Here I am in 1969 in what I believe is my Waltz of The Flowers ballerina gear. What else is there at that age but The Nutcracker? You're a Snowflake or a Flower. It's a step up from hollering "Oh You Beautiful Doll", gloved hands bent at elbows doing 'shuffle step' with 36 girls, one of which is crying her head off and it's a year away from "Hey Big Spender" in a cheap little fringe-y number. Fosse's dead-eyed, bump and grind prostitute is inappropriate for a class where any of the girls are starting to get breasts but it's really "in" and the school just HAS to do it so...the 7 year olds get the number and it will be cutesy and everyone will laugh and "awww!".... and there won't be any dead-eyes or Fosse hands or zero to 60 grinding when the horns kick in...except for one little girl in the middle doing a dead-on Chita Rivera with a straight face. That would be me.
My mother needed me to stand out and be better than everyone else to validate her. I needed to validate her to feel validated myself. Whatever she liked, I liked. She liked Chita Rivera in "Sweet Charity" and I don't remember planning on doing an imitation of her but I did it....and I was a hit, a real riot. I wasn't trying to be funny. I was trying to make that woman love me. Of course, it didn't work but everyone liked me for a day! My mother never liked The Nutcracker. There is no way to stand out in that ballet, even as Clara you're still boring. But musical comedy...now there you stand out and that was my mother's idea of dance so she pushed me out of ballet and into Anthony Newley and Liza Minnelli solo numbers in dancing school until someone in a higher social class told her my talent was being squandered and I should be studying pointe.
My father always thought Martha Graham or anything choreographed to Stravinsky was real dance (he never saw Fokine's finale to The Firebird...oy) but he was more involved with his own art and where was I going to go to find a Martha Graham workshop? But those things wouldn't realize any of my mother's dreams - not the way pulling my hair back tight enough to possibly kill me but also make me look Asian and therefore land an audition for "Siamese Girl #14" in 'The King and I' direct from Broadway for four weeks only!!! would. No, Martha Graham could go to hell, my hair was gonna get pulled out at the roots for the love of Siam. I didn't get the part. I always choked. I was too young! And I think I wanted to blow it because it was her dream. I wanted her to love me, but I would rather set her dreams on fire in a room full of professional dancers and try to win her some other way because I knew I wasn't getting it no matter what. I think I knew it even then. So now, after someone she perceived as better than herself said I should, I was, in addition to regular dancing school and the Fosse clinics she would drag me to when they passed through the city, going to do even more of her vicarious dirty work in weekly private pointe classes. And I loved it....
For too short of a time I studied privately with a former Bolshoi ballerina, an old woman with enormous tits who hit me with an actual tree switch and told me over and over it was too late for me because I was cursed like her with "Russian breasts". Why were we paying her then? I loved class and I liked her very much but she was always saying "very good!" then muttering "too bad about your bosoms". I started to get depressed. What kind of teacher was this? A miserable defector from the USSR, that's who but she was stunning and she was from The Bolshoi and she thought I was good. But she was still nuts and I was confused by her and everything else in my life. Yet I would actually practice and I practiced nothing. I was always able to bluff my way through things and did because I didn't like anything enough to do more than that. But I liked pointe so much that I would practice when I got home from class and the next day and probably every day. I loved my ballet shoes.
My parents split up and stopped taking me to classes. All of them. I still had music class because it was in school but I didn't want to play clarinet and I certainly didn't want to play The American Bandstand Theme. I would practice in the morning before school on the day of band rehearsals only because of pride...I was third clarinet last chair. In other words, I had one foot in wood shop, the other on a banana peel. American Bandstand? I liked my father's records for orchestra: Stravinsky, Bartok, Duke Ellington even but my school would never do anything like that. And I liked weird dance stuff I would see on PBS that no one was teaching locally. It was probably Pina Bausch for all I knew. But I couldn't do any of it anymore. I was only going on 14 and I didn't know who I was even going to live with forget try to go places that were 30 miles away from me and wouldn't even validate my mother. Musician fathers don't pay attention to their kids until all the damage is done and they feel like shit so that was an empty well. There was nothing I could do. Plus I was already a 36C...
I started playing in a rock band. It seemed like the right thing to do. You know, because of my boobs. I got kicked out of the high school band anyway. I didn't bother learning "Sleigh Ride" for the Christmas concert. Sleigh Ride. I don't even think Jesus would have bothered learning it. Jesus would have preferred wood shop anyway and I did in fact end up there where I made one thing: a footstool which came out like shit so I stole someone else's and passed it in as mine. I gave it to my mother for mother's day. I got kicked out of school about a month later.
My mother still has that thing. So last year I told her I didn't make it, that I stole it from another kid, that mine came out like crap and so on and she laughed and laughed...I really make that woman laugh. And as her laughing wound down, she said "Oh Fatova, what happened to you? You could have done so much with your life."