“Hey Miss Erin, when are you going to write about scary stuff and dance?”
I’ve never been a person that fits neatly inside a box. Growing up as a dancer I was the odd ball who wasn’t into princess fluff and fairies. As I grew older I had an affinity towards the dark and macabre with a dash of feathers and rhinestones for added flair. A couple years ago I was inspired by a maze at Knott’s Scary Farm and decided to take a risk with one of my competitive dance groups.
My husband, who finds a lot of music for me, suggested a piece from one of the Spiderman films. When I heard it, I imagined a deranged scientist in a doll factory. I began to introduce the students with some off the wall choreography. I told them to think of movement that would induce fear into the audience. Anything unsettling and awkward would do the trick. I was impressed that a group of young teenagers were able to grasp the mood that I was going for.
The choreography matched the music that ebbed and flowed through the diminuendos and crescendos.
The kids were really getting into it. As their first competition loomed in the near future and they tried on their costumes I felt as though something crucial was missing. I took a page from my own twisted mind and a few nights before competition, my husband and I stayed up until the wee hours of the morning painting masks. We stood back in our kitchen with a dozen or so masks laying on our counter and gazed upon them with smiles. It was creepy and it was perfect.
The students were fired up about the new addition to their costumes. It was a challenge for them to reach down and find their inner spookiness. For any of the doubters, it didn’t take long for them to realize that they conveyed the emotions that I wanted them to portray. Children in the lobby would shrug back from them. Parents would comment on how scary they were or how uncomfortable the masked dancing dolls made them feel.
Time and time again they would take the stage and judges at the competition would make comments on how creepy the piece was. It was an oddly successful competition season where I was able to make two worlds collide. It has been a few years and people are still talking about “that creepy doll dance.” Every time I see a porcelain doll with a distant, unsettling look in her eyes it doesn’t freak me out any more. It makes me smile.