The end of May and beginning of June are traditionally celebratory times, from weddings, to graduations. For dance schools, it is about year-end performances which are, in essence, a celebration of all that has been learned and accomplished in the studio throughout the season. I’m sure my fellow dance studio directors, especially throughout New York, would agree, it was with heavy hearts that we had to cancel this season’s performances. We could not say “the show must go on!” Even Broadway is unprecedentedly dark.
Because I work behind the scenes and primarily from home for several years now, I don’t have the daily interaction with students and parents that I had when I worked the front desk. But working the year-end showcases gives me the opportunity to reconnect.
At our shows in Port Chester, I work the door. I love seeing old faces but many of the parents who come through don’t know who is collecting their tickets until Joe, my husband and artistic director, makes introductions of his staff during the bows and gives me a shout out as well. It’s not unusual to see heads turn around at that point to give a look and make the connection. And from the back of the theatre, I watch our young beginner and intermediate dancers show off their skills. Some of these dancers are on a stage for the first time and it’s so exciting for them! I watch parents at the end of the show lavish these young performers with floral bouquets and other trinkets making them feel like the stars they are.
Our June Showcase at SUNY Purchase, for our more advanced dancers, is where I get to work more directly with the students. Backstage I easily slipped back into my role of going over rules and procedures for the day during traditional “circle time.” Circle time has been a pre- show tradition at every Dance Cavise performance whether it be at the studio or any outside venue. For those who are unfamiliar, everyone backstage, dancers and staff alike, circle up, hold hands, and pass our chain of hand squeezes around the entire circle until we end with our good luck chant, “chukka chukka chukka!” It is a magical moment.
Out front, the audience sees a smooth-running production, but it is my job backstage to make sure it appears that way. I am the one running door to door, hallway to hallway, calling and gathering dancers, class by class to “line up at the water fountain!” Any student who has been in a SUNY Purchase showcase with me knows what that means. It is my last chance to line the dancers up (quite literally at a water fountain) inspect their costumes, to make sure all “spaghetti” is tucked into ballet slippers, hair is neat, sprayed and gelled, bows are tied properly and gum is spit out. It also allows me the chance to give our dancers a last boost of confidence as I tell them to put their smiles on, that they have done the work, and to just have fun on stage. Then I pass them off to the staff member who takes them through the labyrinth of stairway leading to the stage. I think each year I look most forward to seeing the youngest dancers eligible for SUNY who are there for the first time, feeling like they have arrived! They are giddy with excitement and nerves, while the older dancers have the calm air of experienced performers going through their routines in their heads.
For graduating seniors, SUNY Showcase is a mix of emotions which usually include some tears. It is their finale from years of training and a sense of belonging to a special close-knit community. Some call Dance Cavise their home away from home so we feel especially sad that they will not have this performance opportunity this year but we applaud them and send them off with all of our best wishes, knowing that they will go on to do great things.
For staff, our year-end performances bring natural closure to the season and to say that missing them for the first time since we opened over 30 years ago is disappointing is an understatement. Truthfully, Joe had a hard time accepting it until recent weeks. As of this writing, we are brain storming ways of having a virtual celebration of our teachers and students who have worked even harder from home this spring to complete this season’s training.
So, to my Dance Cavise Family, students, instructors, administrators, fellow dance schools, their directors, and performers, let’s all celebrate our dedication and the hard work that was accomplished through this very unique time in history. Though the show can’t go on as normal this season, let it go on in your hearts as it does for mine. Chukka Chukka Chukka and Bravo!