This story took place before everyone carried cameras in their pockets. If that hadn’t been the case, I might never have lived this down.
Right before my sixth grade, my father remarried, and we moved to a new town. This town included a dance studio, a place to fulfill my weird childhood dream of learning to tap dance. My new stepmom was foaming at the mouth to enrich us, so she practically tossed me into the studio.
The dance teacher explained that tap classes weren’t available until I’d completed four years of ballet. Furthermore, the first-year class consisted entirely of six year-olds. I begged her to let me skip to third year, and swore I would catch up. She refused, so we compromised at my joining the second-year class.
My ballet instruction began. I was five years older and nearly two feet taller than every other girl in class. When we outstretched our arms, mine sailed easily over their heads. In the privacy of our practice room, I didn’t feel too self-conscious. However, I started noticing some of the popular girls arriving at the studio as I left each week. I was the new kid, a nerd, and about as welcome in the cheerleader clique as a can of peas in a Christmas stocking.
I secretly hoped that consistently stellar performance would convince the studio mavens to let me skip to fourth-year next year. Between my raw ambition and physical aptitude compared to a room full of second graders, I quickly gained the respect of my teacher. As the spring recital approached, she told me she was planning a special solo for me. I was thrilled.
Next week, the teacher announced, “Girls, our theme for the spring recital is the seasons of the year. And our class will represent spring. You girls will dance in beautiful dresses in pink, purple, yellow, or green.” She held up a frilly, poofy pastel cake-looking dress.The girls oohed and ahhed.
“Nani will play our Easter Bunny, and perform a solo during the dance.”
The next week, my bunny costume was delivered to me, presumably from the bowels of hell. It was white plush fur, with tall, pink felt wired ears, a large cottontail, and elastic straps at the feet to keep my leg fur from creeping up while I leapt around the stage.
(You were envisioning footies too, right? But this is BALLET! Too sophisticated for that!)
It also did not cover my face, an oversight I lamented.
I chose to ignore the mortification, go to my mental happy place, and hide the costume from the cheerleaders until the night of the spring recital.
Showtime! I gravely danced in the bunny costume before a significant portion of the town’s population. The cheerleader girls took the stage after us. They passed me in a line backstage, in black leotards with sassy colored scarves and glitter eyeshadow. I was so pathetic by comparison, and we all knew it, that they didn’t even bother to tease me. In fact, I never even heard a word about it at school afterward.
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