When she gave it to me as part of my Christmas present, it was a very nice plaque. It said, "If you stumble, make it part of your dance." Now, I really liked the statement, but wasn't sure if that meant I stumbled a lot when I danced or not. She's known me for a fair number of years and watched me as I worked with my clogging dance team. Both her daughters dance with me and she was in a show with us once, too. I really think she was referencing what I tell my dancers. I always tell the team, "keep dancing, no matter what." I always stress the importance of entertaining the audience and having the confidence to keep going. Keep a smile on your face and the audience may not even notice your mistake and if they do, they will appreciate your effort, so like the plaque said, if you stumble, make it part of the dance. I've preached this to my dancers for as long as I've had the team. You know, sometimes you have to careful of what you tell others to do....especially when you're in a leadership role.
We were at a performance, a little girls beauty pageant in a small town where everyone knows everyone and family is rooted in the community. Every little precious contestant had their parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, neighbors, and teachers all at the pageant to watch the little darlins get all dolled up and strut their adorable lil selves all over the stage. We were the entertainment while the judges scores were being tabulated, so needless to say, no one moved and it was a packed house; standing room only.
I always talk to the team before a big show like this and we pray. "Remember, keep dancing, no matter what! If the music skips (this was honestly before tapes and cds, so we were using records on a record player), just pick it up and keep dancing." The prayer usually goes something like, "Dear Lord, please help us remember to glorify your name in everything we do. As we dance, Lord, please help us put a smile on the faces and hearts of those that watch us today, bring joy into their lives, Lord." Well....again, I really need to watch what I pray for.
Two of my dancers were going to do a duet together. They'd worked so hard on the number. They choreographed it and taught it to the team, and since we had a 30 minute show to fill, they were going to do the routine as a duet. They changed it a little, and I helped them - I knew the routine and the moves it took to make it a duet as well as they did. Back in the day, I could remember things a lot better than I do now.
Good thing I knew the routine, because one of the duet members got sick and couldn't make the performance. The other girl was devastated, she so wanted to dance"her" routine. So, me being the versatile director I was at that point, and oh so much younger, told her not to worry. I would dance the routine with her. It came time for us to dance. We switched our reversible skirts in the changing building, and waited for the prior number to be over. Then, she and I took the floor after I announced the she wrote the routine with a friend that couldn't make it and I was the "stand in". The child and her parents were just busting with pride.
"Wild Wild West" started playing and the first 8 beats were hip shakes....you know, just bouncing your hips up and down. We had on a fun belt with guns in the holsters and everything. The guns were part of the routine that would come out at some point. We started moving around, people were clapping, and crowd was getting into our performance. Between the two of us, we had enough stage presence to fill the park. We were bringing down the house. This felt really good.
Oh, wait....THAT didn't feel so good...what on earth..... Something around my waist snapped, gave way, or something. I bobbled a little in the dance, but kept going. The other dancer gave me a look, as she sensed the wrong step, but quickly recovered as I picked up the steps again.
But then, the unbelievable happened to this mother of three. I felt another snap around my waist. In that second, as I tried to keep dancing, I twirled, stopped, and my skirt kept twirling....all the way around and down to my knees. The only thing around my waist was a gun belt!!! I tied tried to stop the skirt with my elbow as I felt it going down in the turn..but there was no saving it.
As quick as I could, after recovering from the turn, I reached down and grabbed the skirt. On its way up, it got stuck in the gun holster....holy smokes! I miss a step, then a 4 count and now I'm up to an 8 count I've totally lost.
My poor 14 year old partner did everything she could to keep dancing and started calling the steps to me through her smile. I managed to get the skirt up, but guess what? It's time to twirl again! This time, the skirt didn't slow down, and didn't make a pit stop at the knees.....it went straight to the floor!
Did I mention there were grandparents there? I saw women covering men's eyes and mothers covering their children's faces in the flash of a second!!! The Ray Stevens song, "The Streak" had new meaning for me now, only it wasn't "Don't look ETHYL!" It was "Don't look FRED!!" I also heard at least one wolf whistle, if not more, in the midst of everything.
Now, if I followed what I'd told my dancers for years, I would have stayed out there and danced, but all sense of what I should do left me!!! I ran off the stage to the small building we had been lining up in and making our costume changes in. I left a poor dancer on the stage that DID practice what I told her and just kept going. I believe she got a standing ovation when she was done, and if she didn't, it was only because the audience was still in shock and couldn't move!
Before I go any further, you need to know that we wore bloomers underneath our skirts. The skirts were pink and black and the bloomers were black. They were plain, no ruffles on the butt or anything, so they just looked like underwear, basically, but they really weren't. We wore them over our hose and everything else....but to dance in them, stand alone, with my skirt around my knees, at my age, well, just wasn't happening. I'm sure my face was as red as the stripes on the American flag in that flash of an instant.
As I stood in the room trying to fix my skirt during the last minute of the song, I wondered how on earth I was going to walk back out on that stage and talk to those people! I considered just staying in there until Little Miss Whateveritscalled County is crowned, and everyone goes home. Then, I considered just changing into my street clothes and sneaking out and running to my car.
So, as I was deciding which of those two choices would best suit my humiliation at that point, I remembered something.
The group of children and adults that I said "The show must go on" to at least a million and one times. The group of people that depended on me to announce the shows, to coordinate the show, to give them that look of encouragement when they seem a little unsure of themselves, you know, me, the director, the leader, the guide.....I would be letting them down if I hid out in the room or just ran for the van.
I had to put aside my vanity and face my audience. So, I start getting myself ready to go back on stage....I just won't look into the eyes of the people - over their heads, just slightly..... try to picture them all naked......remember, they all put their pants on one leg at a time. Maybe Grandpa didn't see anything and his heart wasn't affected. Oh my! How could this have happened? What went wrong? What happened to me wasn't anything I did, it was just "one of those things" that sometimes happens. Do I make mention of it when I go back on stage, or just act like it didn't happen? The song is nearing an end, and panic is welling up in my throat. I had switched my skirt and pinned it 14 times by now. It was going no where. Do I tell Grandma that it won't happen again?
When the song was over, I walked back out onto the stage and thanked my little duet partner for continuing the dance and introduced the next dancer, who was an older teenager that never smiled when she danced, except for this one performance. I didn't make mention of the incident, as I thought that would be best for those with pace makers in the audience. I just announced the rest of the show and danced with my hand held firmly to my skirt, even though it was pinned. Yes, I missed some hand movements, but such was life.....and EVERYONE in the audience knew why, that skirt wasn't going anywhere!
Oh my word, did I catch if from the team when we were done!!! "I thought you said...." and on and on and on. I wasn't going to live this one down for a long time. Many of the parents recorded the show, and I fully expected to see it on America's Funniest Home Videos at anytime. I showed my dancers, though, that anything can happen to anyone at any given point in time. And while, keep dancing no matter what, might be a good motto, there are times when you just can't do it.
My dancers learned that I wasn't perfect. It was a hard lesson for all of us that day.
I'm not perfect. I don't do everything right. I do make mistakes. I am reminded of this just about everyday of my life. My children remind me, my spouse reminds me, my boss and coworkers remind me, and the songs on the radio even remind me, that I'm not perfect. In certain situations, I do have to try at perfection more than at other times, but all I can ever do is strive. I think sometimes, the closer I get, the further away I really am. When one area of my life seems to be in order and I've got everything together, another area will unravel uncontrollably and I'm left there standing with it all around my knees, just fumbling to pick it up and put it back together again.
That's when you have to do just that, though. Pick it up, and put it back together again, and ask God for help and guidance to make it all go back together right. Proverbs 3:5 says "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight." That's comforting to me. I don't have to be perfect, I don't have to make the path right or straight. All I have to do is trust in God, acknowledge Him, and He will do the rest for me.
It takes a lot of courage, sometimes, to fix things that have gone wrong, though. That day, the hardest thing I did was open that door and walk out there, fully clothed, and with my smile on. I knew everyone was embarrassed for me, and I figured some never wanted their spouses to see any part of me ever again, but I had to go back out there. It wasn't that I felt the need to "save face" as much as I needed to show the young people with me how to handle something like this with grace and poise. But, inside me, there wasn't a fiber of my being that wasn't petrified of the reaction I might have gotten.
2 Timothy 1:7 God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love, and of self-discipline." I prayed as I opened the door, "God, be with me, give me the words to say and help me avoid the ones I shouldn't say. Guide me, God. This is an embarrassing moment for me, and I need to come out of this with dignity and pride. Please, be here, at my side and show your strength through me."
Now you might not think that this was an appropriate time to call upon God the Father to get me out of this mess, but in my mind, at the time, He was the ONLY ONE that could get me out of this mess. He's never let me down when it was important.
And he didn't that day. I had people come up after the show and tell me they were impressed and amazed I returned. "Good for you!" they said. "You are excellent example for this young team of dancers," they said.
Years later, I saw the video of this actually happening. I was just as embarrassed and every feeling came rushing back to me that I experienced that afternoon, but by this time, I knew the end of the story, and I knew I'd rise above the sheer terror and embarrassment, with the help of God, and end the show with a spirit of power, love for the team, and the self-discipline to not flee.
By the way, my skirt was always pinned after that, and we never switched sides during a show again! I do learn!