monday memories / the sporting life: dancing for my supper

i'm sharing some of my sporting life with you in this monday memories series. last week's story was about playing on the men's lacrosse team in college ... 

so after college came grad school and career. not much time for sports. 

several years into my job at the long beach press-telegram, i went to australia to visit my cousin who was studying trees there, and planned a trip to the great barrier reef. i figured this is the one time i'm going to australia, i'm going diving there.

reserved a place at a fancy -- and i mean FANCY -- resort in the barrier reef called hayman island. hadn't been on vacation for many years. it was time to treat myself. but the week before i left, i realized this resort would be filled with honeymooners, not the best place to travel solo. there was another option close by, but i was equally hesitant for opposite reasons. club med. i figured it'd be filled with drunk 20-year-olds. hmmm. honeymooners or drunk 20-year-olds??? i opted for club med. and it was not at all what i expected.

this club med was a "family club," on a stunning island inside the barrier reef, with sports GALORE, and i could do them all! (i remember being so grateful to my parents for helping me learn to do any and all sports, even though neither of them were at all athletic.) and the partying was relatively tame. i kept pushing back my departure date, leaving me less and less time with my cousin. i was having a blast. so many sports! and one handsome man.

my last day there, i asked, "how can i work here?" ... they said they might be needing a tennis teacher ... and a few months later, i was teaching tennis at club med lindeman island.

and how did i swing that?! hah! 

first i needed to learn how to teach tennis! i had played a lot as a youngster, tennis camp at 14, all that. but hadn't played in years. i found renowned and hilarious teacher vic braden at his orange county tennis academy. christmas vacation tennis clinic for tennis pros. somehow i talked my way into the course. 

at work, my boss was on vacation. for a week, my colleagues helped me switch schedules so i could work the 7am shift and leave a little early to race down to tennis class. i learned how to teach well enough for teaching beginners. got a 6-month leave of absence from work. and WOOHOO! became the junior tennis instructor at club med!

i can hardly believe it myself. and have no photos to prove it (just this one doing my daily shift in the tennis & golf shack). but i loved it. i still wasn't a great player, so whenever i wanted to play tennis for fun, i played on the most remote court so the guests wouldn't see me playing ... didn't want them to lose their confidence in me!

but club med was about so much more than tennis. the staff or GOs (gentils organisateurs) not only act as hosts for the guests (gentils membres) during the day, but the GOs also perform in the elaborate shows at night. that's just part of the gig of working there. dancing for room and board and a teeny tiny stipend. 

whaaaaaaat? who me? dance? 

(remember, i was a total tomboy growing up and didn't do sissy stuff like dance.) 

yessirree bob. at club med, i danced. kinda caught the performing bug, you might say.

first week, they had me do an easy gig, not too far outside of my comfort zone. we 4 american staff members dressed up like red white and blue dorks, it must have been the 4th of july.

then a few months later, they had me doing a show. a show. a show? way outside my comfort zone. we rehearsed from 11-12 at night after the nightly entertainment was over and the guests had dispersed. i had to get up at 6am to be at the golf shack. those were short nights at club med.

i was fit enough to dance, but not very graceful. and scared! found it quite challenging to remember all the choreography. but also i found, like team sports, that when i relaxed and got into the flow with my fellow dancers, my body seemed to remember and i could feel my stagemates and move with them. THAT is what i love about team sports and dance, too. being completely in the moment and FEELING with all senses completely open and on, and flowing with the group, making something magical happen.

but i seriously needed more rehearsal. the first show, i forgot my gloves in one number. that's me in the back, facing the wrong way.

facing the wrong way again.

and was pretty much facing the wrong direction most of the time those first few shows. after my very first performance on stage, my boss noted,

hillary, don't forget to smile! you looked petrified up there!

over time, my confidence grew a bit. encouraged to enter the costume contest with a guest, i entered as marilyn monroe with guest dean martin. my partner was a fabulous dancer and spun me around. we won!

so then i volunteered with my roommate cynthia and another gal to do a lip sync to diana ross and the supremes. i was really getting into the performing thing now ...

at the very end of my stint at club med, the sports team had to perform a crazy skit before dinner in which all of us ended up in the pool. i squeezed into a tiny leotard, totally embarrassed by my outfit but that was THE OUTFIT for the role and the costume department wasn't going to change it ... and the show must go on!

back at home, i returned to being behind the camera. watching others. not the one being watched. where it is comfortable.

to be honest, i do miss the stage! and i miss dancing. who'd have thunk it?!


lessons learned: while i LOVE LOVE LOVE doing photography, i think it's also healthy for me to be in front of the camera. shining out. hey universe, how can i have both in my life?


ps - the handsome man didn't speak to me when i returned to the island. men! that's ok. there were other fish in the coral sea.

including this one, that i let get away. 

i really liked him. kind. nice mixture of humble and confident. handsome. we shared a champagne sunset on the 8th hole of the golf course one evening. 

when i got home from club med, he wanted to fly me up to vancouver to see him. 

i chickened out and didn't go. 

if anyone knows this man, who was living in vancouver bc in the 1990s, please contact me! or forward this to the one that got away.