I have always felt that being on the road with someone in a closed car or bus for any number of hours is the quickest and surest way to figure out how you really feel about them. A road trip is such a make or break moment for friendships. That same ‘love it or leave it’ attitude seems to apply while on tour– whether that be towards the fellow tourists, the work, or even touring itself.
After the weekend of the Dance New Horizons shows performed here in St. Louis, the four separate companies packed up our costumes and band aids and took the show out on the road. We visited universities and theatres across Missouri and Illinois, so luckily nothing was too far away, nothing that we couldn’t drive to ourselves.
Day one of the tour we all met in a giant corporate parking lot where the bus was to pick us up at nine. A bus holds several appeals in that none of us have to drive, deal with parking, or can sleep or plan lessons or whatever you want during those two hours of time. I got there pretty early, early enough that the bus wasn’t even there yet. However, we would all have had to wait another twelve hours for the bus to show up. Somewhere in the shuffle, the bus drivers thought they were supposed to pick us up at nine PM instead of AM. So new plans were quickly formatted while standing around of carpools to drive ourselves.
I enjoyed the drive because: I did not have to drive and I enjoyed getting to spend some time sitting and talking with Pam, Kristen, and Mariko. The fun really began when we had no idea where to park on a college campus (especially without parking passes) and no idea where the warm-up class was, other than it was in a different building than the theatre. We were walking around the Mizzou campus asking students where the theatre was and ran into some strange undergrads that asked us to help ‘Protest Protesting’– I don’t know if this was a joke or a psych experiment or they were just idiots. A weird moment for me came when my phone rang and Mr. Michael Uthoff, the Director of Dance St. Louis, was on the line giving out directions. His number is in my phone now- let’s hope I never anciently pocket dial him. After finally finding the location of warm-up, we all changed in a locker room and went in to a nice studio where students from the dance department were sitting to observe us. I’m not opposed at all to having an audience ever but it was kind of funny to have them so close, where I could hear exactly what they were saying about all of us as we attempted to get the kinks of sitting for two hours out.
The performance went off without a hitch after spacing and running the show in the afternoon. I should also mention that they actually fed us. You can always tell when you have body conscious athletes around by a plate of those dollar sandwiches. People needy of protein tend to steal the meat off the buns and leave a plate full of bread with a few sad lettuce leaves, and that’s exactly how the remains of our dinner looked.
The performance the next day was a short drive from St. Louis so we were supposed to drive ourselves, and figure out our own carpools. These kind of moments feel like elementary school and being picked or not picked for dodgeball teams. It was decided that Pam and I would go together, which I had admittedly a little trepidation about. I had not before that day, had a long one-on-one conversation with Pam and ha no idea how or if we’d get along.
After a few hours, a lot of getting lost, a lot of laughs and secrets shared, I can say with full confidence that Pam and I are now friends, not just friendly coworkers.
The theatre on day two was a really beautiful and interesting space- an old movie theatre in a quaint town. The stage was pretty small but the actual theatre was really beautiful and the backstage was nice. During the break after warm-up, spacing, and running our pieces, we went out exploring in the many antique shops. We also found a bookstore with a cat holding down the fort. (I WOULD find the place with cats and books wouldn’t I?) Another successful show down, we all drove home with Pam and I only wasting about an hour going the wrong way on highway 55.
Day three, another road trip with Pam and we only got mildly lost finding the theatre. After warm-up with Mr. Uthoff, trouble started spreading. Actually, it had started a few days before when a few people started feeling sick. Wednesday was the day it really started taking a toll on the dancers though, and stand-ins started stepping up to the plate, myself included. Although it was a new spot and tricky to fill in last second, it was pretty exhilarating. Not so for everyone, as some of my fellow dancers had injuries and illness- some that improved before the show and some that just got more dangerous. I will say that I was really impressed with how everyone handled themselves. I was happy that I wasn’t one of the people who unfortunately felt ill, but wished that I could have done a better job being there for the dancers that needed a filler.
I went home that night and just couldn’t sleep. I stayed up late reviewing everyone’s part from notes and video I had taken and even when I tried to fall asleep, I tossed and turned. Feeling absolutely miserable, I got on the bus- it got the time right on this occasion- and tried to sleep on the drive. I couldn’t. I was not the only one feeling terrible. When we got to the theatre for warm-up. an announcement was made of where class would be and where a good place was for the sick people to lay down. Everyone was joking about the black plague striking the tour but for those of us that were really sick, it wasn’t at all funny. There were doctors called, tears, fevers, and shivering. Pulling out strength nd beauty without complaint is the job of a dancer, but lets just say it has an ugly side.
That’s pretty much how the tour ended for me. Sick sick sick. I had a fever for the following five days, lost my voice (I’m still getting it back), and the worst headache that was only cured by rubbing ice all over my forehead and taking almost an entire bottle of ibprofen in the course of a week. There was one company that remained not only untouched by the spreading illness, but ridiculously chipper throughout the process. This was the group that brought everyone doughnuts on the bus, the ones that continued joking around in the dressing room while everyone else cried on the phone to their moms.The only thing I admire more than their unfettered joy is their immune systems.
Touring, I’ve discovered, is such a situation of extremes, and I felt the whole time, like I didn’t have a safety net. If you get sick, you’re far away from your home and doctor and other dancers that could fill it. You could be stuck in a car with someone you don’t like for hours on end and nothing to talk about. The thrill of these things when they go well is so delightful, the adventure, the discovery, the adrenaline. But all of these aspects just feel that much more inconvenient if you don’t feel up to the task.
In the end, I think I like touring. I’ll just take a lot of multi-vitamins before the next one, which is actually coming up this Friday. On the road is the worst place to be when you only want to be in bed, even with great friends and a great show along for the ride.