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May 07, 2015
The Secret Life of Molly
Magic in the Stompy Wind
by Hannah Bird

I hate clogging. For the uninitiated, clogging is a stompy kind of tap dance. I hate it on the cellular level. It’s not like how I hate waiting in traffic or hate when curry is too sweet. I don’t love those things. They annoy me. They make being a civil person a little tough.

But clogging is my kryptonite. I get that it is an art form. I understand it is a folk tradition. I know lots of people like it. Maybe, love it even. 

Clogging hurts me. It makes my head throb. It feels aggressive. It is loud but feels even louder.  A single clogger, stomping like the wind, is difficult for me. A corp of cloggers is the worst. Given the choice between a clogging recital and gnawing on my arm, I am getting the barbeque sauce.

A few weeks ago, our ballet school participated in a fundraiser for a dance team that had been invited to perform in Europe. Cloggers, in fact. Our ballerinas and some other dance schools and performers were rounding out the program.  We were participating in support of two of our ballerinas who were also on the clogging team — sisters Eliza and Annabelle.

I hate clogging. But I adore Annabelle (and her sister, but this is an Annabelle story). My sister-in-law is the director of our ballet school. She is also my beloved friend/semi-benevolent overlord. She was sure I would be happy to go with her.

That’s how I ended up at a clogging performance. 

I had taken aspirin before I took my seat. I scrunched down in the chair. I tried to steel myself for what was coming. 

The cloggers took the stage. They were awesome. At clogging. They clogged like the stompy wind. It was easy to see why they had attracted international attention.  It was also easy to see why I hate clogging.

It was too loud. Though the dancers were performing flawlessly, the banging in my head felt a half beat too slow. My head hurt. I felt awful.

Then I saw Annabelle. She was dancing, of course. But mostly she was shining. Her smile was huge. Her whole face lit up. From her bouncing hair to the tip of her toes she was pure joy. There was not a single half-hearted movement. She was dancing as if she loved it. She danced like there was nowhere else in the world she wanted to be. 

It was mesmerizing. I could still hear the noise. My head was still killing me. I could still feel the stomping on my last nerve. It didn’t matter.  

Annabelle loved it.

I watched her, and I thought how pure her enthusiasm was. It was powerful. It was powerful enough to move me past discomfort and pain. It moved me closer to where she was. It moved my experience closer to hers. 

I was talking to therapist acquaintance of mine a few weeks ago. She mentioned that in her work with teens she has noticed that sadness has become a fashion. Sorrow and cynicism are in style. But they are also draining. 

It is fashionable to be over it all. But that makes enthusiasm even more magical. 

I still hate clogging. It genuinely makes my head hurt. I will take aspirin before I take my seat. But I will never again watch it without seeing Annabelle’s magic. 

It takes a lot of courage to be wholehearted. When you bring your whole self, there is so much risk of injury. But when we cover and hide, there is risk of nothing at all. No joy. No discovery. No magic.

In December, Annabelle will set tap shoes go en pointe as the Sugarplum Fairy in The Nutcracker. It is a hard role. It will take hours and courage and grace. If it all comes together, and it will, she will be magical again. 

Her smile will drive the dark back a tiny bit. She is shiny but she is only one person.

Perhaps we should help her. Be magic.

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