View our other publications:

Dance fever

Luanticslounge Danceillustration

“Group A, get on the stage NOW!” Oh snap, that’s me! I run up the stairs to the stage, pick a spot at the very back and move cautiously as the music begins. I question my every move: is my foot pointed enough? Is my back flat? Why did I wear these stupid Mickey Mouse boxers to a dance audition? I’m surrounded by classmates in proper attire: leotards, ballet shoes, hair pulled back. Obviously, they’d been dancing for years. But not me! I signed up for auditions at the whim of my freshman heart and with no formal dance training whatsoever. Standing on stage with technique looser than the threads in my ripped shirt, I knew there was only one person to blame for this: Tonya Harding

I was still in grade school when Tonya Harding’s posse unleashed the baton whack heard ‘round the world. Striking Nancy Kerrigan in the knee, the assault threw her chance for Olympic Gold into total disarray. It was all anybody talked about during the lead up to the 1994 Lillehammer Olympics. So, I and the rest of the world tuned in to figure skating that year. While the ladies’ event held all the drama, in my novice opinion, it was the pairs competition that held all the beauty. During the pairs long program, I fell in love with Yekaterina Gordeeva and Sergei Grinkov, the husband-and-wife team from Russia. They won gold in 1988 and returned in 1994 to win again. I was besotted with their elegance, power, charm, and the careful way they regarded each other off the ice. In no time at all, I dove headlong into learning everything I could: I went to shows, I bought books, I recorded every competition and watched the performances over and over, studying the tapes with the intensity of a Monday morning quarterback. I learned enough to predict which jumps were coming. I’d yell out, “HERE COMES A TRIPLE LOOP!” My sister would ask, “how do you know?” “You can tell by the set-up,” I’d breezily reply. “No, Taylor. YOU can tell by the set-up.” Then she’d roll her eyes and walk out. 

There was a lot of eye-rolling in our house during those years—the whole family was held hostage by my newfound love, with nary a ransom note in sight. At dinner one night, my dad wondered why his VHS recordings (it was still the ‘90s) of WWII aviation dog fights had been taped over. “I tried to watch my airplane videos the other night, and I didn’t see any aerial maneuvers—but I saw a lot of triple axels.” I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. “You are incorrect, dad. I taped over your videos with a LADIES competition and only two women in the world have ever landed a triple axel. The axel is the hardest jump to master because it has a forward entry and an extra half rotation. SO, what you saw were doubles and NOT triples.” It was my turn to roll my eyes. Have I taught these dilettantes nothing? 

It wasn’t long before I got my own pair of skates. One of my aunts was a skater, so we signed up for lessons together. She learned faster than I did, which was great since there’s nothing more humiliating than getting shown up by your elders. Still, we skated twice a week, and I loved it. I’d never be an Olympian but being out there was enough. Most skaters took ballet as part of their peripheral training, and as luck would have it, part of my physical education requirement in school was half a year of dance. I learned the basics and found I was pretty quick with choreography. This emboldened me to sign up for dance company tryouts when I got to high school. Once we learned the combination, me and my Mickey Mouse boxers went to work. I had all my favorite skaters in my head. I wanted a strong, graceful presence like Katya Gordeeva and long lines like Michelle Kwan. The ladies must’ve helped me, because I made the cut and began my journey into the dance world. It was a struggle at first: I was way behind technically, and my friends who started dancing young had a shorthand that I didn’t possess. I was also taller and broader than your average dancer so costume fittings were a nightmare. But, what I lacked in technique I tried to make up for in presentation. I fell in love with ballet and took classes well into my adulthood.

You can’t skate or dance without a good piece of music, so that was a third avenue explored during this artistic awakening. I recognized pieces by Beethoven, Vivaldi, Rachmaninoff. In college, I took music history classes—my professor was electric, dashing back and forth at the front of the room, rhapsodizing about the real muse behind Tchaikovsky’s “Romeo and Juliet.” During our unit on Rock and Roll, she’d crank the record player up and blast Bill Haley and the Comets, then talk about Elvis Presley, Big Mama Thornton, and the original recording of “Hound Dog.” 

Though I’m still obsessed with both, I don’t skate much anymore and only take the occasional dance class. Such frivolities could only truly exist in The Golden Age of fresh joints and full thyroid function. But I follow all my favorite skaters on social media, and a few weeks ago I found myself watching old skating performances on YouTube. I was tickled to see that I remember all the routines front to back. I looked up the music they skated to, and all that information came flooding back, too. It left me giggling: all the knowledge I had packed in, all the experiences I allowed to enrich my life and encourage my growth. With one swing of a baton, Tonya Harding’s thugs smacked me straight into my own personal renaissance, and me and my Mickey Mouse boxers are forever grateful.

Subscribe to our newsletter