I have quite vivid memories of being ‘made-up’ for calisthenics dance-competitions as a five-year-old. The prep-work started the night before; me standing on-top of the dinner table, while my mom demanded, in her rich American accent, that I “hold still” while she slathered my legs with ice-cold liquid leg-tan. Then went in the yellow hair-rollers, those prickly-stabby-suckers that I had to try and sleep in overnight, before our ‘Big Day’ ahead. The ‘morning-of’ preparations meant TV viewing of Catriona Rowntree on What’s Up Doc would be interrupted with a full can of Taft hairspray, layers upon layers of Revlon foundation (golden beige 6.2), which would all be topped off with deep-cherry long-stay Maybelline lipstick; the club’s non-negotiable, lip-colour requirement for ‘all girls’ (… because we were worth it?)
Once I had made the transformation and become ‘photo-ready’, I would be squeezed & zipped into a sequined-spandex-leotard and shipped off to meet 8 other look-alike dance dolls, in matching club-tracksuits. The day rolled out in various stage-performances, in which groups of 8 or 10 girls from respective clubs would perform synchronised sequences and be judged on their performance; with a winning club decided at the end of each style, and then ultimately, finishing with a total winner at the end of the day. This whole roll-out was complemented with sausage rolls, Ovaltines & pink musk sticks… from memory (why is it that I always remember the food?). Anyway – based on all the rigmarole around it, we five-year-olds were all under the impression that this calisthenics competition was the biggest thing happening In. the. Whole. World. That. Day.
As a five-year-old, this whole set-up taught me a very basic theory that has stuck with me like hairspray for twenty-five years since. The basic theory is “try hard, don’t stuff up, and you’ll make it to the front.” For a little extra clarity, let me explain this to you like I’m five-year-old:
1) If I don’t work-hard (practicing after school, with my Sony cassette stereo) I wont remember the dance.
2) If I don’t remember it, the coach will put me at the back of the stage so I can follow the other girls on competition day.
3) If I’m at the back, my mum won’t be able to see me on stage & she will wonder why I am at the back. She will probably think I suck.
I’m sure, in those times I was at the back – which was quite often – she didn’t think that of me, but it’s what I figured at the time.
To this day, I swear I’m still living by the same theory day-in day-out … “work hard, don’t stuff up and you’ll make it to the front”. The other ‘clubs’ in the competition are now other companies in my field of work, and the other girls in my team are now the colleagues and friends around me; who work together for group goals, but are also interested in pushing ourselves forward as individuals. I suppose the only thing that’s changed is there’s no stage (…well, there’s a ‘blog’ but it’s not really ‘a stage’ now is it?)… oh, and mum isn’t watching my every single move anymore! She does watch me in increasing regularity on Facebook, but that’s for another blog.
Aside from creating a desire to be ‘up front’, in dancing and in life; my personal experience is that a child who ‘grows-up’ on stage will probably retain some desire for ‘the stage’ for the rest of their lives (whether that’s a good or a bad thing, I haven’t worked out quite yet)… Until I do, I suppose I should just be pleased that I’m a master of applying lipstick flawlessly, even without a mirror (here’s the tip, you move your lips instead of your hand).