Sunday, July 3, 2022

"Come and Meet My Stumbling Feet"

By Jerry Zezima

Even in his present condition (deceased since 1987), Fred Astaire is a better dancer than I am.

In the movies, especially the ones with Ginger Rogers, Fred was the guy who was light on his feet. I am not even in home videos because I would be the guy who is heavy on the feet of my wife, Sue, who dances too gingerly to be in the movies herself.

That’s why I was knocked off my feet to see our granddaughters Chloe and Lilly dance up a storm in a recital called, appropriately enough, “Let’s Go to the Movies.”

Although none of the film musicals saluted in the show were Astaire-Rogers movies — including the best, “Top Hat,” which would be remade today as “Backward Baseball Cap” — I was overcome with nostalgia and a slight case of the sniffles as I imagined myself in a lead role.

I could have been a Hollywood hoofer if only I had been more serious (and competent) while taking dance lessons as a kid instead of engaging in such juvenile pursuits as shooting spitballs and watching the Three Stooges.

I was enrolled in the Phil Jones School of Dance in my hometown of Stamford, Connecticut, where I was the worst student, an indisputable fact because: (a) none of the girls wanted to dance with me and (b) the school went out of business.

I even lost a costume contest. I wore my Superman outfit because I was a huge fan of the 1950s TV series “Adventures of Superman,” starring George Reeves as the Man of Steel. (I would grow up to be the Man of Lead, especially in my feet.)

Some kid dressed like Roy Rogers, the singing cowboy, won the competition.

It turned me off to dancing until the wedding of my older daughter, Katie, for which Sue and I decided to take lessons at — you guessed it — the Fred Astaire Dance Studio.

I could actually hear the Hollywood legend spinning in his grave as Sue and I spun around the dance floor, stepping on each other’s toes and causing despair for the instructor, who probably felt like quitting on the spot.

At the wedding, Sue and I danced in circles, which was easier, we figured, than dancing in trapezoids.

Fast forward (followed by two steps backward and cha-cha-cha!) to the recital, in which Chloe and Lilly flashed fantastically fancy footwork.

Sue and I sat in the packed auditorium with our younger daughter, Lauren, and our son-in-law Guillaume, the girls’ parents, for whose wedding we didn’t even bother taking dance lessons because by then, of course, we were hopeless.

The recital was divided into two shows, one in the morning, the other in the afternoon.

Lilly was in the morning show and starred, if I may say so, in two dances.

The first was a salute to “The Wizard of Oz.” Clad in a rainbow tutu, Lilly, who is 5, was in a group of a dozen girls who danced to — that’s right — “Over the Rainbow.” Naturally, Lilly’s performance stood out as she bent her knees, pointed with her left index finger and was in (almost) perfect sync with the music. She waved to the audience as she exited the stage.

Her next appearance was in a nod to “The Lion King.” She and the other girls came out in golden lion costumes with ears and tails. Lilly raised her hands, then put them on her hips. At the end, she sat in the front row and showed her claws before getting up and sashaying offstage.

In the afternoon program, Chloe, 9, was in three dances.

The first was “The Polar Express,” in which she and a dozen other girls wore vested red, white and gold costumes. Chloe raised her arms and tapped her feet, looked to the right and kept the beat.

Next was “Charlotte’s Web,” for which Chloe wore a beautiful gauzy dress with a hint of green. Her footwork was flawless.

The finale was “The Sandlot,” featuring the John Fogerty classic “Centerfield.” Chloe was clad in a red and white pinstriped baseball uniform with billowy shorts, knee-high white socks and a red cap. She hit a home run.

Chloe and Lilly, who got flowers after their respective shows, gave a delightful dancing demonstration.

Fred and Ginger, who could never help me and Sue, would have approved.

Copyright 2022 by Jerry Zezima

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