When the folks at Gotta Dance asked me if I would be a contestant in Dancing With Winona Stars, I admit I said yes with a fair amount of self assuredness. But see, thatís when I used to think I was a good dancer.
I thought heck, Iím no stranger to the dance floor, and I could raise some money for Big Brothers Big Sisters and learn a few good moves to impress my teenage daughters. Maybe even win. Piece of cake.
So I say to Kenyatta, my dance instructor when we meet, ďDonít go easy on me. Iím a good dancer.Ē
Well guess what folks, that was stupid, because it turns out Iím a horrible dancer.
Lying on my back twitching at my first rehearsal I had an inkling that there might have been a slight miscalculation on my part.
Kenyatta was doing his best to teach me a hip hop dance routine. I was doing my best to not pass out.
This was going to be a looong three months, I realized.
See, the problem isnít that I donít want to dance. Itís that Iím old, and my body doesnít want to dance. From one rehearsal to the next I would limp away with pulled muscles in places I didnít even know were muscled, aching and exhausted and even a little bit delirious.
But determined. After all, Gotta Dance put my face on a poster, and it was do or die, or do and die, because my name was plastered all over town.
Plus, I told myself, I have to do it for the kids, because half of all the votes I raise goes to Big Brothers Big Sisters, and I figured the cause outweighs any aches and pains I might go through along the way.
And I learned that a hot bath can work wonders. And three glasses of wine. Kidding.
Okay, mostly kidding.
After a few weeks of practice I proudly tried to show my daughters the part of the routine I knew. It had been grueling and I was feeling enormously victorious that Iíd made it through the steps at practice without making a mistake.
Bah bah bah bah bah...I hopped and spun to the beat, finishing with a bow.
They just stared at me. ďIs that it?Ē One said. ďItís kinda short.Ē
Nine seconds, to be exact.
Only 111 left to go.
That realization sucked what little bit of wind I had left in me back out. Dread slowly started to sink in that it was possible I was going to look a lot more like Cloris Leachman than Pamela Anderson by the time the show came around, and those of you who watch the show know what Iím talking about. For those of you who donít, itís not pretty.
And to make matters worse, Iím up against a pretty solid field of contenders, people like the elegant Sandra Burke and energetic Amy Jo Marks and even last yearís winner, Tim Gleason. My thoughts over the past few months gravitated from fantasies of winning to the desperate hope that I can finish the whole routine and not fall off the stage.
Kenyatta is a patient man, perhaps the only reason I didnít withdraw in star hysterics a long time ago. He can show me the same move 200 times in a row and doesnít seem to mind when I turn to him with a blank stare on time 201. I would have pummeled me a long time ago.
And so we rehearse, and rehearse, but now that little light at the end of the tunnel is about to become a bright spotlight on Saturday night
And looking back, I realize a funny thing has happened along the way.
I learned how to dance. Mind you, Iím no Janet Jackson on the stage, but I donít seem to be quite the bumbling fool I was in the beginning.
And I donít hurt as much, having learned how to stretch properly and take care of my muscles so I didnít tear my body to shreds.
And I havenít had to lie on the floor of the studio for a while, a sure sign Iíve coaxed my aching bones into slightly more youthful fitness.
And maybe, just maybe, I wonít completely embarrass myself Saturday night, something I didnít want to do in front of my daughters, never mind the other 700 people who will be there. The truth is more than anyone else in the room I wanted to make my daughters feel proud of me up on that stage, and as I stumbled along I was really afraid that wasnít going to happen.
But my daughters, it turns out, are already proud of me. I was informed last week they are bringing their friends and making t-shirts and signs. It gave me a warm fuzzy and a boost of confidence that, come what may Saturday night, I already accomplished the thing that mattered the most.