Monday, July 28, 2008

Dat's Da End? No!

They were my mini-fraternity brothers and sisters. They were my Divine Ya-ya Sisters and my League of Their Own team mates all rolled into one. And they still are. They are the first group of dancers that I had worked with on a cruise ship sixteen years ago.

They are part of my Forever Family.

Back in '92, our entire team of eight dancers were cruise ship virgins, all except for one of the male dancers. We were still naïve about many things, including how the corporate world worked. At the time, we didn't realize what a good thing we had with each other as coworkers. We took for granted the incredible chemistry we had together as employees, as friends, and as shipmates.

Three of us were American, including William from East Los Angeles and Dan from Chicago. The rest were from various parts of the U.K., including Jill from Scotland. It took me almost a whole month before I could understand what she was saying without asking her to repeat things two or three times.

Jill became one of my dearest friends during our contract, as my dance partner on stage, and also as the perfect partner for slow dancing in the ship's disco. She knew I was gay, but she was the perfect height for me. Our bodies were like two puzzle pieces that fit naturally and comfortably together.

Slowly and steadily, we all bonded through dance rehearsals in Los Angeles, and during our first days of training on board, in Alaskan waters. We were placed on an old and very small ship. Space was limited, so we were hired to do double duty as cruise staff, supervising activities for the passengers during the day and dancing in the stage shows at night. We were together almost 24/7 and we genuinely enjoyed each other's company.

The corporate office had asked us to extend into the second six-month contract without a break. We had already said yes to them once, extending an additional six weeks in the first contract. We were a strong team. We were happy to comply with the first request, even if it was during the Christmas and New Year's holidays, but not a second time. We were ready for a break, ready to go home, and we stood united as a team.

It wasn't until after we had parted that we realized what a strong, likable team we had. I think most of us assumed that the camaraderie would be just as organic with any other team or cast we worked with after disembarking from the ship. I think most of us eventually regretted not extending into the second contract like we had been asked to. I know I did.

We managed to stay in touch, even if only inconsistently. Thanks to email and facebook we have all been able to reconnect recently, once again. A reunion is being planned for next year, in England. This has colored my days recently, not only through the fun of reconnecting, but also with the joy of anticipation. The happiest part is every one's unabashed enthusiasm for getting together again to share old memories. We're all of us too old to dance anymore, but we are excited about sharing stories and old photos together, and laughing over it all.

Jill is running her own dancing school in Scotland and has three children. All four women have children, and they are all still dancer thin. The four of us boys have put on weight, however, and we've all expressed our desire to slim down before seeing each other again next year.

I guess it wouldn't be a reunion without at least some pressure to lose a few pounds.

Someday, I am hoping to write a novel based on my cruise ship days. Even after only one contract, it was easy to see where the ideas came from for a television show like "The Love Boat."


Cheryl said...

I feel nostalgic just reading this! I've never danced on a cruise ship, but I was a summer camp counselor, which involved similar confinement and bonding, just without talent per se.

golfwidow said...

I've never danced on a cruise ship either, but back in my "hospitality" days, I used to cover ticketing and hostessing for my friends when they needed time off. I don't miss it as much as you do. When you're not entertainment, you end up on puke detail a lot.

the Constantly Dramatic One said...

Wow 3 kids and still dancer thin? I dont know who this woman is but I dont like her all that much.....


Peter Varvel said...

C, did you even go to USA camp as a cheerleader? I would've envied you.

GW, working for Disney had prepared me well for the hospitality and hosting skills needed for the cruise staff part of the job. And on a rocking ship, I saw my fair share of puke.

TCDO, yeah, I'm still not sure if she's a Good Witch or a Bad Witch?

Cheryl said...

I did go to USA camp when I was on drill team. We learned a routine to the camp's theme song that year, "Dare to Dream." There were spirit sticks and everything.