2011 St. Patrick’s Day Season, Day 1

Originally written 3/9/11.

St. Patrick’s Day, for anyone reading this who is not involved with Irish dancing, is the busiest season of the year for stepdancers. Our small school usually performs 50 times or more during the month. It’s crazy–and produces a lot of fodder for blog posts.

Today was the real start of our St. Patrick’s Day madness. For the next eleven days, we’ve got at least one performance every day, building up to March 17th itself, when we’ve got five groups that will perform 4-5 shows each. Then, on March 19 & 20, we’ll be doing our big annual stage show.

I spent the morning frantically trying to do everything that had to get done for the day, feeling like I was answering emails with one hand and taking phone messages with the other. One of the phone calls was from someone who wanted to book a show for “anytime next week.” Cue hysterical laughter.

I left at 1 p.m. for the first of the day’s three shows. The first two shows were back-to-back 45-minuters at a nice nursing home. One of the benefits (?) of this job is that we get a great tour of the different retirement options available to us in the future. This particular facility is great, and the residents seem well cared for. Some of the other places we’ll be dancing this season are not as nice.

Note to self: be better about putting money in the retirement fund.

The first two shows went very well. The dancers did a good job, and the audiences seemed to enjoy them.

Only a few minor foibles: despite the letter we send to venues reminding them that we need a place to change before the show, the activities coordinator forgot to set anything up, and the girls ended up changing in a private dining room with an uncovered window opening onto the main dining room. We tried to squeeze into the corners away from the window and then prayed no one walked by. The boys got to change in the restroom, but since nursing home restrooms tend to be single-occupant, they had to change one at a time.

We also remind the venues in advance that we need a place to stand during the show with unimpeded access to the stage. We send out this reminder because of unfortunate occurrences in the past. At this show, I didn’t communicate very well with the coordinator beforehand, and right when we were getting ready to walk out on stage for our first number, I found out that the door between our chosen backstage and the stage itself was now blocked by residents in wheelchairs. Oops! Luckily, most of our dancers are flexible from long experience, so we just moved our “backstage” area to a hallway on the other side of the stage.

Sadly, in moving to our new backstage area, I dropped the brand-spanking-new microphone that had come with our brand-spanking-new amp with iPod dock, and I broke it. I’ve broken mics in the past, but this was the first one that actually broke. In half. It was impressive. Maybe we can duct tape it together…?

Everything else went well. We had our share of frankensteps, which is what we call it when dancers change their choreography on the fly (usually because they’ve completely forgotten what they’re actually supposed to be doing). My favorite frankenstep of the day was when 7-year-old James (doing his third show ever! Yay!) apparently tried to do a step he’d taught himself by watching his twin sister. I guess he must have known it wasn’t going well, since he was looking over his shoulder at me the whole time.

Despite being out of shape and rusty, I made it through my numbers without any major gaffes, although I hope the two moms taking videos of me never let anyone else see them. I swear I used to be better at this.

We finished the show at 4:15, and even after packing up I figured that I had time to run some errands before heading to the west side of town for our show at 7:00 p.m. We needed a bunch of duct tape and some new plywood boards (that’s what we make our portable stage with. It’s low tech, but it’s cheap and it works).

So I headed to Home Depot. On the way there, my coolant light came on. No problem—I knew how to refill the coolant. I even had some in my trunk. So when I got to Home Depot, I pulled it out while I cleared some space in the trunk for the new boards.

Ever notice how much weird stuff accumulates in the trunk? Mine is especially bad. It was ESPECIALLY bad this time, since our 1995 Saturn recently went to the big parking lot in the sky, and all the junk from ITS trunk was still in the 2002 Saturn. So I had two snow shovels, a pair of dirty tube socks, a feather duster, and all these random pieces of plastic.

Okay, after St. Pat’s, I have GOT to clean this out.

Anyway, I made space and picked up the coolant. That was before I noticed it was leaking all down the front of my jacket. Dang it. And the one thing that wasn’t in my trunk was paper towels. I wiped off what I could with a piece of Kleenex and then carried the coolant well away from my body as I walked around to the hood. I opened the hood and looked at the coolant tank. It said, in big letters, DO NOT OPEN WHEN HOT. Hmm. Maybe I should get the floor and then do the coolant when I came back.

So I went to buy my duct tape and boards. The guy in the lumber area, a big man named Joe who seemed kind of disillusioned with life, helped me get the boards down. The boards were each 8’ x 4’ and I needed them 2’ x 2’, so Joe cut them for me. I stood and watched, since I like watching the cool upright saw and frame they use at Home Depot. Joe was standing right under the safety sign that told employees to wear eye protection and not wear gloves, and I couldn’t help but notice that he had gotten those two reversed. I didn’t think Joe would appreciate me pointing it out, though.

As I pushed my cart full of boards back to the front, I noticed that the sawdust from cutting the wood was sticking to the wet spot of coolant on the front of my jacket. Dang it. I got back to the car, put my boards in the trunk, made a lame attempt to clean off the sawdust/coolant mixture, and then opened the hood again.

Just then, my phone rang. It was the mom of one of my dancers.

Mom: Hey, are you okay?
Me: (puzzled) Um, yeah. Why do you ask?
Mom: Because you’re not at the show.
Me: Um, the show’s at 7 and it’s only 5:45.
Mom: The show’s at 6.
Me: Uh…

Somehow, I had gotten my times mixed up. I don’t think that’s ever happened before (although I have made plenty of other stupid mistakes with shows—ask me sometime about the time I sent everybody to the corner of University & Arapahoe in Denver instead of the corner of University & Arapahoe in Boulder, and hour’s drive away). I slammed the hood, jumped in the car, and drove off like a Nascar wannabe up I-25. While I was weaving in and out of traffic at 10 miles per hour over the speed limit, I was still talking on the phone (DON’T DO THIS AT HOME, KIDS). The problem was that I had our sound system and iPod, and no one else had a backup. Also, because of the numbers and levels of the dancers we had, we couldn’t do the show without everybody. Like, for instance, me. So I asked the mom to talk to the show organizer and find out what she wanted to do, and in the meantime get the dancers dressed and ready to dance so I could jump out of the car and into the show the minute I got there.

Which would have been ugly, what with my sawdust/coolant jacket and my hair flying everywhere. Did I mention it had been really windy in the Home Depot parking lot?

Fortunately, the show organizer was lovely and understanding and just rearranged the order of the evening so we were at the end of the dinner program we were dancing for instead of in the middle. I got there at 6:15 (the exact time I’d planned to be there for the show I thought was at 7), and we went on at 6:45. It was not our most polished show, but, considering everything, I thought it went fine.

Thank goodness for all our fabulous moms and dancers. I promise I will double check all the showtimes for the rest of the season. And I will cross my fingers that this is the worst thing that happens to us in the next eleven days.

More tomorrow!