The Evidence in the Photo

I’ve been nostalgic for a former life lately. It’s mostly because New York City’s Department of Education is trying to kill my school. And when I get nostalgic, I look at photos and mementos.  So I thought I’d drag a few of you along to explain the photo below.

Teachers are Wild

I blame Solid Gold.

Before Solid Gold, the only evening television I was allowed to watch was The Lawrence Welk Show and The Wonderful World of Disney.  I loved them; I developed crushes on singers on Lawrence Welk and rejoiced in the Disney magic.  But by the time Solid Gold debuted in 1980, my budding adolescence (before they called it ‘Tweens) needed something a little less safe.  And seeing the Solid Gold Dancers shake their butts and do Jazz Hands was titillating, to say the least.  It was my introduction to blatant sexuality.   At ten, I was in 6th grade, and the popular girls with Lee Jeans were already talking about “boyfriends.” By that time, Alison Wolters had already told me “You need to start wearing a bra!” in front of all her friends. (I was, in fact, wearing a training bra when she said that. I just couldn’t get the words out.)  I was ripe for the world of skimpy, glittery clothes and gyrating hips.

As the Solid Gold Dancers writhed and shook behind the closing credits, my sister and I would jump up and imitate them, much to my mother’s horror.  I wore a towel on my head so I could have long hair like Darcel, the clear lead dancer.  I envied my sister’s flexibility, but my enthusiasm was definitely the greater.  I loved dancing like no one was watching. I felt powerful, graceful, free.

Then came Michael Jackson, Duran Duran, Donna Summer, Madonna, Adam Ant, Flashdance, Footloose, Fame.  Oh boy, if my parents’ basement walls could talk.  I took “interpretive dance” to a whole new level of awesomeness.  I was an amazing dancer.

In real life, though, I did the 7th grade shuffling hop during dances right up through Senior Class Night. Living in a small town, going to classes with the same 200 or so kids for all those years, was not conducive to feeling free.  It wasn’t until I went off to college six hours away (too long for weekend visits, not too long to get back for the holidays) that I let myself really dance in public.  I became the type of person who got to events just as they started so I would have room on the dance floor.  I preferred dancing alone, but I’d accept a partner if s/he let me lead.  God it felt good.

So what does this have to do with the photo at the top of the page?  Well, like I said, I blame Solid Gold.  Every year, at John Dewey High School in Brooklyn, the Dance Ensemble presents a wonderful show of varying acts of grace and agility.   And smack dab in the middle of the show is the teachers’ performance.  We always called it the Comic Relief – or The Double Band Dancers. The students went wild seeing their teachers up on the stage dancing to Vogue, Proud Mary, The Willie Bounce, All That JazzMen in Black, and Beat It. Most teachers demurred, but there were some, like me, who looked forward to the show every year.

And participating in the Dance Ensemble show accomplished a few things. It allowed classroom teachers a chance to take a stage without the chalk dust. It allowed students to see their teachers having a ball – and poking fun at themselves. And it brought the school community together in a true, tangible effort of joy.  If you need evidence of that, look again at the smile I’m sporting in the photo above as we rehearsed the fight scene for Beat It one year. Joy.


About That Unique* Weblog

Adjusting to car culture, dealing with leaving a career I loved, and spouting off along the way. #RESIST
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47 Responses to The Evidence in the Photo

  1. So where are the photos today of you as a teacher dancing?

  2. georgettegilmore says:

    Solid Gold! I too adored that show and still have scars on my knees from my attempt at doing the rolling on the floor dance moves the dancers did. I love this photo of you. It really shows pure joy an I’m sure your students at the time were filled with it too.

    • Beat It was pretty awesome. That’s a math teacher holding me up. She was all of 100 pounds. And she kids thought she kicked me in the head for the actual performance. Instant street cred.

  3. Oh my gosh, what memories you just brought back. My entire family would watch Dance Fever and Solid Gold on Saturday nights. My sister & I would dance….it was so much fun. I had a love-hate thing with Darcel.

  4. Mayor Gia says:

    Hehhe cute! I’ll admit though – I’ve never seen solid gold…

  5. raisingivy says:

    Love the photo, and what an enjoyable trip down memory lane. I’m from the Solid Gold era myself. . .

  6. LOVE IT! We had that tradition at my school too when I used to teach. I was happy though, that it started AFTER I left! Hahaha!

  7. Loved Solid Gold dancers! Thanks for bringin’ them back!

    I thoroughly enjoyed your stroll down memory lane. First time to your blog, but I’ll be back for sure.

    Andi-Roo /// @theworld4realz

  8. heidi says:

    Oh my gosh! This is the soundtrack, TV shows of my life. I loved Lawrence Welk and The Wonderful World of Disney. Duran Duran, Madonna, Flashdance…
    How awesome that you guys put that together for your students. I used to love it when the teachers poked fun at themselves and just had a blast together. Joy is right.:)
    Oh, and that pic is great!

  9. You are like so waaayyyy awesome, woman!

  10. Ado says:

    I watched solid gold! I remember this one dancer who wore well, a solid gold jump suit, and I was in awe. Looking back it was probably such a ridiculous outfit, but back then it was cool.

  11. Lottie Nevin says:

    Wow, that’s pretty impressive stuff! Bet the kids absolutely loved it.

  12. Confession: I used to dance to music, ballet style, when I was a kid. And now if I’m ever alone, I’ll jam to some tunes 😉

  13. Susan says:

    YOU. ROCK. dance is good for our souls – and i am a terrible, terrible dancer. bravo!

  14. I was never much of a dancer, always too self-conscious. Good for you for dancing out in the open!!

  15. What a great photo! I never watched Solid Gold or any other dance show and I always felt like I missed out. Dancing is great for the soul.

    Incidentally, I love Word Girl!! I can’t wait until my daughters are old enough to love it as much as I do so I can stop pretending I have it on for them. Had to throw that in.

  16. whisperingwriter says:

    Fun! I wish I could dance.

  17. I loved Solid Gold too and I felt the same way about finally feeling free to be myself in college. I love to dance too, though I think I channel Elaine Benice a little too much. You wrote your story so well, but your picture is the cherry on top—perfection. loved this, erin

  18. Kerstin says:

    I took “interpretive dance” to a whole new level of awesomeness. – I love that sentence!
    And I’m glad to know that we must be about the same age, I grew up with the same stuff! Love your trip down memory lane, good times, good times!

    • Everyone thinking I’m in my mid-twenties because of my youthful exuberance and clear, flawless skin. Once in a while, I try to let people know that the glory that is me is well into her 40’s. This was one of those times. 😉

  19. This is so fun. I’ve never seen the show (as I wasn’t born until 82), but I could almost see it through your description. Will definitely have to look it up on youtube. Also, I want to give you major props for being one of the teachers to participate in the show. It’s so cool when teachers let their hair down, so to speak, and show their students that they’re real people. Kudos!

  20. Lenore Diane says:

    I knew the picture referenced Beat It before I even started reading. Classic.
    I’ve never put Solid Gold and jazz hands together, but now that you mention it … too funny! I miss Solid Gold, though without the music from the 80s, it would not be the same.
    P.S. Adam Ant made me swoon. SWOON, KD. *sigh*

  21. a School where teacher perform for their students once a year sounds like a great school!
    I think I need to you tube Solid Gold, never heard of it..

  22. Katie says:

    Awesome. Can I be a kid again so you can be my teacher? Also, could you give me some dance lessons, cause GIRL, I’m BAD!!? And not in the good Michael Jackson way.

    • No lessons! And certainly not from me. And sorry to disappoint, but I was probably one of the strictest teachers at my school – which is part of what made it so much fun to freak the kids out. 😉

  23. Oh my! I so wanted to be Marilyn McCoo when I grew up!

  24. I adore this post. I loved Cissy and Bobby on the Lawrence Welk Show and would eagerly await their appearance every week on the show. I totally understand the Solid Gold sexual development thing. Remember the dancer with the extremely long nails? So exotic. I was in dance from the time I was three years old and studied it in college. Along the way I proudly proclaimed I wanted to be a Solid Gold Dancer. So many were just thrilled with my goal ;). Aside from bringing back memories of my development as a dancer and woman, this post rings of the joy that can be found in the universal languages of music and dance. It speaks to the gift teachers have to advocate for these vital forces in life and I am glad to know you are part of this invaluable experience.

  25. Stacey says:

    This cracks me up!! Oh, how I can relate!! My sister and I were very young when Solid Gold started, but we LOVED it. My number one career goal at age 7 was to be a Solid Gold dancer, and I’m pretty sure my little sister could say the same. We could “interpretative dance” with the best of them! And how awesome that your school does a show like this every year. I think I’m a little jealous! 🙂

    • It’s one of the things I miss about teaching at John Dewey High School. I remember when the Flyy Girls came out, I thought: “They are such a rip off on the Solid Gold Dancers!” Silly me.

  26. Rachel says:

    Man, am I loving this new “Yeah write” series. I would never have guessed. Never. You really are an enigma. Too dang cool of an enigma for your own good, I’d say. 🙂

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