This week started early for us on the Kansas State University Tap Dance Ensemble. We performed Saturday at the Sunset Zoo here in Manhattan at the zoo’s annual “SPOOKtacular.”
This was the second time I’d performed there :).
The way things typically work is that some of us get in around 9:30 a.m. and get some of our mobile floor from our studio before heading over to the zoo and dropping off our equipment inside. We’re essentially considered vendors at the event, which allows us to set up before the zoo formally opens. Then, the dancers who helped with setup leave. All of us reconvene about an hour before the event starts.
Once the zoo opens, families in their Halloween costumes walk through it, getting candy from various merchants and different spots throughout. It gives the kids a chance to see all the animals, and gives their parents added incentive to bring them.
For us, it’s a fun chance to hang out with the animals too. After everyone arrives, we break into small groups, take segments of our mobile floor, and go and dance near one of the animals as patrons walk by.
This is usually my favorite part of the program, because it lets me explore a little and engage with people one-on-one. This year, my mentor Jamie and I went over to the Otter exhibit, which we also did last year.
The otter was, full disclosure, adorable.
It would come up along the fence line near Jamie, chirp at her in one of the 12 patterns they apparently can learn (according to the placard) and then would turn its back and walk away defiantly. We couldn’t blame it for having a little bit of an attitude either, last year it had a companion in its cage, so maybe it was just lonely.
Either way, it was cute. It was magnificent to watch as it swam through its small pond. It swam effortlessly and gracefully. They human eye could detect little extra distortion from the water around it than the same eye might be able to discern from the air around a dancer as she moved on stage.
That was what most intrigued me, the way the otter, though no doubt intelligent enough to, didn’t seem to think about how it moved. It just…did, and because it just moved without thinking, both the otter and the movement looked more elegant because of it.
After pondering all this, we gathered our things, said our farewells, and returned to the area where we all met to combine our floor for our hour-long show. I learned last year to be careful on this ground, because the slant we perform on inevitably causes the unaware dancer to slide if they aren’t careful when doing jump-based movements.
I always have found this to be an added twist to the movement. Personally I enjoyed it, even in the cases where I would catch myself and laugh mid-dance as I thought “whoooo, I almost messed up there. Whoo, I almost messed that one up.” Those little moments of internal dancer dialogue are always fun to reflect on :P.
The crowd always seems to enjoy our performance. Tap Dance seems to me to be one of those things a lot like Apple products: nobody really seems to know how much they love it or need it until someone puts it in front of them without asking and mesmerizes them.
An added element of all this is the way we stop midway through, taking a break from performing, and bring kids in the audience up to dance with us. Some are, of course, hesitant, and we never ask them to leave their parents, so often their parents come with them too and stay close by. But some go all out and seem to really enjoy it, which I think is the whole point of this Tap Dance thing anyways: to be enjoyed freely.
One kid, he was in a little muscular Darth Vader costume, had some real moves that day. He was able to do upside-down hand suspensions and stuff, and he was only like 8-years-old. Watch out for that kid, dear World.
Also fun was that I saw some of my runner friends there, some of my dearest friends actually, who had brought their son. It was neat to see them, and was even more meaningful when they came up and saw me between dances. That was special. Maybe those who have been dancing longer have gotten used to seeing people in the audience. I imagine I never will :).
Before long though, it ended. We finished our show, packed our things, returned it all to our castle here at Nichols Hall, and went home to enjoy the rest of our Saturdays. Some went with boyfriends, some went back to fraternities, some just went home.
But for the K-State Tap Dance Ensemble, the week was only just beginning.
More on that later…