Imagine us way over on the left, cowering.
Image: Courtesy Photo

Working at a blog like Jezebel affords us many opportunities to embarrass ourselves in public. This time, we volunteered for the opportunity to learn how to dance with the New York City Rockettes and Ciara, a combination that doesn’t immediately make much sense but tickled our fancy. We would learn to do high kicks, or we would learn to do body rolls, or perhaps, we would learn to do both?

Below is our summary of the experience, which included bad snacks, a swag bag presented by Pandora (the jewelry company, not the online radio), and deeply personal confrontations of our past selves.


MEGAN: When Jezebel editor in chief Julianne Escobedo Shepherd asked me if I wanted to take a dance class with Ciara and the Rockettes, I gladly jumped at the opportunity, readjusting my planned day off to accommodate what I was sure would be an easy and fun couple of hours spent under the tutelage of Grammy-award nominated artist Ciara and the Rockettes. Maybe I’d learn how to kick with efficiency. Maybe Ciara would teach me the against-the-wall portion of the choreo from “Promise.” Maybe the Rockettes would teach me how to smile with all of my teeth.

FRIDA: When Julianne sent around that email about Ciara and the Rockettes, I was instantly intrigued but I saw that Megan had already offered to participate. I admired her tenacity but I was also jealous. I DM’d Megan to say that if she were to fall violently ill the day of—heavens forbid!—I could go in her place. I don’t remember Megan’s response to this, probably because it wasn’t “Okay, you can go,” or “You’re fired,” two things that would have stuck with me. But later that night, Megan forwarded me the press release and I thought maybe she had gotten sick and knew a week in advance that she could not go (I don’t know how that would have worked out), or that she forwarding it to me to taunt me. I replied to confirm. “You can come with me,” she said. And suddenly, I was over the moon.

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MEGAN: I’ve learned from experience that submitting myself to humiliation is usually best done in the presence of others, for solidarity, support, and also laughs.

When I arrived, a very friendly woman showed me to a room full of other journalists or people excited to meet Ciara and at least three Rockettes. While I waited for Frida to arrive, I busied myself by looking at everyone’s shoes and fashion athleisure: I counted three pairs of Yeezy’s and one red Fendi sweatsuit. The floor of the room we were in, which was clearly a rehearsal room of some sort, was a Marley floor! I tested it by doing a small jump near where the coats were and felt the pleasant spring I remembered from my years in the dance studio at El Cerrito High, being screamed at by my dance teacher for not properly squaring my shoulders in line with the rest of the girls. Reader, I was at home.

FRIDA: Megan failed to mention when she invited me to come with her to this dance class, taught by Ciara and several members of the Rockettes, that she has a background in dancing. A background! I am not sure how much of this I can reveal here, but let’s just say Megan did plays and musical theater and dance for at least four years, and I tried out for one musical with my friends in middle school and didn’t get the part. Or any part. I think it was Little Shop of Horrors, and when I arrived at Radio City Music Hall and told Megan this, she asked, “Not even one in the chorus?” She laughed. I laughed. I began to suspect I had no idea what was in store.

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The holding room, as it were, where Megan and I waited with about 40 or so other members of the press, had a kind of nervous but excited energy to it. Several women had gotten blowouts. Everyone wore workout leggings in black or shades of dusty pink, off-white, or pearly green. For our refreshment, there was a snack table with what could technically be described as finger food, but would more accurately be described as reject recipe ideas from a Buzzfeed Tasty video meeting. There were bites of French toast served with tiny syringes of maple syrup, some toaster strudel type things, very very small “bagels” with some kind of cream cheese filling, and “donuts” with electric pink and green frosting that sat on straws poking out of little glasses of… chocolate milk? I felt confused and wondered what the appeal of this food was supposed to be. They seemed too small to Instagram, even. As I pondered this, a very fit woman grabbed the last two “bagel” “bites” and said, to no one in particular, “Don’t worry, these aren’t both for me.”

It took me a while to figure out these were donuts.
Photo: Frida Garza

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MEGAN: I had some of the food, and the best way to describe it was “fine.” I did appreciate the watermelon. Nice to have some fruit.

After roughly a half hour of milling about, we were herded into a line to await our fate. After a rousing conversation about sororities and college, we were finally allowed into the room where we would become not bloggers, but dancers. Ciara was in the room, flanked by Rockettes wearing their special Christmas character shoes, bedazzled on the heel. I will always delight in the presence of a character shoe and felt the competitive spirit stir within.

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FRIDA: Waiting in line did remind me of waiting in line at sorority rush, as I knew that just beyond that door was Ciara and members of the Rockettes, who I wanted to impress and like me, even if I wasn’t really interested in joining their ranks. At the end of the day, I would go home knowing I’m never going to be a Rockette, and I woke up this morning, knowing I’m never going to be a Rockette, either. But in those few anxious minutes, before we entered the dance studio, the possibility of something lingered. If nothing else, this was certainly the closest I would ever come to being a Rockette, and I felt determined, on some level, to prove that I could. Little did I know, this would be my downfall.


THE DANCING

FRIDA: The choreo was indeed pretty easy, and the Rockettes tasked with instructing us were so gracious and seemed genuinely interested in our success, which was really nice. Megan is correct when she says the first eight counts were literally just posing in place—I thought to myself, hey, I can do this! The next eight counts were just some easy footwork and fancy walking—excuse me, strutting—and I could do that too.

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But things took a turn shortly after: With each new step, I realized I was forgetting the steps we had just learned, which freaked me out. I tried to play it cool, which of course, led to more panicking and forgetting more steps. Once or twice, I turned to Megan for help (she didn’t know that, unless she could see the fear on my face, which she did not let on if she did), and before I could ask anything, she would say “Yep, got it, easy!” with such conviction I began to wonder what I was doing here. Oh yeah, I thought, as a memory of auditioning for Little Shop washed over me. We’ve been here before.

In the end, I overcame my anxiety and I think I mastered roughly 90 percent of the dance and survived having to do it all—which included a mix of regular kicks and high kicks—to music, in line, linked up with Megan and the other women there. We did it more than once! We did it several times. It wasn’t as painful as I thought it was going to be—in the end, I had fun! But as I have discussed with Megan before and would discuss with her in the cab back to the office, I know I’m a sore loser, and I had to tell myself I didn’t care about whether I got the dancing right because if I indeed could not get it, then I would have been mad and might have been a big jerk for the rest of the class.

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MEGAN: The Rockettes that were present for this exercise were so kind and in extremely good shape; I know Ciara was there and that she is famous, but I was more inspired by the Rockettes, especially after I figured out that the two eight-counts of choreography we’d be learning were really just moments of posing interrupted by kicking. While Frida is generous in her assessment that I have a dancing “background” (likely due to the fact that I said I did, maybe), I am at best, a dance enthusiast who wishes she was better at actual dancing than she is. Regardless, I was going to try my hardest, in an attempt to impress myself and perhaps one of the Rockettes.

The choreography really was very easy: eight counts of standing in place, four counts with a hand flung upward to the heavens, and then a few strut kicks, a ball change here and there, and then three very robust high kicks—the big finale, the grand enchilada, etc. Learning the choreo was fun, especially because I disappeared into a very specific state of mind that I have not really been in since high school: wanting to impress a dance teacher with my skill and ability and natural talent and ease. Yes, I can pop my hip and bevel, throwing my arm in the air with the bared-tooth grin of a chorus member with one speaking line in a high school production of Anything Goes. Please, Rockettes, notice me, and how I am really nailing these sassy walks to the front of the dance floor! I was truly feeling myself, so much so that near the end of our final kickline, I really went for it on the right side and let loose with a kick so vigorous that I immediately strained my hamstring, aggravating an old injury from the time I slid into a jazz split without properly warming up during a dance concert my senior year of high school and had to run off the stage in pain.

Noticing my distress, Frida asked if I was okay. I’m pretty sure I wasn’t, but I said yes.

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CIARA (THIS BEAT IS)

FRIDA: Ciara was very tall and very beautiful when we walked into the room with the Rockettes, they were all dressed in black (except for the Rockette’s sparkly heeled character shoes, very Christmas-y) and strutting in a line for a video for Instagram, I heard someone say. She did that softball line thing Megan was describing, and then she disappeared while the Rockettes did their thing. Like, legit, I forgot she was a part of our dance class until she came back out at the end, after the Rockettes had to say goodbye because they had to go to rehearsal, to teach us some of the choreo to “Dose.”

Ciara was so lovely and so wonderful, but also very ill-equipped to teach us, mere plebeians, how to dance like her. Her methods of teaching were mostly just showing us the dance moves, some of which were easy and some left people asking “Wait so, what are my legs supposed to be doing… ?” Still, we both did our best, and at the very end, she said she had an even simpler version she could teach us, and we all said yes. It was super easy and everyone got it and felt good about themselves. Then there was a freestyle dance part, and everyone took selfies with Ciara as she sang along to “Dose.” It was cute.

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Then at the very end, she gave a speech about being yourself and also challenging yourself and said we had done both today, and also reminded us that the event was sponsored by Pandora. There was no way we were going to forget, though, as at the end we were handed swag bags from Pandora that included a stuffed animal, a Christmas ornament, light-up reindeer ears, and The Rockettes’ clip-on earrings.

MEGAN: Ciara looked great, which I noticed as she walked down the line greeting all of us, sort of like when you lose a softball game and you have to go down the line with the opposing team, slapping gloves and saying “Goodgamegoodgamegoodgame” before being driven to a fast food restaurant of your choice and eating french fries in silence. Ciara is wonderful and she’s an excellent dancer. I am sad that I couldn’t hear a single word that she said the entire time of her teaching portion—partially because she has a very soft voice and partially because the pain in my right leg was preventing me from, again, really going full out with the choreography.

Still, I gamely tried to do what she asked, and I am sorry to say, it was not my best work.

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FINAL THOUGHTS

FRIDA: In the end, I thought Ciara was going to have a bigger role in the dance class (I guess in my mind, we were going to be dancing in front of a mirror to “Body Party” for 45 minutes and then learning to do high kicks with the Rockettes), but I walked away feeling really happy with the turnout. Dancing, it turns out, is not as scary as I thought, although my own competitive streak still is. I haven’t yet figured out how to turn that shit off and enjoy things like this and have fun, but Megan reminded me that life is long and one day, it will come. That was nice to hear. I still feel very bad about her hamstring, which I hope is feeling better today.

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MEGAN: Almost a week after this blessed event, there is a large purple bruise on the back of my right thigh—a physical reminder of my hubris in thinking that I could kick my knee to my eyes without stretching at the rickety age of 36.