By Ed Harris, Jewish Sound Columnist
I knew being a father would bring surprises: Becoming a “Dancing Dad” is one, however, I never saw coming. I am in fact a terrible dancer, much to my wife’s disappointment, as her favorite leisure-time activity when we first met was folk dancing. Early dates of ours included student folk dances at Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan. Anne would expertly leap around the room with fellow enthusiasts, while I sulked in a corner, nursing a soft drink after trying for a few minutes and wholly embarrassing myself by my singular incompetence.
Since then, we have been blessed with three kids. Bringing up the rear is our youngest son, Izzy. He was dropped off by the stork when I was in my 40s, a stage of life in which the rate of physical decay begins to accelerate. There is a reason why the prime of an athlete’s career is over by around age 30: The body begins to betray us. It’s no different for dads. My best years, at least in terms of physical fitness, are behind me and receding (like my hairline) further into the rearview mirror with each passing day.
Izzy has turned out to be the one genuine competitive athlete in the household. However, his sport is a bit unusual, at least for a boy: Dancing. He has embraced dancing with gusto and a large chunk of my free time and a considerable portion of money that would have been otherwise frivolously wasted on saving for retirement is devoted to funding his dance activities. As a parent, it is worth every penny, or at least was, until I realized part of the package includes being recruited to participate in the Dancing Dads act at his studio’s spring recital.
The show — six separate performances over a single weekend — includes every dancer in every class offered by the studio, from little girls in tutus all the way up to the travel team competition dancers like Izzy. The performers are all either adorably cute or incredibly talented and radiate the glow associated with the springtime of life. The studio owner is a clever person. She realizes that juxtaposing a group of dads, who are neither cute nor talented and most definitely not in the springtime of life, adds a tremendous amount of comic relief. We Dancing Dads, one of the last numbers in the show, are a perennial crowd pleaser, but not for the right reasons. Our large, lumbering, ungainly, hairy and mostly overweight bodies stand in sharp contrast to the lithe, graceful children who preceded us. (Full disclosure: One of the dads — “Kevin,” not his real name — is young, athletic and a great dancer. I hate him.)
We practice on Thursday evenings, choreographed by the same instructors who teach our kids. They patiently demonstrate what we are supposed to do, but my body has a mind of its own. There is a particular sequence in this year’s act where we are grouped in three lines and then pinwheel and reform into two rows. Every time we run through the steps I end up standing next to a different dad, my path across the stage as random as a toss of the dice. Practice has failed to lead to improvement.
This is my third year in the show. Last time I was an “Oompa Loompa” and the costume included a giant lollipop. Through years of training I have learned certain moves, such as “The Sprinkler” and even put it into action at several Bar Mitzvah parties. But I still have not mastered the “Jazz Square,” despite dozens of repetitions of this simple four-step. They might as well have asked me to execute a standing backflip.
Our sessions are videotaped and then posted to an ultra-top secret YouTube link, so we can study at home. My reaction when I watch is to think, Wow, I might have skinny legs, but I sure do move like an old man.
If you aren’t busy, come down to Renton High School on May 31 or June 1 and catch one of the performances. I know one act that will be good for a laugh.
Ed Harris, the author of “Fifty Shades of Schwarz” and several other books, was born in the Bronx and lives in Bellevue with his family. His blog, Fizz-Ed, and additional information about his books are available at www.edharrisauthor.com.