Originally published on Tales Out of Bais Yaakov.
A few years ago, my sister was in her BY high school play. I sat in the audience and watched the girls having the time of their lives on stage, over-dramatic acting and all. During my sister’s dance, though, I was jolted almost right out of my seat by one of the moves.
It was nothing very exciting. The girls in the dance dropped down onto the floor for two seconds and rolled over, then popped back up and flowed into the next move. They were great, and it looked terrific.
But it sent me way back down memory lane.
In the play I was in, Listen With Your Heart, there was a scene about “The Doctor’s Plot,” when Stalin accused nine doctors, six Jewish, of plotting to kill him, and had them arrested. The dance following this emotional tale had half the girls dressed as KGB officers and half dressed as doctors.
At one point, the dance heads had choreographed the doctors dropping onto the floor with the KGB officers standing over them. The KGB officers would do some motions, and then step away, at which point the doctors would all roll over toward the edge of the stage.
Everything was going fine throughout practice and rehearsals. During the last week of dress rehearsals, one rebetzin came to the public school whose auditorium we had rented out, to watch the “run-through” and comment on any lack of tznius.
She commented on this move.
It’s a complete breach of tznius, she said, total pritzus, to have girls lying on the floor, kal v’chomer when you have other girls standing over them, and kal v’chomer even more when the girls roll on the floor! And even if it weren’t so untzniusdig, it’s definitely not dignified. (Because dressing up in our shiny gray choir costumes was definitely dignified…)
The dance heads listened, nodded shamefully, and let her finish.
But then a discussion ensued when the rebetzin left. How could they change this? It would affect the entire choreography, and there were only two days until the first performance on motza’ei Shabbos (three, but you couldn’t count Friday).
The girls in the dance were in an uproar and refused to change it. The heads were ready to change it, because you can’t outright disobey the rebetzin like that.
“But listen,” one of the dance girls reasoned, “Rebetzin Overseer always comes to the first performance. And everyone knows the first performance is basically like the last run-through, no one expects it to be perfect. So make up some stupid change, don’t stress too much over it, and we’ll do it in this first performance. Then she’s gone, and satisfied we’re not being pritzusdig, and we can go back to the way we practiced for the next four performances. And I mean, we could even leave it in for that performance. What’s she gonna do? Get up on stage and make us stop the performance?”
I don’t actually remember what they did. I do remember that the move was in the play, but I don’t know if they used that bit of subterfuge.
Perhaps they did speak to Rebetzin Overseer and convinced her that there was nothing pritzusdig about it. That might at least explain why it was okay for my sister’s dance ten years later to include that move.
There was one time where the logic of this subterfuge did work.
In the same play, the girls in songdance wanted to make use of the audience aisle.
They were originally supposed to exit the stage at the end of their songdance by forming two lines, each one exiting off to one side of the stage. The problem was that the right side led to the classrooms where the rest of the grade was hanging out, waiting for their turn on stage, but the left side led to a tiny room where the props were kept.
And the scene after the songdance lasted another ten minutes, so the girls who exited to that room would have to stay silent there for ten minutes. Not a fun prospect.
So they proposed to their heads that instead of exiting sidestage, the two lines would use the two sets of stairs leading off the front of the stage, walk up the aisles of the audience, and exit out the back doors of the auditorium. Those stairs were being used by the actresses throughout the play already anyway.
The directors of the play said no.
The heads of songdance relayed this message to their group, who weren’t very happy. They grumbled through the first two performances, but were fed up after the third night of having to wait before they could join their friends in shrieking when their performance was over.
So they decided on this plan of action: banking on the directors’ desire for the appearance of a smooth, perfect performance, they knew that they wouldn’t be stopped if they did something ridiculous (one actress had already taken advantage of this and shouted out a hello to her mother in the audience while she was supposed to be acting drunk).
So if they just marched off the stage, no one would stop them.
Sure, they’d get a yelling afterwards, but it was the last performance anyway.
They had to get the two girls who led the two lines to agree to this pact, and to resolve not to lose their nerve. And it worked! They all marched off, still singing as they were supposed to, and walked out the doors. Of course, they were so excited at their little rebellion that they shrieked as soon as they exited, and everyone in the audience heard it through the open doors…
They got a yelling.
But they also got that exhilarating feeling – that sweet, sweet feeling of adolescent rebellion!