I remember being shocked and saddened after our dance instructor, Lise-Anne Talhami, announced that An Explosion of World Dance & Music 2017 would be the last annual show put on by the Ammena Dance Company and that the studio would close shortly after. I remember crying too, as did many of my fellow dancers who attended the same showcase night in late-March 2016. The showcase night consists of snacks, drinks, and Lise-Anne performing short snippets of dances she choreographs for the interest of the dancers who wanted to be in the 2017 show.
I chose a burlesque piece, as per usual. But I decided to do a second piece as well that was simply titled “Finale” and encompassed a number of dance styles that were performed throughout the years the show has run and showcased the diversity that Ammena has embraced and displayed with pride. Committing to two dances meant I had practice two nights a week, which was a pain for a homebody such as myself and a source of disappointment for my daughter who just wanted Mommy to stay home. But duty, and the stage, called.
Before I was so lovingly
dragged brought into the Ammena dance community by my friends Tanya and Lindsay (they know I love ’em), the last time I had performed in front of an audience was in the fall of 2000 when I participated in two one-act plays for a one-act festival in high school. How a shy, introverted person such as myself enjoys being up on stage I may never know. I had mad-crazy stage jitters for my first Ammena show in 2014, mostly because I had never danced in front of an audience before and I was wearing dance heels to boot. But it became one of those things where if you do it enough you don’t think about all the sets of eyes watching you or messing up the choreography here and there, and the costumes, heavy stage make-up, and even dancing in heels becomes fun.
Then there’s the people you meet and the friends you make: the ray of sunshine who exudes positivity and gives the best hugs, the powerhouse that doesn’t care about what others think of her and jokes about the different versions of her RBF, and the goofball who has a certain way with words and can easily cheer you up just by being her bubbly self. I had never been exposed to so many different personalities as I have with the few years I have been an Ammena dancer.
During the months leading up to the 2017 show, I had grown to dislike hearing the word “last” because it was always said in regards to the show: the last hair and make-up tutorial night, the Iast dress rehearsal, the last post-show get together, etc. I know its obvious my dislike was because of the sadness that came along with the word and the finality of it all, but it was almost like experiencing a slow, painful death. How can we make the word “last” more enjoyable, at least for my sake?
Emotions ran rampant at the Yates during rehearsals the week before the show. We were all happy to be together, we loved seeing the small improvements in our dances, but then someone would point out how we’d be doing something for the last time (there’s that damn word again) and everyone would start tearing up but would try to keep it together for the sake of their stage make-up. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with those who became emotional, but I don’t remember crying at all that entire week. I teared up here and there, but I think by that point I was too focused on avoiding having to redo my make-up (pain in the ass!) to allow myself to break down. Part of me is mad at myself for not full-out crying the whole time we were at the Yates, but I think back to that time in the studio when Lise-Anne made the announcement and I realize that I had already mourned the death of the show. I was more interested in making it the best show Ammena had ever put on, and my brain wouldn’t allow sadness to distract me from my purpose.
And I think it’s safe to say that it was our best show ever.
Dearest Lise-Anne. Thank you for creating the Ammena Dance Company and, in turn, the Ammena dance family. You have brought together an extraordinary community of kind, loving, and empowering women who I don’t think I would have ever crossed paths with otherwise. I needed Ammena, I just didn’t know it at the start. I have great stories to share with my daughter when she’s older and great friends to share my life with for years to come. You did so much more than teach us how to dance, and if you didn’t know that before, you do now.
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.