Practice! Practice! Practice!

“We are not leaving here until everyone is on point!” I said to my dance team. I’ve been the Captain of the Pan African Dance Team for two years now and I only want perfection. It’s my senior year and my last performance so we have to look more than amazing.

“Sam, you were off beat the whole time. Feel the music, don’t just do the moves. Melissa, why are your hands everywhere? I need you to get it together and extend those arms and legs as much as you can without looking sloppy. As for everyone else, where the heck is the energy? You guys look like dead fish out there! I want to be entertained. You guys are boring me.”

The room falls silent. I’ve been captain for two years now and I’ve gotten better with my word choices. I could have been nicer but they need to hear it. All eyes are darting at me. 19 set of eyes to be exact. I’m trying to keep my composure and be the authority figure my team needs. We need to get it together.

“The show is Saturday! Do you think we’re ready?” I turn towards one of the girls.

“Alex, you’re ahead of everyone with every step, slow it down. Jo, you’re messing up the formation by jumping too far up and taking big steps, calm it down. I need you all to feel the music while doing the moves. We’ve been working on this routine for over 2 months, there is no excuse!”

My hands are shaking with outrage. We’ve been working on this routine for so long and I see no progress. I look around the room and everyone’s head is down with disappointment. Whenever our shows get closer, practices start to get intense and I lose patience. Since I’m graduating this year, I have to make my mark. Our performance has to be flawless. I want hands to be in sync, footsteps to be precise, and movements to be exaggerated. I want my last performance to be the best dance performance UMD has ever seen.

“Do you ladies know what kind of reputation we have to uphold? We’re PAN AFRICAN! The longest standing dance team on campus. You guys aren’t acting like you want to keep it this way. Let’s get up and do it again.”

I walk over to the laptop and start the music. The girls rush to their places. Again we start. I watch closely to point out the weakest links. Step step step step turn twist left right right left one two three and four. The pep talk worked. The girls are dancing harder. Left right right left one two three and four. Yessss. They’re all doing great. I try not to crack a smile and show any signs of delight because I want them to keep going hard.

Whenever I compliment them they slack off but when I point out their flaws they work harder. I love it. Step step step step left right right left twist and turn up and down. Finally! This is what I’ve been waiting for. My eyes are locked on their bodies gliding around the room as the music guides them to not miss a beat. One and two and three and four and twist then turn then up and down. I can tell they want to get the moves right so they can leave. It has been a long practice. The music stops and the girls are covered with sweat and fall to the ground gasping for air. They all look at me for confirmation.

“That was okay,” I say trying to hide my excitement. They actually did amazing but I can’t let them know that.

The air gets tight. Melissa is the first one to break the silence.

“Kim, can you cut us some slack? We’ve been breaking our backs for hours and all you can say is that we did okay?”

Everyone’s head shifts from her to me.

“I want you girls to be amazing and I have yet to see it. Take a 5 minute break and then we will get back to work.”

Huffs and puffs echo around the room as another brave soul decides to speak up for the crowd.

“Yo Kim, I’m really getting sick and tired of you talking about how bad we’re doing. Why are you always putting us down?”

Damn it. Melissa got the girls started.

Alex stands up next to Sam and says, “Real talk! You never say anything nice to us and that’s not cool. We’re busting our asses right now and all you can say is we did ‘ok’. Come onnn, Kim. That’s not right.”

In uniscent the girls start getting up and agreeing with Melissa, Sam and Alex. This might turn out bad.

“You need to start appreciating us! You treat us like dogs.”

I can’t believe my girls are actually saying these things to me. Everyone starts agreeing with each other and turning against me. I need to grab hold of this situation.

“Girls! Girls! Come on! Can’t you see that I’m trying to push you! I only want the best from you and for you and if that means pointing out your every flaw then that’s what I will do. The door is open for anyone who doesn’t want to be a part of this team. We will be fine with or without you.”

I walk over to the door and push it open. Everyone’s mouths drop. My hand gestures the goodbye sign and Sam begins to walk towards me. Is she really going to walk out on us?

“Kim, if you’re saying we gotta work harder than that’s what we’ll do. We’re a family and families don’t quit on each other. Let’s go girls.”

She closes the door behind me then walks over to the laptop to start the music. All the girls walk over to their positions and start dancing. I love the dedication in my team.


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