Thanks to all the people who responded to my article in The Boston Globe and shared their own stories of neophyte dancers with dreams of ballet and Broadway. One of the most inspiring was from Lill, whom I featured in my article, and her chorus line turn at a Big Ten football game 25 years ago in honor of Gene Kelly. Lill gave me permission to share her story:
“One summer, the University of Iowa had an article in the summer newspaper announcing open auditions – with a need for 100 “hoofers” to dance in a tribute to Gene Kelly at the half-time of a football game! Now this was Big 10 Football when the Big 10 really had 10 schools and the stadium seated 67,000 rabid fans! Gene Kelly was going to be at Iowa for a week as Artist in Residence in their Dance Department. I’d taken dance from age 4 to 17 and especially loved tap dancing! I can still do the “time steps”! So I didn’t tell anyone and went to the auditions. They slapped a number on my front and back – and there were hundreds of young folks auditioning – many many from Iowa’s dance department, sitting warming up by stretching in the splits, literally wrapping their legs around their head! Oh well — it would be fun. Similar to LGC we did learn a short routine — but we also, for example, had to do “tap flap turns” across the entire dance floor. I told the young girl in front of me to just reach out her arm at the end so I could grab it because I hadn’t “spotted” turns in years and years! To make a long story short, I got in! I was the oldest person there – and one of the few from the community rather than from the University – remember the prize so to speak was dancing at a Big 10 football game!
“We wore black tights, black ballet slippers and yellow rain slickers – had black and yellow striped umbrellas we actually used in the routine – and if you haven’t guessed it by now, our routine was to Singin’ in the Rain and at the end we actually formed an umbrella formation and Gene Kelly came out and danced with us! Fabulous to meet him! So when I saw the audition notice for LGC, it was my second chance to do something like this.”
I believe there is a performer in all of us. If you have any doubts, come to Le Grand Continental this Friday or Saturday night at 8:30 p.m. or Sunday at 3:00 p.m. in Copley Square. This is a free performance for our community from the folks at Celebrity Series.