To get a BFA in Musical Theater from the University of Arizona, one must complete a set number of dance credits. There should be a great variety, offering the school the opportunity to produce the most well-rounded and employable performers. By my senior year, I’d reached the highest levels of most dance classes that a knock-kneed, rhythmically challenged singer-actress could possibly pass. So my advisor and I decided to pursue one of the only paths left to me and my schedule: Advanced African Dance.
When I entered the studio for the first time, I was relieved to see Stefan and Taylor, two co-Musical Theater majors dressed in the all black spandex that was required by the School of Theater. I was less relieved to realize that the rest of the class was comprised of a local African Dance troupe that toured Tucson and its outer-lying areas. Just imagine the three whitest white kids ever among a troupe of lithe, African-American African dancers.
The final project for our class was to choreograph a dance with two or three classmates and perform it on the last day. The three of us were obviously left to our own devices, as no one was clamoring to partner up with the misfits of the class. We came up with a brilliant idea, incorporating musical theatre and traditional African dance.
There was a nervous buzz in the air as we stepped into the studio for the last time; everyone was visibly excited to showcase their pieces. As each group went, we got more and more nervous. These ladies had all created beautiful dances with incredible songs. The one I’ll never forget was the girl who didn’t have a group; she’d chosen to go solo. She did the most beautiful interpretive dance of a hawk. The whole class was in awe; the three of us MTs had shrunk so far into ourselves that we looked like Popples.
Finally, there was no one left except for us. On shaky knees, we got up to perform. Stefan pushed the button to our CD player and Taylor and I assembled into a lion’s womb, ready to give birth to Stefan as Simba. We recreated the opening scene from the Lion King.
African Dance was one of my favorite classes in college. It was fun, it was athletic, and I learned a lot. This is thanks to a professor who was very patient and had a great sense of humor. She went on and on about how she loved actors because they were so expressive. We all got A’s, I would have to say, truly for effort.