Before joining the dance company that I’m in now, I had only danced with a university group and an outdoor musical production. So I always saw myself only as a performer. I didn’t teach. I didn’t determine the choreography. You just tell me where you want me to go, and I will do it magnificently. But now I’m having the opportunity to create my own choreography and to teach my fellow dancers how I want to perform a certain piece of music. It’s daunting but fun. And I’m finding it to be a lesson in the way I live my life.
On January 21, 2003, I took an online career test… a long online career test. It was free; in the end you get a report summarizing your strengths, weaknesses, and recommendations for the types of jobs that would be a good fit. After answering all the questions, I got my report. It had incomplete blanks. There was the catch: to get the report in whole (without blank lines), you had to pay hard-earned money to download a complete report. It was $20 to get the full report; $30 to include the top 10 career choices; right on up to $130 that includes other perks and bonuses.
I believe in encouragement.
Many, many years ago, I remember confessing to a close friend that I wanted to be a dancer. This friend of mine laughed. “Ha! A dancer? You’re fat, you have no rhythm, and you are dreaming. Choose something else, or you’ll fail miserably.”
In an effort to understand where I am going, I must continue to explore my past. So every so often I will ramble, rant, and rave about my upbringing. Some of these are normally topics of conversation I have with friends and family. But I document them here so that I might re-read them on those rainy days and sleepless nights.
My growing up in San Antonio, Texas, gave me access to a good public school education, in my humble opinion. I was in the Gifted and Talented program, I was in the National Honor Society, but somehow I lacked the knowledge of something that I hold dear to my heart today. It wasn’t until college that I realized how much I did not know about Mexican American people like me.
Growing up, I was addicted to Grease, the movie. It was an event for the family whenever it was on television. I would sing and dance throughout the living room to my parents’ amusement. I could barely speak English, but there I was singing along to the phonetic sounds of “Greez Lining!” The next pop culture phenomenon that would enchant my imagination: Michael Jackson’s Thriller. I always moved, danced, and sang to the music video like nobody was watching. So in my bilingual, American child mind, this meant I should be an actor.
Acting in high school
In high school, I was in two one-act play productions that we took to UIL competition. My sophomore year (I think?), I was the father (Mr. Hardcastle?) in She Stoops to Conquer. It was a period piece set in the turn of the century (I believe). We studied the costuming, the customs of the times, the accents, the language, the business of each character… all this before internet was available.
I won a Best Actor Award at the competition. This was “the” sign for me. I needed to pursue acting.
The next year, we performed a one-act version of A Shayna Meidel, a dramatic play about a Polish Jewish family whose lives are affected by the Holocaust. We didn’t do as much research on this one for some reason. My accent was off, and the themes and premise of this work was very dramatic and tense.
I won an Honorable Mention at the competition this year.
Acting class at the university
Actually, after high school, I started life at the university as a drama major. But being an actor required me to bare my soul in acting class. I didn’t feel ready at the time, so I switched majors. I went to film production; my bilingual, American mind figured that working BEHIND the camera would not be as “naked” as being IN FRONT of the camera.
I have neglected acting as a profession. However, it is something that I’m “looking into” again. In my ripe old age of 30+, I started taking acting classes while living in Florida. ‘To my heart’s content, my delighted acting coach/instructor, Pam Wiley, insisted that I NEEDED to get out there auditioning and acting. “It’s not common to see men on the acting stage,” she said. “Good men. And, Luis, you have that talent in you.” (Well, maybe that was just Florida.)
Another sign? Or a damned slap to the face!? Why don’t I just shut up and do it!? Shut up and act!
Image source: promotional photo with fellow acting ingenue Alicia Miller from Brackenridge High School’s La Retama yearbook.