#40 The Bully

Anytime you work with a large group of people there are bound to be a few you don’t get along with.  No big deal.  You just have to work with them – not live with them.  As long as each of you respects the other’s space and views – there shouldn’t be any problems – unless of course if that person is a bully – like Lorraine.  Lorraine was a vicious, nasty bully who took great pleasure in harassing other dancers in the company.  Lorraine’s favorite targets were women who weren’t as technically proficient as her AND who wouldn’t fight back.   Angela was Lorraine’s first victim and Lorraine only attacked Angela when they were on stage performing in front of an audience.  Every single performance, when Angela would be balancing on one leg, Lorraine (who was supposed to repeat the position behind Angela) would edge forward and knock Angela from behind – causing Angela to loose her balance and stumble forward.  Lorraine loved to make Angela look like a loser who had fallen out of a simple position.  From the wings – I would watch her do it.  Hit Angela and then smile out to the audience.  What a bitch.

You would have thought that Lorraine’s actions would have gotten her fired – but – Nooooo!  Lorraine was one of the director’s favorite dancers.  True – she was an exceptionally gifted dancer: great jumps, wonderful energy and beautiful lines.  Her talent may have protected her from management’s sanctions but it didn’t protect her from the few of us who knew how to fight back.  Angela had left the company.  Lorraine needed a new victim.  We were performing a three-scene work.  At the end of the second scene, Brian lifted Lorraine into their final pose.  The stage lights went out and as the rest of us moved into our third scene opening positions, we heard a loud thud.  The lights came up.  Brian was sitting in the center of the stage with a dazed look on his face.  Lorraine didn’t like the way he lifted her at the end of the second scene so she punched him out.  Where was Lorraine?  Standing nonchalantly in assigned pose behind me.  The next day we were back in rehearsal.  This time Brian and Lorraine were working on another duet.  At one point in the dance, Brian was supposed to grab Lorraine’s hips and do a quick lift/push move.  He did more.  Brian literally threw Lorraine.  She flew away from his body, hit the floor and continued to slide across the studio where she ended up slammed against the wall.  Brian took a moment, put his hands on his hips and slowly sauntered across the floor until he was standing over her.  “Let me tell you how it’s gonna be from here on in,” he drawled.  Lorraine never challenged him again.

Lorraine decided to go after me.  One of my favorite choreographers was working with the company and she created a duet for Lorraine and me.  Technically – we were pretty much on par with each other.  Off the subject for a moment – I have found that while it is your job to accurately perform the moves and timing that a choreographer gives you – when you admired the choreographer, you put a lot more effort into doing everything exactly right.  Somewhere in the middle of this duet, Lorraine and I were to pause for a two-count balance – before continuing on.  While Lorraine could balance – she didn’t have total control of the movement.  So let me explain real quickly what good control of balance means.  You can go into the balance on exactly the right count on the music and maintain it.  Most people can’t do this.  They either need a few extra seconds to set up the balance or they go into it on the right count but can’t hold the position.  I had great balance control.  I had absolutely no problem executing it on the correct timing, and absolutely no problem maintaining it.  Lorraine always needed to a few extra moments to set her balance up.  The problem was that once she established her balance, she didn’t like to come out of it.  She liked to stay in the balance as long as she possibly could – which meant we were late for the next section of the dance.  It also meant that I had to wait for her.  For a couple of weeks, I begged Lorraine to do the choreography as it was set.  She ignored me and did what she wanted.  I decided to teach her a lesson.

Just reminding you that I had great command of balance.  During the next performance, we both went into the balance (Lorraine of course later than me).  Lorraine came out of her balance – but I didn’t.  I stayed in my balance for another ten seconds.  Trust me – ten seconds is a long time in movement and choreography.  Lorraine had to wait for me.  Now here’s where my little lesson came into play.  I was a very smart dancer.  Dancing set choreography is like reciting the alphabet to a rhythm.  If you get lost, most people either pick up where they left off – or start over again – rhythm be damned.  The same thing happens with dancers.  But there were a few of us who had the ability to start exactly where the rhythm dictated.  I could start anywhere in the choreography.  I always knew exactly what step went with each specific count of music.  By the time I finally came out of my balance, we were late.  Physically – we were on count number three.  Musically – we should have been on count number thirty.  I came out of my balance, skipped movements four through thirty and went directly to movement number thirty-one – exactly where I was supposed to be on that music.  Lorraine couldn’t do this.  Our duet was destroyed.  I continued dancing the choreography by myself and Lorraine floundered around looking lost.  Now I knew that I was going to get in trouble for this – which I did.  By the time I came off the stage, the director and the rehearsal master were already waiting for me.  I got an earful from them.  It was worth it.  After they left, I turned to Lorraine and said “Lorraine honey, I’m from New York.  You f*** with me and I will make you look like an idiot every single night.”  Never had problems with her again.

Unfortunately – that was the only way to deal with Lorraine.  She pushed and you had to push back harder.  Once you bested her – she pretty much left you alone.  Her next target was Rebecca – using the same attack method that she had used with Angela – knocking her over on stage.  Although I wasn’t dancing for the company at that time, I was still aware of Lorraine’s antics because Rebecca and I were friends.  Like Angela, Rebecca didn’t have a mean bone in her body.  And like Angela, she just didn’t have it in her to fight back.  I decided to go watch one of their performances and see exactly what Lorraine was doing to Rebecca.  Then I came up with a plan of action.  Initially, Rebecca was against it.  Seriously – she was simply too nice to ever consider doing anything purposefully nasty.  I pushed her until she agreed to follow my plan.  Lorraine loved to jump – especially high travelling jumps.  She was proud of her jumps – and rightly so – they were her best asset.  In the dance where she was harassing Rebecca, there was a moment where Lorraine would run across the length of the stage and execute this magnificent jump.  While she was doing this – the other dancers were moving around the stage. The joy that Lorraine felt when she executed this high jump was pretty obvious to everyone in the audience.  Her face literally beamed.  Like I said – the woman liked to jump and she was good at them.  So – here’s how my little plan went down.  Lorraine started running across the stage and right as she was picking up speed to go into her jump – Rebecca stepped into her pathway – giving Lorraine only two split second choices; either slam into Rebecca OR pull out of the run and forgo the jump.  Lorraine quickly pulled out of the jump and shot Rebecca a dirty look.  After the performance, Rebecca went to Lorraine (as I had coached her) and told Lorraine that they were playing by new rules: every time that Lorraine pushed Rebecca, Rebecca would purposely mess up Lorraine’s performance.  Lorraine backed off.

With Rebecca off the menu, Lorraine went after the rehearsal mistress Delia.  Delia was such a sweet woman.  She worked like a dog to make sure that everyone had all the rehearsal time they needed and that everyone felt competent in what they were to perform.  Delia was also a non-confrontational kind of person.  She simply wanted everyone to get along.  By this point, Lorraine was getting out of control.  Because she was protected by the director, she didn’t feel that she needed to hide her antics anymore.  She was going to do exactly what she wanted to do.  I was watching one of Delia’s group rehearsals.  Group rehearsals are mind-numbingly tedious – even on the best of days.  Hours and hours of going over the movements and making sure that everyone in the room is doing the same music accents, the same body positions, the head positions, etc.  Delia’s rehearsal was going badly and it was because Lorraine had decided to not play with the rest of the group.  Everyone was moving on count one – and Lorraine was moving on count two.  Delia would stop the rehearsal and correct Lorraine’s timing.  The group would start again from the top and Lorraine would still be a count behind everyone else.  Now – here’s one of those moments I have always hated:  you can’t control ONE idiot dancer so for the sake of time, energy, peace and irritation, you make EVERYONE ELSE in the room adjust to the idiot.  Delia got nine other dancers to change their timing because Lorraine was being a jerk.  They started to run the piece from the top.  Everyone moved on count two.  Lorraine?  She was moving on count three.  Delia stopped the rehearsal and asked Lorraine what the problem was.  Lorraine put one hand on her hip, glared at Delia and said, “It doesn’t matter where you put the timing.  I’m not going to dance with them.”  Lorraine’s goal was to stand out from the group for the better or for the worse.  I left the rehearsal.  What can you say to someone that obnoxious?  Delia gave up.

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1 Response to #40 The Bully

  1. Lorraine sounds like a complete (fill in the appropriate word that comes to mind). Loved “But there were a few of us who had the ability to start exactly where the rhythm dictated.” Now that’s a skill, Debbie. I would have killed to has watched that scene unfold. Snicker.

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