Wednesday, August 16, 2006

step up

Last night I went to my alma mater, Book Soup—where the bathroom is still smelly, but the children’s section is neater than it was under my domain—to hear a reading by Andrea Seigel, an author I like so much I’ve chosen not to hate her for being 26.

(Also, envying someone for being young just feels like a cliché, like something that would make Andrea roll her eyes. Also, I really hope someone hates me for being 29. But when I look at it from that standpoint, I know there’s not all that much that’s enviable about being a young writer because it means that you either A) probably don’t have a lot of life experience to draw from, or B) have a really fucked-up childhood to draw from.)

Anyway, I’m pretty sure Andrea’s not drawing on her fucked-up childhood, though she’s open about mining her youthful depression. The form this has taken most recently is To Feel Stuff, a novel about a chronically ill girl who lives in the Brown University infirmary. Apparently waffles and a ghosts are involved. I haven’t read the book yet, but I’m excited to based on the excerpt she read last night.

But before she got to that part, she danced.

She’d threatened to on her blog a long time ago because, she said, she thought readings were boring. My day job is basically to make book readings happen, so in theory I’m highly offended, but while a great reading is a priceless opportunity to build a community around the written word and all that…a lot of readings just drag.

So I was thrilled when Andrea turned on her Strawberry Shortcake boom box and busted out a fully choreographed, 57-second routine to music from Flashdance and a mix of current hip-hop favorites. While it’s too early to weigh in on the book, I can safely give an A- to the dance portion of the program.

Opening with hyper-sincere jazz steps (lots of longingly extended arms and at least one pirouette that hinted at an authentic dance background), she segued into a cornucopia of club-worthy moves, including a few hip and shoulder thingies that might have made her parents blush and some impressive arm work reminiscent of a Velvet Rope-era Janet Jackson.

As she signed my book, I asked if she’d taken dance classes, and she said no, but she’d been a cheerleader—a black-eyeliner-wearing goth cheerleader. I owned up to my own angsty-cheerleader past (it’s a whole high school type, I think, but one rarely portrayed in pop culture. Thora Birch’s character in American Beauty was a good start, though), and she wrote, “Cheerleaders unite!” in my book.

The “minus” part of my A- is really just room to grow—although I wouldn’t encourage Andrea to go too glitzy with it, because I’d hate for the routine to lose its no-frills, talent-show intimacy. Still, I’d love to see what she could do with a backup dancer or two. But hey, she’s only 26. There’s plenty of time for all that.


Schrodinger's Kitten said...

How come your reading didn't have a dance first? I feel gypped.

ER said...

Do I sense a dance-challenge coming on here?

Jamie said...

Cheryl, I'll dance at your next reading if you're too shy, but only if you get me some croakies to keep my eyeglasses from flying off my face:)

Cheryl said...

Jamie. Cheryl. Alanna. Shiny gold costumes. Coming to a multi-disciplinary art space near you this November.

Claire said...

The dance routine does mitigate the only 26 for me a bit. Sounds awesome and reminds me of some backup singers for a band I saw in Austin. They called themselves "Satan's cheerleaders" and wore black leather outfits with 666s across their chests. The 3 of them were a little bit rehearsed, but not so much as to make them ridiculous.

Cheryl said...

That's good, I would hate for Satan to have ridiculous cheerleaders.

This just in! Andrea put video of the routine on her blog:

Cheryl said...

Stupid formatting. That's, uh,