So? What is your comfort level with dancing onstage, wearing a leotard and fishnet stockings? The question stopped me in my tracks and chilled me to the very marrow of my being. The quick answer is that my comfort level scale doesn’t register that low, but my discomfort level? Astronomical! Through the roof!
It was kinda like that nightmare about going to school and realizing it’s time for the final, worth 100% of your grade. You know, the exam you knew nothing about. Or that mortifying one where you show up on the first day of your new job still in your PJs with nothing underneath. Or the one where you’re onstage, in front of everyone you know, dancing around in fishnet stockings.
Now, before you assume I’m embarking on some sort of insane, mid-life crisis generated attempt at burlesque dancing, the above question wasn’t posed by some skeevy, cigar smoking strip club owner, but rather, by the director of A Christmas Story, a musical in which I am a proud member of the ensemble. What brought me to this point? How did a suburban, over 40, middle-aged, bottom-heavy lady, end up contemplating gyrating semi-clothed before a live audience?
Prior to this show, my theatre background consisted of high school drama class. That’s it. But with all members of my family signing up for the stage, I felt peer pressured to join in. So far, the experience has been okay, even fun. At first, acting wasn’t tearing me out of my comfort zone. I’m somewhat loud and really obnoxious, and I think I’m way more charming than I really am, so being the centre of attention doesn’t exactly fill me with fear. Plus, I figured the director knows a thing or two, and if I made the cut, well, I must be made for this.
Learning my lines, singing the songs, dancing the dance, all was going smoothly. And then—BAM—That Question. I really do get it.
The show calls for us to dance onstage in fishnet stockings and a leotard, so there it is. But here is the challenging part: How do I do so without ending up replicating a dancing hippo from Fantasia, except not nearly as graceful, or cute? And more importantly, how do I do it without collapsing internally? Of course, I can continue to do what I always do: draw attention to my quick mind and sparkling personality until the cows come home, but make the shift to my physical self? Nuh-uh, no thanks, not for me.
Now, I do know that my weight is not an indicator of health, fitness—or anything else other than how much I weigh. I know I need to appreciate the fact that my body is able to move, albeit awkwardly sometimes. I know that I am not defined by my cellulite, expanding midriff, or any other body parts that don’t wow me. And yet here I am, wishing that I wasn’t mentally dragged down by my extra pounds. Wishing that the negative voice I hear every time I catch a glimpse of myself undressed wasn’t quite so shrill. Wishing I could internalize the endless positive body posts that make me crazy as they clog my Facebook newsfeed.
A few years ago, I shed some pounds. I was focused and determined, perhaps even a tad obsessive, but I was thinner and fitter than I had ever been, so all was good. Except after a while, although I was marginally happier with my looks (let’s face it, there’s always more weight to lose), my mental state started crumbling. Guilt set in if I missed a fitness class, I was always trying to squeeze a workout into any free time, and I was generally a real pain in the ass to be around.
Soon, a combination of pre-menopause, medication that resulted in lethargy, an attempt to find better balance, and a loosening of those rigid dietary restrictions, resulted in weight gain and I was plopped back to the starting line. So here I am, older now but not really wiser, and being forced to fit my 40-something ass into fishnets and a leotard.
But I committed to the show and the show must go on. So I will pull on my costume, pray I don’t fall off the stage, and, to quote a prevalent meme, dance like no one is watching—except they will be of course because I will be on stage performing in fishnets, so yeah. The best outcome? Maybe I’ll get lucky and the music will be so loud, it will drown out my inner “mean girl” voice. Or, maybe dancing onstage will lift me to another world so amazing that it won’t allow for any negativity.
Or maybe, just maybe, at the end of it all, I will have somehow evolved into the woman I want to be, who treats herself as well as she treats others, who loves her body as much as she loves her mind, and who gives herself a damn break, because hey, she is dancing on stage in fishnets and a leotard, for God’s sake.
Sharon Berman is a sometime blogger, infrequent jogger, and a new to the stage star. But mostly, she’s a suburban mom who enjoys spending time with people who see the world with the same skewed perspective. She loves her kids, husband, dogs and wine, not necessarily in that order.
Oh, and she’ll be dancing onstage in fishnets in A Christmas Story by Dancyn Productions. Catch her at the Theatre at the Dnipro Centre in Oshawa from Nov 19-29/15. She needs all the support she can get, mostly because the stockings are not control top.