Movies and Making a Spectacle by Deb Danielle

Like most people, movies have made me laugh and cry, transported me to other worlds and sometimes changed the way I look at things. Some movies have inspired me to greatness, to be a better person, but since I was a child, certain movies (of the music and dance variety) have instead inspired me to make a spectacle of myself.

It started with GREASE. Before Olivia shimmied along in her spandex, I had a respectable idol: the gymnast, Nadia Comaneci. But I left Nadia behind in a downward spiral of taste that went from Olivia to Barry Manilow to the Solid Gold Dancers. My strange combination of passions led to a fusion, a mix of gymnastics and GREASE/Solid-Gold-style dancing, that I practiced, sometimes in the house, but most often in the front yard, for all to see.

This did not make me popular with my six and seven-year-old peers.

Neither did my compulsion to wear a leotard and (possibly) a tutu under my clothes and perform my routines at recess. Too late, I realized I was interested in THE WRONG THINGS. I tried to conform but I couldn’t ride the requisite skateboard, never looked quite right in the Izod shirt and hated all sports that involved a ball.

My parents moved me to an “alternative” school in third grade, and they were just in time; my grades were poor, I was an outcast and things were going to get much worse—FLASHDANCE was about to be released.

Oh, what fertile ground I was for FLASHDANCE. Cut-off sweatshirts and legwarmers were the least of it. I leapt about and rolled on the floor. I undulated, gyrated and practiced my striptease. Fortunately, I stayed off the front lawn for this, but at my new school, (where I was less universally despised but still pushing the limits of “alternative”) I could often be found in the hallways, sliding my hands up and down my thighs while running in place, a la Jennifer Beals. I was nine.

PURPLE RAIN was next and how I managed to see it is a secret I’ll take to my grave. More gyrating, more everything—PURPLE RAIN blew my mind. By this time I was taking jazz classes, but it didn’t take long for my Prince-inspired moves to attract the scorn of my classmates. Excessive hip gyration was a sketchy talent for a ten-year-old—something I realized, once again, too late.

1983 brought RISKY BUSINESS and then came FOOTLOOSE. If you’ve read this far in the post, I’m sure you’ll guess how these movies affected me, despite the social discouragement.

At fifteen, DIRTY DANCING set me on fire. Everything I’d been doing by myself could be done in pairs! By then I was circumspect about my gyrating ways, but oh, how I longed to Dirty Dance. Occasionally, at a party or school dance, I would lose a few inhibitions and boogie over to some poor boy. Maybe it was the whiff of Solid Gold in my style or just that teenage boys don’t dance, but they all ran screaming, or rather, slunk away.

University, and then a few years in theatre, provided better opportunities to dance, dirty and otherwise, and then there was “contact improv”—an acting warm-up that deserves its own post. Contact Improv, when combined with music, dance and perhaps some alcohol, was the ultimate fusion.

My husband loves to tell people he fell for me when I “jumped on him” during a rehearsal. He’s lucky the lights were on and “Let’s Go Crazy” or “You’re The One That I Want” weren’t playing or I might have done much worse. Fortunately for me, he turned out to be wild-man on the dance floor so overall, things have turned out well.

But still, I have never been invited to a Ball…

Until now.

I gyrate less these days and my striptease is long retired, but I’ve got some moves I’ve been saving and I think I’ve made some friends here who won’t be too embarrassed to dance with me…even if I do occasionally make a spectacle of myself.

23 thoughts on “Movies and Making a Spectacle by Deb Danielle

  1. Ah, but did you ever wear leg warmers, a skinny belt with that leotard and shiny skin colored tights while hyper-stamping your feet to “She’s a Maniac” on a gymnasium floor loaded with 100 college girls attempting mid 80’s aerobics? Did you, Deb Danielle, feel the burn????? LOL! Love this place. Congrats on being a Deb!

  2. Hyper-stamping! I don’t think I knew that’s what it was called. I was trying to describe it to my husband the other night and came very close to giving him a demo. It wouldn’t be the same without “She’s a Maniac” though.
    I missed out on the skinny belt and the 100 college girls but certainly used the gym floor. (I was living in a rather conservative part of the Midwest at the time so fellow enthusiasts were hard to find)
    Those shiny, skin-colored tights were something, werent’ they? I did feel the burn, Kim, I promise!

  3. This is hilarious, Danielle. I wanted to do those moves in public but only managed them in my head. I’m impressed with your moxie. Great post!

  4. I love this post. And your nerve. I always wanted to sing in a bar band–belt out those songs in a smoky atmosphere and dance with the mike. But, as a midwestern girl who can’t sing a lick, I stuck to belting it out in the car or in the shower. I always wanted to be able to dance. Dirty Dancing still makes me swoon–especially that last dance scene. No amount of derision from my husband can make me change the channel when I come upon it.
    Welcome to the ball. You lead, I’ll try to keep up.

  5. So you’re the one who will show up at the Debutante Ball in stripper-wear, eh? LOL–I’m happy to dance with you in your frenzied state, as long as you don’t mind that I have a propensity to lead!
    Enjoyed your virgin post, Danielle, you maniac, you!

  6. Danielle, I made up hyper-stamping. Clever writer I am, yes? I’m not knocking those tights, they did hold everything together well, didn’t they? Perhaps a comeback is due? Happy debuting! I came here for Deb Jen but I’m staying for all of you!

  7. Thanks all, for the nice comments!

    Gail and Judy–I’m glad to see you consider me to have “moxie” and “nerve.” I tend to recall it as being ridiculous and socially suicidal!

    Jenny–You never know, I might show up in something bizarre, but most people who didn’t know me as a child will be surprised by this post. These days, I appear almost normal on the surface… As to leading, go for it!

    Jess–thanks and don’t be silly!

    Kim–Very clever! Those tights almost never ran, either. I’m happy you like us.

    Maureen–Uh oh, I knew I should have kept my mouth shut!

  8. This post had me laughing out loud and was a great shimmy down memory lane. There’s nothing better, especially today than dancing like no one’s watching!

  9. As one who made several of the same poor fashion choices, oops I mean alternative fashion, I want to hear what you did to your hair. Hair made the outfit you know.

  10. Congrats on making it to the Ball Danielle! And from the looks of things on the site, it’s been a very smooth first dance for you(sharing personal tech worries with your bhusband notwithstanding, tee hee…). Judy, you can realize your old dream right here in Toronto. Picture it: come to Toronto, see “Dirty Dancing: the Musical” (sounds like you will probably have to bribe your husband to come along to the show), then go to Koreatown, get a karaoke booth, and have “the time of your life”.

  11. Thanks Lisa and Michael.

    It’s true, Toronto does have a few Dirty Dancing options these days–on stage or make-your-own stage!

    Eileen, my hair started out long–down to my butt in braids and then progressed to feathered, permed, curled in ringlets, etc. In other words, BIG. Oh, and there was grade seven when I had the lopsided bob, with a perm, of course. And did I mention the years of blue eyeshadow?

    Glad to know I wasn’t alone…

  12. Great post, Danielle. I’d love a birds eyes view on your hyper-stamping this weekend, too. After a few Margaritas maybe? Always knew you were a wild thing, and this confirms it. I’ve been known to do a few interpretive dance numbers myself, but nothing too jazz oriented–more Sound of Music I think, which will out me as a sapid romantic. I look forward to reading your future posts.

  13. What kind of soul-killing grade school were you GOING to, prior to the transfer??? Who doesn’t appreciate (and want to be) Solid Gold dancers? Who?! And I thought everyone knew all the words to Barry Manilow’s Greatest Hits, Vols. I & II when they were 10…No? It is difficult to be misunderstood. I’m glad you perservered.

  14. Well, Danielle, as the number and content of these comments prove — whether you’re Dirty Dancing or waltzing around at the Ball — you continue to draw an appreciative crowd. What a wonderful and visual first dance, can’t wait for the encores.

  15. Oh, Danielle, I like Maureen’s idea – I expect a full demonstration and will even get out the video camera. We’ll make you dance for your dinner!

    Really – great post, taking me far back down memory lane (and who didn’t love Footloose?). Congrats – things are ramping up for you!!!

  16. Maia–I’ll hyper-stamp if you do your Sound of Music interpretive dance. (And here we thought we were just a writing group!) It may take some coaxing though…

    Gretta–LOL! I love your comments. It was a very preppy school. Honestly, everyone considered “cool” was in Levis and an Izod shirt and it just didn’t work to be so over-the-top girly. All the girls were tomboys. I think I started out as “different” and then got progressively desperate, which, of course, is never attractive.

  17. Okay, so we’ve got the video covered this weekend–I’ll bring the still camera! Great debut post, Danielle!
    Bev

  18. Ha! Great, visual post, Danielle! 😀 I continue to do interpretive dance at home. Sometimes the only appropriate response to the publishing industry is an interpretive dance. I usually end it being curled up in the fetal position on the floor.

  19. Larramie–somehow I missed seeing your post earlier. Thanks so much for coming and for enjoying the post. I look forward to lots more chatting, dancing and posting.

    Kristy–if you were me, you’d move from that fetal position into a painful attempt at “the worm”. (Yes, I did try breakdancing too–not so good at that) Thanks for coming!

    Bev–I’m in so much trouble. I’m not sure I mentioned that I rarely bring out my dance moves on weekends….

  20. Hey Danielle!!
    Congratulations!!!
    I have known and loved Danielle for many many years and have been lucky to be part of, and watch Danielle’s many talents blossom. She is fabulously skilled and inspiring and I am so thrilled for her that more and more people are now getting the chance to be a part of her craft.

    I’ve seen Danielle bust a move…..and Paula Abdul should step down and out of the way. Dani has not only moxie but plenty of CHUTZPAH!!

    Enjoy!!! I am so proud of you!!

    Sid

  21. Hi Sid! (Picture me waving)

    You are a big sweetie. And I do recall our busting a few moves over the years, particularly on the rooftops of Montreal.

    Dani

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