I don’t want to go. I never want to go.
Artist Date “Dirty Little Secret” — I almost never want to go. The same way I never want to get on a plane to somewhere I’ve never been before.
I do when I book the flight or when I make the reservation for a performance or workshop. But when the actual time comes, I feel anxious and sick inside.
Like the first time I went to Europe. The German Consulate in San Francisco sent me. Lufthansa Business Class. Four and five-star hotels in Bonn, Berlin and Dresden. (Or as luxury as was available in Dresden in 1995.) Access to end of World War II commemoration events where I spied Helmut Kohl, Al Gore and Francois Mitterand.
But I am at the airport in San Francisco, talking with my friend Peg from a payphone — in tears.
Ten years later I am on my way to France, by myself. This time it is my husband and a cell phone.
And to Italy this past fall. From Chicago O’Hare. I call my girlfriends in quick succession. Ann, Julie, Lynn, Chase. No tears this time. Just an overwhelming sense of dread.
Each time, I am anxious with uncertainty. Anxious, that I don’t speak the language — German, French, Italian — that I won’t understand. That I will feel foolish. That I will fail.
My fears are not baseless. Each time I depart the plane, I don’t speak the language — not fluently. Just a little French. A little Italian, leaning heavily on my high-school Spanish. And German, none at all.
I often don’t understand. And I sometimes feel foolish. But I never fail. Mostly because it is impossible to fail at traveling. Unless one fails to get on the plane.
It is the same walking into the Museum of Contemporary Art for a flamenco workshop — Artist Date 103.
I am anxious as I don’t know the genre. I do not know what to shoes to wear (if any), what clothing. Afraid that I will feel foolish. That I will fail.
I think back to the master class I joined with a principal dancer from Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. The workshop was described as intermediate. I had been dancing for six years — once a week at the Old Town School of Music. But the others had been dancing all of their lives. It was my Flashdance moment — sans rolling on desks in front of an admissions board — I was out of my league.
I did feel foolish. At best, I got one-third of it. But I didn’t fail…because I got on the plane, as it were.
And I lived a fantasy I never imagined I really would or could — to dance with Alvin Ailey company members.
I remember this and call the MCA to inquire about attire. I do not receive a phone call back. I pack a pair of hard shoes with wooden heels, a sports bra, yoga pants and too-big jeans and go.
When I arrive the program manager takes me into the theater, through the side doors and into Dressing Room B. “You can change in here,” she says.
I ask her what she thinks would be best — yoga pants or jeans. Either will work, she replies.
It doesn’t matter. I don’t care anymore.
I could leave now and be “good.”
I am in the dressing room at the MCA. The same dressing room Mikhail Baryshnikov *might* have used when he performed here last year. (There *is* a Dressing Room A. And there may be more — C, D.)
I am giddy.
I feel like an imposter. I take a photograph of myself, change into my yoga pants and go out to the stage. (The same stage where Baryshnikov performed. The same stage where Sonia Sanchez will perform tonight.)
I could have worn jeans as it is not a workout, per se.
We do unwinding exercises and learn the foot pattern that matches the Flamenco rhythm. (One. Two. Three-two, three, four. Four-two, three, four. Five.) We create improvisational pieces with partners that we perform.
Some of the women have been dancing flamenco for years. They wear Gypsy-style skirts and black, heeled dance shoes. Others have never danced a day in their lives. They are dressed for a winter’s day in Chicago.
And Sonia, she doesn’t speak English so much. And I really don’t speak Spanish. But I understand… enough.
Enough to be reminded that I really can’t fail if I show up. And that when I do, I get access to places I could never go on my own — into dressing rooms, onto stages, into my fear.