When I dream about reincarnation, my chief fantasy is that I can dance, that I can move with grace and sensuality. In this lifetime, I'd love to be able to do a time step (step, shuffle, hop — or is it step, step, shuffle, hop? Or even step, shuffle, shuffle, hop?) Actually, I'd settle for not hurting anybody when I'm on the dance floor.
Seven or so years ago, Doree Marine Clark decided to stop dancing professionally and do a little instruction, just a class or two to keep her feet in. After the students had reached a level of proficiency, they held an informal recital at the home of a friend. The following year, the classes had grown large enough, with about 20 members, that the recital — still informal, still just for friends — had to be held in a rented gym.
Fast forward to the present. This year, the 125 members of the Don't Quit Your Day Job Dancers, having performed for the past three years to sold-out houses at the Cowell Theater, move to the Palace of Fine Arts for two performances (Jan. 26 and 27) of their new show, The Strange Face of Love. Curious about the troupe, I talked to Clark and learned that “no one in the company wanted to be a professional dancer. The dancers all have day jobs that range from lawyers and doctors to construction workers and corporate executives.” What they all share is a commitment to their craft. The dancers, aged 16 to 60, take classes from Clark in ballet, tap, jazz, ballroom, and belly.
What's the show about? “We're moving toward having a plot,” Clark says, “or at least to telling a story with characters, like ballet. Our new show has a final number that is 36 minutes long with all 125 dancers onstage. I can't tell you what it's about, really, only that the piece is both life-affirming and life-enhancing. [It's] a transforming experience, both for the dancers and the audience, that goes to a real sense of life energy.”
What's it like to put together a show of this size? Clark laughs and admits that “[i]n the beginning, I tried to do everything, but both the company and the show are bigger than one person.” Now, however, the members take on more duties. “It's amazing to watch people learn all the different skills that are needed to put on a show like this,” Clark enthuses. “Not just dancing, but costume design and stage management, building costumes and hanging lights. People work really hard. During the last month, we rehearse every weekday evening and all weekend long. It really is a labor of love.” Clark's final words are a powerful message for all of us, dancers and non-dancers alike: “The work is all about being faced with our limitations, and then going past those limits.” For tickets, call 331-8041; for information on classes, call 258-0558.
By Deborah Peifer