Choreographer sees a show through from the stage
It’s Thursday night. The telephone rings. “Ron (cough), I have the (sniffle, sniffle) flu. It’s really bad, so I can’t do the show tomorrow,” Laine says. Laine is the backbone of our eight-member “Steel Magnolia” dance ensemble. We are performing at the South Lyon Medical Center, and the Mason Valley Residence in Yerington. We’re doing two new dance numbers. Trouble is, I’ve made sure the ladies know the numbers, and every step is clean, but I don’t have the continuity of the numbers locked into my memory. I choreographed the numbers, but performing them, from beginning to end, is a different matter. Don’t laugh, performing a dance number when you’re unsure of what comes next, can be harrowing.
Jeff arrives. He’s our sound man, and announcer. We drive to SLMC. Ida greets us at the door. “Ida, can we commandeer that room down the hall?” I ask. She gives the OK, and my crash course to master the two numbers begins.
The titles of the music are, “Tell Me Why You Walked Out on Me,” and “Get Outta Here and Get Me Some Money, Too.” They aren’t exactly “The Nutcracker” or “Swan Lake,” but a whole lot of fun.
Marilyn, Clarice, Marianne, Maria, Chris and Chris arrive. I break the news that Laine won’t be in the show. “Don’t worry, I’ll do Laine’s place,” I volunteer. “No you’re not. you’re going to be in front,” they say.
Why fight it? Done. It’s show time.
Flawlessly, Jeff announces, “Direct from Las Vegas (fib), Ron Walker and the Steel Magnolias.” We burst into the room, and dance to the Chipmunks’ version of “Jingle Bells.” After thunderous applause, I announce Ruth. “Direct from the La Scala Opera in Milan, Italy (fib), please welcome Madam Ruth Ifversen,” and she gets the audience to singing “Jingle Bells.”
Some of the residents are on gurneys, others in wheelchairs, a few are dozing and a handful are fully cognizant. They live in a beautiful facility, are taken care of by a loving staff, but their spirits have been physically or mentally bruised.
Both new numbers go well, and after dancing to Johnny Mathis’ version of “We wish you a Merry Christmas,” we scram over to MVR.
Misti greets us.
“I’m so glad you came. The ladies are in the meeting room,” she says. We get ready. Jeff sets up the boom box, cues the music and we explode into the room. In front of us are two rows of the loveliest ladies you can imagine. Diane Getter, a good friend from Smith Valley is there, too. What a fun audience they turn out to be. At one point I say, “You won’t believe it, but some of the Steel Magnolias are getting close to 50.” Instantly, Chris replies, “Yeah, around the waist!”
Talking with all these nice people, is a joy. Seeing them smile when we dance is so rewarding. Wish you could have been there. Merry Christmas.
Ron Walker lives in Smith. His column appears in The Record-Courier twice a month.