How Do You Solve A Problem like Jessica?

I teach an afterschool musical theatre class for k-3rd graders called ,‘Lullaby of Broadway’ in a beautiful cathedral. This class entails a mix of intro to various Showtunes, basic dance steps (hello chasse ball change), drawing  headshots, playing theatre games to introduce acting techniques, and weaving all of these skills into an original play for the kids to act out written by yours truly. (And yes, I did give myself a line to two in there)

I have a particularly precocious group of kiddos (except for a 5-year-old who rarely takes his thumb out of his mouth) which makes me look like a bad-@ss teacher. Emphasis on the bad-@ss , at least last week. Here’s why:

I maybe showed up to teach said kindergarteners and such in black motorcycle boots, black and white flowered skirt, glittering silver tights, one of my Dad’s old t-shirt tucked in, and a black leather jacket. (We weren’t dancing that day! And for once, I didn’t want to wear sweatpants. It’s a rare occurence, I know)

Yes I am sitting in a child’s chair and reading a Harry Potter sticker book.

I walked into this beautiful cathedral school where I’ve been teaching for a month, and a nun dressed in the typical nurse shoes, long skirt, habit thing, who I’ve never met, saw me, took two seconds to pop her eyes out of her head, pop them back in, and stop me. “What are you here for?!”

She sounded terrified! I was so tempted to say, ‘I’m recruiting for the Wiccan Fashionista Cult! Give me your children or I’m replacing all of your Bibles with Italian Vogue …the ones that DON’T mind nudity!”

You’d think the huge box of crayons would have made me less threatening. Basically what ensued was: she did not let me go my classroom( that I’ve been going to for a month, and set up the magical props, and write my ‘key words’ and other things I do before the kids arrive) until I had signed in at the office (which no other teachers do and none of the school staff that has greeted me upon my other arrivals have ever instructed me to do). Then mean gap-toothed nun yelled at my kids the instant they came in for hiding behind a stack of cubbies. “If you do that again I will send you to the dungeon gym and you’ll miss your class!” Ridiculous, they aren’t hurting themselves or touching a thing. They just like going back there when they first come in so they can jump out and yell ‘Surprise Miss Jessssss!‘ which I find charming. Then she told us to be quiet.

I made sure to emphasize ‘projection’ in the lesson plan. It’s an important part of singing anyways and they aren’t screaming. The halls are alive with the sound of music….and rebellion.

I’ll be very curious, if next time I show up in a dowdy outfit, if she’s friendlier. We shall see.

I feel just like Julie Andrews as Maria, the enthusiastic, rule-breaking spunky sister in ‘The Sound of Music’. Especially, since we’re singing Do Re Mi.

Except that for reasons beyond the headgear, I could never be a nun. So maybe I’m more like Julie Andrews as the practically-perfect-in-every-way Mary Poppins!

Except that showing up to teach at a conservative school in motorcycle boots is probably not practical, so maybe I’m Mary’s off-beat sister…Myrtle Poppins!

old sketchbook doodle- if it can’t rain men, send me a nanny on swift umbrella wings!

My favorite part of Mary Poppins now is the Chimney Sweep scene- those dancers are amazing! And the choreography is fantastic as well- done by the fabulous duo of Dee Dee Woods and Marc Breaux (who have choreographed numerous musicals, movies including the SOUnd of Music, and won the American Choreography Awards Career Achievement Award in LA). Here they are pictured from their interview by Rose Eichenbaum in my favorite book, ‘Masters of Movement’. Apparently, the director of Mary Poppins wanted to the Step in TIme number cut down to TWO minutes, but Walt Disney liked it, so in it stayed.

apparently, Rose went through 4 rolls of film and Marc was making Bunny Ears in every shot

Their whole interview is fascinating but my other favorite tidbit is from a memory of filming ‘The Sound of Music’ for the famous ‘The Hills are alive’ scene; Dee Dee says, ‘Yes Marc was in the bushes with a bullhorn and had to cue Julie when to turn. He had to scream, ‘TURN TURN TURN!’ at the top  of his lungs”.

Man oh man, do I love the idea of shouting at Julie Andrews with a  bull-horn. Or frankly, shouting at anyone with a bullhorn. I’m sorely tempted to get one to teach with but methinks someone in particular wouldn’t like that so much.

When I was a kid, my favorite scene was the dancing penguins and the horserace (everything that takes place in the make-believe drawing. Not the bank scene. Shocking Jess, preferring fantasy over money). I love love love the look of a merry-go-round, but there’s something about tethered fake horses that just makes me sad. Horses are, I think, an animal that should be free to roam.

I just want to free the horses! Or I’m really jealous of my Dad, rocking the short shorts with the beard look. me as a baby.with my Mom


I really enjoy teaching, especially when I have such a great group of students,  and the work day goes by like play. It’s the spoonful of sugar that makes the medicine go down, I guess. Maybe I’ll try to look more the part next time, so mean nun isn’t afraid it’s a shotful of vodka that makes the meds go down. That’s for the weekend. Go on children, Myrtle Poppins says it’s good for you.  🙂

8 thoughts on “How Do You Solve A Problem like Jessica?

  1. Oh I’ve always loved Step in Time too 🙂 On a Mary Poppins side note, a guy once asked me on a first date what Disney character I would describe myself as. I said, “Mary Poppins because I’m practically perfect in every way!” He didn’t laugh and said she didn’t count. I knew he didn’t have much chance after that…

  2. Your stream-of-consciousness style of writing has me in stitches, Jess. I adore the pic of you in your verystylishnomatterwhatsomenunsays outfit…reading Harry Potter, of course!

    The pic of you on the carousel with your mommy and daddy is precious. Not many men could pull off the 80’s style…hippie beard AND short shorts, but your dad did!

    Thanks for the smile today.

  3. Ali- the only reason why someone wouldn’t laugh is because it is dangerously close to the truth! My response would probably be more like: Dumbol, Bambi’s Mom, or medusa from the rescuers. Jo,thanks, I love that picture of the family. Its one of the few of me as a baby where I’m not asleep or covered in my own drool( much like pictures of me these days). Em- 🙂 back at cha

  4. Pingback: President Barack Obama presents Dancer/Choreographer Bill T. Jones with 2013 National Medal of Arts | BODIES NEVER LIE

  5. Pingback: A Dancer’s Perspective | BODIES NEVER LIE

  6. Pingback: Masterclass: Paul Taylor | BODIES NEVER LIE

  7. Pingback: The Oscar-Winning Female Choreographer: Onna White | BODIES NEVER LIE

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s