V U V U U
2C Wednesday, Oc -ber 17, 2012 The Statement
THE JUNK DRAWER
Wedesdy,0ctoer S7, 012/ Te Sate en
used to dance
PERSONAL STATEMENT obyJrCObAxeirad
from last week: sex-ed & racism
Would you ever protest in public for something you
Do you wish that sex education at the University had
more freedom of expression?
random student interview
by kaitlin williams / illustrations by megan mulholland
Welcome to the Random Stu- have time or I would.
dent Interview. What's up with
the fountain by the Union?
I mean nothing, but ...
So, whose birthday are you
going to? Boy or girl?
Girl. Her name's Jill.
Hey! Got a minute?
Like literally a minute? Because
I'm late for my friend's birthday
Where's the party?
It's not a party, we're just going
Where are you going?
Seva's or something. I don't
know how to pronounce it. It's
the vegetarian restaurant.
No, I think it's fine
OK. More like two or three.
I'm sorry I lied. Will you for-
OK. Let's hurry it up though.
OK. But first, let's talk about
Boys? What about them?
Oh, you know. Boys. What
boy comes to mind when I say
Boy band. I'll take it. So, no
specific, real-life boy drama,
contact, turmoil going on?
No. Actually, I live in an all-girl
floor and I was just thinking
about how I wish more boys
were around because they're fun.
Qh man, I stopped the wrong
person. All-girl floor? Lame.
Really? What's wrong with
Oh. That's not girly at all. Guys
can be vegetarians too. It's
good there. I had some vegan
pancakes. You can't really mess
with pancakes though. Are you
going to get pancakes?
OK. I'll let you go. I'm going to
find someone about that freaky
- Kelli is an LSA freshman.
No, it's too free
All right. And let's move over
here because I don't know
what's up with that fountain.
It's been spraying water like 10
feet in the air.
Yeah, you should probably go
find someone after this. I don't
e are four friends, each no older than 12. We are on
VV/the street; tap shoes draped around our necks, black
dance bags at our sides. We wear baggy clothes and
scarf down the remnants from a bag of Cheetos. Streaks of
orange dust coat our hands. Ourfeetjitter in anticipation as we
wait outside the studio where we take classes every Tuesday,
Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday.
I danced for five years, concluding the summer after sixth
After my sister Gabri died on a family bike trip in Wyo-
ming's Grand Teton National Park, my mother founded a
dance program to honor Gabri's love for dance. Though my
mother had no dance background, she wanted people to
remember my sister's passion.
One afternoon, as I was hanging around the dance studio,
watching a beginner's tap class, the teacher opened the door
and asked if I wanted to join. I said yes.
That first class is sealed in my memory: no tap shoes,
awkwardly kicking my bare feet against the ground, learn-
ing foreign words like shuffle, ball change, "over-the-top."
The thought of moving my feet in rhythmic patterns had
me hooked. I asked my parents to enroll me in the class that
For four days a week, my mom drove me across the city
from one dance class to the next. She would work in a make-
shift office converted from an old hotel basement until 9
p.m.; I would slip on my tap shoes and drum with metal on
While most Yids I knew played sports, discussing their
favorite basketball or baseball players at lunch, I became
obsessed with different idols: people like Sammy Davis,
Jr., Sandman Sims, Gregory Hines and Arthur Duncan;
tap dancers I watched videos of them performing over and
over again ii my bedroom, trying and failing to mimic'theif
moves. I got a reputation in my class for imitating one famous
tap dancer or another. My nickname was Funkadelic.
My hobby made it difficult to build friendships with
other kids at school. I was essentially MIA after school and
on weekends. I was also afraid what they might say if they
found out. Would they think I was lame, girly, weird? I stayed
silent. If it ever did come up, I'd sidestep the topic. In my
mind, 12-year-old boys weren't supposed to dance.
So I'd wait for school to end, anxious to be with others
who shared my need to master a step or routine.
I had a home and a family. There was Andres, a slacker
who never practiced but surprised us all with his ability to
memorize and perfect routines on the first try. There was
Sandy, an improviser extraordinaire who specialized in
spinning on her toes; when the choreography bored her she'd
make up her own steps, which never failed to infuriate our
instructor, Steve, who regularly quizzed us on our knowl-
edge of tap greats such as Fred Astaire or Sammy Davis Jr.
Just to make sure we were, you know, doing our homework.
And soon, it wasn't just tap. Hesitant at first, I started bal-
let. Any misgivings I had about wearing tights were quickly
assuaged by my teacher, Vera. Her dedication to her students
made us all want to work harder, even if that meant staying
at the studio until 10 on a weeknight.
Her wardrobe choices were casual: a faded black t-shirt
with the word "Australia" sewn on, black dance pants and
old white ballet slippers worn down to reveal skin under-
neath. "I'm a freak," she would say, bottle of Evian water in
hand. "I should be arrested. Why do any of you hang around
with me? You should be at home." We would smile, not car-
ing our parents were waiting in the lobby to take us home
because class should have ended over an hour ago.
"I can't help it. I love what I do," she once told me. "And I
know how lucky I am to be doing what I love."
But it didn't last. I drifted away from dance. Maybe it was
the pressure of starting a new school, knowsing I wouldn't
have enough time to spend in the studio. Maybe it was my
parents worrying that their son's obsession was unrealis-
tic - I wasn't about to turn pro or earn a dance scholarship.
Or maybe I just lost interest, unwilling to devote the kind of
time and discipline necessary to actually be good.
Within weeks of stopping, my flexibility began to wane.
My muscles atrophied. I could no longer leap and extend the
way I once could. Over the next few months, I suppressed
any thoughts of returning to dance. I'd have to start all over,
regain my lost strength. My brother, who played water polo
in high school and college, once explained to me how he felt
after playing his last game.
"It's tough to know that I was in the best shape I'll ever be
in and that I'll never be in such good shape again," he said.
"I go to my buddies' games who are still on the team. But it's
hard. To know they're still in that shape, that they can still
move like that ... it's hard." I agreed.
Some years, I go with my parents to watch the dance pro-
gram's recitals in June. Watching the youngest kids I feel
nothing. No envy. No resentment. But to see my old friends
perform, who progressed without me, is a lesson in jealousy.
Despite being nine years removed, part of me still wants to
be on that stage.
When I tell people I danced briefly as akid they often reply
with, "Oh, so you're a dancer." I politely shake my head. Per-
haps one who used to play piano could get away with that.
I have friends who, though rusty, can still play a few scales
from their days of piano lessons. But once I stopped practic-
ing, improvising and stretching, I lost credibility.
Most people I danced with have also stopped by this point
for one reason or another. Except for Sandy. When I watched
her solo last June, she mesmerized the audience with her
skill and poise. With years of experience under her belt, she
could move like the old greats I'd once imitated. Toward
the end of her set, she broke into straight improvisation. It
looked familiar; she was still spinning on her toes.
Jacob Axelrad is an LSA junior and.an assistant arts editor
for The Michigan Daily.
You all pay tens of thousands of dollars to "study" this mindless non-
sense? No wonder the vast majority of you won't be able to find a full-time
job when you graduate.
-MDailyGuest, regarding "Demonstration Unlikely"
This personal statement is brave and a profound reminder of why we
need to restore affirmative action, fight racism and build the leadership of
the new civil rights movement.
-Joseph Semana, regarding "Black in Ann Arbor"