. It doesn’t help that they all seem to have cliques and friendships from previous years. Nor does it help that no one talks to me. Ever. Eight weeks I’ve been dancing and I’ve yet to exchange more than a ‘Good afternoon’ and a few encouraging smiles with anyone in my class.
But I can’t deny that I’m learning in leaps and bounds. In addition to the amazing teachers the society recruits every week, there are amazingly talented dancers and choreographers on tap within the society itself. For the first few weeks I would just sit and watch the Advanced class move. The difference was so striking and inspiring. But since the weekends are now the only time I have to myself, I don’t have that luxury as often any more.
Watching them dance was also a constant reminder of my transition from a big fish in a small pond, to a tiny fish in a pond the size of an Olympic pool where every other fish is a piranha and a few sharks are thrown in for good measure. Talented piranhas and sharks, but piranhas and sharks none the less.
Kingston is survival of the fittest, baby.