How This Could Have Happened

1995: I’d wanted ballet lessons for as long as I could remember. In 1995, at the age of twelve, I got them.

It was my stepmom who spearheaded the whole thing. She took me to our local Capezio. I picked out my own pair of soft pink shoes, a black leotard, pale tights and a white chiffon skirt. Every Sunday she dropped me off at lessons, and an hour later she picked me back up.

When I wasn’t in class, I gazed arduously at those soft pink shoes. I practiced the warm-up exercises in the hallways of the junior high, and in the back stage during drama club meetings, pointing my toe out to the side, raising an arm, circling back.

I felt at home in ballet. There was nothing about it that wasn’t pretty, controlled, quiet. My friend Johanna had been a ballerina for most of her life already, and when she showed me the tapes of her performing as a mouse in a production of “The Nutcracker” I nearly cried with jealousy. I wanted to be in “The Nutcracker” so badly. You could have made me a candy cane.

1996: “I don’t think you’re quite ready for level II,” the instructor told me. “I think it’d do you some good to take another level I class.”

We were standing outside the door to the classroom. I looked in at my level-II-ready classmates, running and giggling or sitting strangely in the middle of the room, sucking a thumb. When they weren’t taking ballet class, they were amusing themselves with other necessary schooling appropriate for their age group: preschool, kindergarten, first grade. Our age discrepancies had always been clearest to me in the long mirror that stretched across our classroom, where, during flights from one end to the next, I could observe my head bobbling at twice the height of my peers’, like a baby giraffe in a pen of piglets. Whenever we swung our legs back I had to make sure I wasn’t about to knock some distracted, Lifesaver-mouthed princess’ teeth out.

I thought about that. I thought about a whole new troupe of them, the same age next year, and me a year older: thirteen, fourteen years old in a sea of toddlers.

“So what do you think? Do you want to take the same lessons again next year?” my stepmom asked.

1997: It was high school, and (miraculously without the aid of alcohol or drugs) every Sunday night my friends and I would dance to house music for hours. To this day I consider these nights at First Ave to be the best nightlife I have ever had. To this day, I only really dance to house music, and I won’t stop dancing until the music stops and the lights come on, because to this day I freaking love house music so much and it freaking moves me to do things with my arms and stuff.

Obviously, I consider this deeply shameful, since “house” is the masturbation sleeve of music genres. If you just stop for a moment and open your eyes to actually look at the thing, you have to be disgusted.

1999: My friends and I decided to go to a swing dancing class. I had a blast. A couple of weeks later, I asked if they wanted to go again.

“Oh,” they said. “We just noticed that . . . you don’t pick the steps up very quickly, and so . . . well, it’s kind of embarrassing. We’ve been going without you.”

“Awkward!” I said.

2001: In 2001 I was a freshman in college, and going to every dance party I could find: moving on the hardwood floors of the Old Gym until I couldn’t feel the balls of my feet any more. One early morning, as we walked jovially arm-in-arm back to our dorms, my roommate’s boyfriend spoke up.

“It makes me really uncomfortable to watch you dance, Adrianne” he said.

“Really?” I said. “Um, why?”

“It’s just so . . . sexual.”

Appalled, I stopped dancing, and started cooking.

2003: By the time I was a junior in college, my heroes all existed on SuicideGirls. My boyfriend found this totally awesome, and encouraged me to send in an application. A month later, they wrote me back. “You’re accepted! We just need you to take care of the paperwork. Print the attachment, sign at the bottom and mail here.”

I noticed that they retained all rights to any photos I submitted. I wondered if I would be all right with seeing myself sprawled on a deck of cards in twenty years, for the grand payment of six dollars per photo today.

“I had to tell them I couldn’t do it,” I confessed.

“Dang,” said all of my male friends.

2008: About a month ago, I found out that an old college acquaintance had not just joined the circus, he’d freaking created one: a surreal vaudeville performance that toured the West coast. I went into a week-long quarter-life crisis over this. What was I doing with my life, all not being in a circus? “Join us,” he suggested.

That seemed like a drastic turn of events for an already mostly-content person, but I started a futile internet search for similar characters in the Boston area, gathering to do strange public performances in the name of oddness. Everything was either over and done with, or cost a good deal of money to join, or didn’t actually sound cool at all.

I sighed, and resigned myself to a completely un-weird life: emails, vacuuming, CMS problems, banana bread.

Last week, I found out about The Slutcracker. It just popped up on Yelp as an event coming to a theater near me. Upon reading the description I knew I had to go. I followed the related links to their Hula Hooping troupe, to the Lolita Ballet, to the Babes in Boinkland burlesque dancers, watching all their videos. I found the email address for the director, “Sugar Dish”.

“I know your last call for talent was in September, and you probably don’t need anyone new three weeks before opening night,” I said. “I have very little dance experience. But if there is any way in which I can help with this or any future performance, please let me know.”

I didn’t hear back for a few days, and cursed myself for missing the boat as usual in this damn city. But on Saturday morning, Sugar appeared in my inbox: two dancers had dropped out, and she needed to replace them asap. Could I come to rehearsal tomorrow from 2 to 4?

“I have taken my life in drastic new directions, while you were riding the bus home,” I told Jurvis as he walked in the door.

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  1. How did cheerleading not enter into this? Surely a choreographed dance number that name-checked Kant is worth as much as almost appearing on Suicide Girls, right?

  2. i had almost the exact same experience as your 1996. but it happened in Tap, in Broadway class, in Jazz, and I just kept going back for different styles.

  3. There’s a burlesque bar in my neighborhood (cleverly named “Barrette”) that I’ve always been wanting to go to. But I bet it’s no Slutcracker.

  4. 1) Tony, you live in Prospect Heights? I’m in Fort Green!
    2) I support your career move. If you want to bring the act to NYC I would be happy to set it up.

  5. Indeed I do! And I also think I saw you eating outdoors at a restaurant somewhere in Park Slope over the summer, but now I’ve completely forgotten the restaurant or the month. Oh well.

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