Monday, August 29, 2011

Les Miz vs. The Chicken Dance

I’ve been to some amazing theatrical performances in my life, productions such as “Les Miserables,” “Phantom of the Opera,” “Rent,” even “Urinetown.” But I’ve never had as much fun as I did the other day, watching a live performance of the “Chicken Dance,” presented by a group of preschool kids at the School of Imagination in Dublin.

It was hilarious.

The annual event began with a clever retelling of “Going on a Bear Hunt.” Imagine, if you will, a dozen kids between the ages of two and three, all wearing paper bear ears and standing on the stage in a large auditorium—in front of a huge and enthusiastic crowd. As the small performers looked out over the audience—a room full of grinning faces, waving maniacs, and amateur paparazzi—they seemed to suddenly realize the enormity of it all.

Talk about your bear-in-the-headlights…

As soon as the teachers began leading the song, a couple of the performers got into their roles, mimicking the gestures and chanting the story about, well, going on a bear hunt. “American’s Got Talent” here they come.

But the rest of the pint-sized singer/dancer/actors were the ones who captured our attention and our hearts. Like the little girl who stared out at the audience, frozen in a hypnotic daze. Like the one who lifted her skirt in time to the beat of the music. Like the one who cried “I want to get off of here!” to his mother across the room. Like the one who constantly waved to his grandpa throughout the performance. Like the one who threw her tambourine...

Those were the kids we audience members identified with, the ones who took us back to our childhoods when we were coerced into taking the stage. Back then, it was all we could do to keep from wetting our pants, let alone remember the lyrics, hand gestures, and dance steps—or even where we were supposed to line up. Thank goodness those days are over and we can now inflict them on our kids and grandkids.
Like my grandson Luke, who made his debut appearance in a rousing rendition of “YMCA.”

Cameras ready, we watched, holding our breath, as the three-and-four year olds took the stage. All but Luke, that is, who required a personalized “escort.” While the rest of the kids did their interpretations of the classic Village People song—a song I’d seen my grandson perform many times before—Luke was had to be “assisted” by one of the teachers who moved his frozen limbs like a marionette.

Still, we cheered him on as if he had the lead role in “Les Miz,” until he bolted from the stage as if it were on fire.

Hey, I remember the feeling. Not even a well-practiced “Chicken Dance” could get me onto the stage today. But the kids from the School of Imagination were a hit. And after it was over, there wasn’t a dry eye—or pair of wets pants—in the room.

A note about The School of Imagination: This Dublin-based preschool, educating over a hundred typical learning kids and a-typical learning kids for the past five years, is finally moving to their permanent 13,000 square foot facility in the fall. For more information, go to www.soi4kids.org.

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