40 before 40: the art of dance, circus and fibers

Now that I’ve introduced the idea behind my somewhat-backwards bucket list, I want to talk about my first three items. I’m counting these because they are all very recent and ongoing new activities, and like I said – I make the rules.

#1. Learn to tap dance.

I took tap dancing lessons when I was about 5, like almost every little girl in America. I have no idea how long I took it for – if I remember right, I decided pretty quickly that I liked ballet better. Regardless, I certainly didn’t retain any of the skills I acquired.

Back in 2010, I was walking into work with my friend and colleague Wendy, and we were bemoaning the fact that we didn’t have enough time in our days to audit classes at IC, which is one of the awesome benefits of working there. Wendy mentioned that she had looked at taking a tap dancing class, but the timing didn’t work for her. “That’s cool!” I said. “If you ever do decide to take it, let me know – that might be kind of fun.”

For the next four years, we never even mentioned tap dancing again.

On one of the first Fridays in January, I was sitting at my desk, feeling a little antsy. I get that way when I don’t have something new or interesting to look forward to. I was suddenly struck with inspiration and sent an instant message to Wendy. “Hey, did you ever look into tap dancing classes?”

“NO,” she responded almost immediately. “Let’s look now!”

We dug into IC’s course catalog and discovered that only advanced tap dancing was offered during the spring semester. “Bummer,” Wendy wrote. “Maybe next fall?”

I wasn’t ready to admit defeat, so I popped over to google and searched for tap dancing classes for adults in Ithaca. Within a few seconds, I was directed to a local arts nonprofit — where a beginning tap dancing class was starting the very next week.

“I FOUND US A CLASS!!!” I wrote to Wendy. Within 3 minutes — I’m not even slightly exaggerating here — we had both registered.

On a hunch, I sent an instant message to another friend and colleague of mine, Claudia. “Any interest in learning to tap dance?” I asked.

“Are you serious?” she replied.

“As a heart attack,” I wrote.

“I have always wanted to learn to tap dance! It’s been a goal of mine for forever!”

The pieces all fell into place so wonderfully and easily. Claudia did take a little more convincing — which was ironic since she was the only one of the three of us who actually had a previous and burning desire to tap dance. But by that evening, she too had registered, and we ordered shoes with rush delivery so they’d arrive before our first class.

We’ve had eight classes so far, and have two more to go. But all three of us like it so much that we’ve already signed up for a second session of classes this spring. We’re not very good, and we’re learning all our steps in super slow motion. But boy, is it fun! And hard! And a workout!

#2. Learn aerial silks.

Three years ago, on our way to Tahiti, Scott and I had a 24 hour layover in Los Angeles, and we decided to take a flying trapeze class.  You can see the highlights of that class below.


As you can see, Scott morphed into a circus monkey and was swinging upside down and practicing catches by the end of the class. All I could manage was to swing back and forth and not die.

While flying trapeze was really, really fun, and I’m glad I tried it — it was a bit… too much… for me to pursue on any sort of ongoing basis. Too much adrenaline, too much coordination, too much stress. While we were there, I did notice a few people playing around on aerial silks and it looked like an activity that was more my speed. I mentally stored the idea away.

A couple of weekends ago, I found myself in Boston for work. I had one day completely to myself, and searched online for something fun and unique to do. I discovered that one of the (giant) furniture stores outside the city was also home to a circus school. I joyfully signed myself up for a silks class.

I arrived for the 2-hour class and three things immediately became clear:

1) Every customer in the furniture store could watch the lessons, making this a very public event.

2) There were only three people in my class, allowing us a lot of time with the instructor.

3) My fellow classmates were two 9-year-old girls who, I swear, were made out of rubber bands.

Happy to report that I loved every second of my class, even though I was far less stretchy than the 9-year-olds. It was so much more fun than trapeze — and a killer workout to boot! I asked one of my new friends to take a photo of me doing an inversion — this was just one of about 20 “tricks” we learned.

1507920_10152111573724051_1657911101_nI am going to New York City for a 50-mile bike ride in a few weeks, and I’ve already signed up for another silks class while I’m there. I’m dragging along a friend as well — she’s also doing the bike ride with me. I’m thinking we might regret doing a circus class 12 hours before a 50-mile-bike ride, but hey – at least we’re in it together, right?

#3. Learn to felt.

Back in January, Claudia asked me if I’d take a felting class with her, and like the tap dancing, I agreed without really even knowing what I was getting myself into. Truth be told, I wasn’t really sure what felting even was.

Basically, you use little insanely sharp needles to shape raw wool into 3D objects. You can also “paint” by poking the wool through a piece of fabric.

We’ve taken three classes so far.  The downside is that our cat Charlie apparently has taste for wool, and has chewed on everything I’ve brought home. But luckily, I have photos to prove I did it.

During our first class, I made a white sheep and Claudia made a brown one.


During the second class, we “painted” birds. I made a puffin.


And during the third class, we made baby birds.  Claudia made a baby chicken in honor of the baby chickens she’s currently raising. I made a duckling, in honor of my brother and Liz’s new baby ducks.


See the resemblance?


Three new things down, 37 to go!


One response to this post.

  1. Posted by Nola on April 9, 2014 at 9:55 am

    I think you should take suggestions for bucket items from your fans/readers!


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