Try dancing like everyone’s watching
December 2, 2017
My dancing career began at Billy Bell Ballroom Dance Studio in Los Angeles. I was 16. Ten lessons set my folks back $3.50. Johnny Williams, my dance teacher, became my idol. He's as smooth as glass as he glides across the dance floor. He's my Lancelot and I'm his sword bearer. Soon I'm a much sought-after dance partner for all the ladies in class.
In my senior year at Hollywood High, I discovered ballet. Ballet is bewitching, a temptress. In every class I challenge myself to jump higher, pry my hip joints open more, flutter my feet like a humming bird, and of course I fail. But I keep coming back and lose myself in the impossible demands that ballet imposes. So where is the reward? When I am finally flying through the air and gravity relaxes her clutches, it's then I become more than me. For a split second, I'm not earth bound.
I should mention that ballet is like "pre-med" to a doctor. Ballet gives us the body we need to dance the style of Gene Kelley. It's called jazz dance.
Now, fresh out of the Navy, I go to New York and study jazz dance. When I've had enough, I return to Hollywood and audition at the Moulin Rouge, a sophisticated supper-club. I unexpectedly win a feature role in a production number. The scene is outside a bar. I single handedly beat up 6 sailors, wrap my arms around a sublimely beautiful red-haired maiden and we go aboard a tiny sailboat, as a violent storm erupts. Lightning flashes, thunder crashes, and after much clinging together, we fall overboard and drown. We do this twice a night for a year. I have found the way to earn a living that perfectly suits me.
Ballet is bewitching, a temptress. Every class I challenge myself to jump higher, pry my hip joints open more, flutter my feet like a humming bird, and of course I fail. But I keep coming back and lose myself in the impossible demands that ballet imposes.
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Once I'm married and have a family, financial stability intrudes. I land a job at the Dunes Casino in Vegas. Bigtime professional dancers cut me down to size in a hurry; nevertheless, I prevail. I score a choreography job at the Hacienda; 4 girls, 4 musicians on a tiny stage. I call it "LET'S GO A GO-GO." It isn't very good but it's certainly very, very fast.
Cresting on a wave of confidence, I audition for a wildly, talented, Hungarian producer who is doing a show in the Blue Room at the Tropicana. At the appointed time, I set up my record player, put the record on, and my mind goes blank. I try again and again; nothing. I never remember my routine, but the story has a happy ending. He hires me anyway and I work for him for 15 years. We do shows in Las Vegas, Montreal, Nassau, have entertainment packages in Paris, Monte Carlo, Newfoundland, and on the Amalfi Coast of Italy. Sound to good to be true, well it is, and you should hear some of the events that I left out. You would either be embarrassed or you would roar.
Ron Walker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org