Honky Tonk Women
Well just when I thought it was time to put my tap shoes in mothballs (or at least pack them away ready for my move back to the UK next month), along comes a final opportunity to tread the boards. The occasion this time is the Rose of Tralee annual ball. For those readers unfamiliar with the "Rose", it's a long-standing annual event to choose a young girl who best encapsulates "Irishness", and she becomes a sort of ambassador for a year. Do NOT call it a beauty pageant, whatever you do! Anyway, it's open to young ladies of Irish descent all around the world, and 4 years ago, Luxembourg decided to join in the crack. So every year, we've had fund-raising events 1, culminating in a gala ball, where each of the contestants 2 is interviewed by a compere, and performs a party piece (singing, joke-telling or dancing). And then the judges go off into their judgly huddle, and decide the winner, who represents Luxembourg at the main festival in Tralee in August.
That's all very interesting, sez you, but where's the dancing fit into it? I'm coming to that - houl yer whisht a minute! 3 Now, usually the local Irish dancing group put on a display to entertain the punters while the judges are doing their thing. My daughter is the smallest and cutest 4 of them, and I feel very proud of her when people go "Who is that little one there?" But this year there were very few Irish dancers available, so......you can guess what's coming, can't you? They asked us tappers to do a turn instead. Much to the chagrin of my daughter, I tell you, since she feels I've stolen her favourite gig!
Never being the sort to hide our lights under bushels, we agreed to take on the job.
Paint it Black
So back to the familiar old church hall for a rehearsal. Would we all remember the steps? It's over 6 months since we last performed it. How big would the stage be? Would we need to re-choreograph much to fit the space available? And we had 1 dancer fresh from having twins, who was replacing a girl with a twisted ankle - would she remember it from the 2 years ago when she last performed it?
Surprisingly enough, our first run through it was not at all bad! It's amazing what your feet remember. I think they must have some sort of subsidiary brain, like that dinosaur had in its bum.
We even had most of our costumes! Except for one vital ingredient - canes. I had a horrible recollection of saying to D, as we flew up the stairs after the final performance of "Showtime" last November "Darn it, we've left our sticks by the side of the stage!" and she and I looking at each other for a few seconds before saying ‘Feck it!5’Did we feel guilty now! 6 And so began the great stick hunt. We contacted props people and theatre people. We texted other dancers who had had canes to see if they still had them. I even put out an appeal on the local radio station.
Success! B still had her cane, which she brought along to a party we were both attending that Friday night, and which I amazingly managed to get home intact, despite having had vast quantities of alcohol and insisting we go to a nightclub after the party.
Only thing was, it wasn't painted black. But that's where 14 year old sons prove their usefulness in life! I proudly showed off my newly blackened cane at the 2nd rehearsal, and was promptly offered 5 euros a go to get another couple painted. My enterprising son, not one to miss out on an opportunity, insisted I'd have to pay 5 euro for mine too, since that was obviously the going rate.
Sympathy for the Devil
The day of the ball arrived. Well, the morning passed in a hungover long lie-in but after breakfast of eggs benedict and mushrooms I felt almost ready to face my public. I produced the dress I was intending to wear - a little bit wrinkly but never mind, just hang it in a steamy shower room. I am now of the opinion that that is an urban myth - I don't think it was any less wrinkled after half an hour's steaming, and I ended up having to iron it anyway. And put on my stage make-up. And get into some suitable rehearsing clothes. But carry my costume and ball dress with me. And all those extra black sticks. And my top hat. Sheesh!
6 o'clock - rehearsal on the dancefloor. Those chandeliers were looking a bit endangered from our twirling canes! 7 o'clock - into ball gown for the champagne reception (none for me though - I don't like to drink and dance). I did stock up on olives and peanuts, however, as I knew I was going to miss the starter. 8 o'clock - into leotard, sparkly tailcoat and top hat for the routine. It went well, we all smiled and kept the rhythym, no-one dropped a stick, even the chandelier survived intact. And the audience were very responsive, on their feet, cheering and clapping. By 8.30 I was back in my ball gown, ready for the main course, and enjoying that glass of wine (or 2) that my companion had thoughtfully kept for me.
Jumpin' Jack Flash
I did shed a tear or two - knowing that it's my last Rose Ball, probably the last time I'll dance that routine, maybe even the last time I'll see the other dancers in the troupe...but who knows what the future will bring!