Longer Title: How I Found Myself Testifying in front of an Oregon State Senate Committee for Oregon Dance Week and Managed Not to Pee My Pants in Fear
Did you know this week (April 20th – 29th) is National Dance Week? This means it is also Oregon Dance Week, which is near and dear to my heart, but for something other than the dancing itself (shocking, I know).
Oregon Dance Week was proposed last year by Oregon State Senator Suzanne Bonamici (now the U.S. Representative for Oregon’s 1st congressional district, in D.C.). At the time, I was taking adult ballet classes at Oregon Ballet Theatre, and happened to strike up a conversation with the OBT Executive Director, Diane Syrcle, who was testifying with a group of dancers in front of the Legislature later that week. For some reason I felt compelled that night to send her an email, telling her how dance has impacted my life, and to wish the group luck.
I almost didn’t send the email after I’d finished writing it. It felt silly and a little embarrassing to gush about how dancing had impacted my life so deeply, but I couldn’t not send it. She wrote back the next day with lovely words of encouragement and thanks that I was willing to share my story. I was happy I had hit ‘send,’ thinking nothing else of it.
The following Saturday, I was with some friends at an opening night party for OBT and ran into Diane again. We chatted for a bit, then she asked me if I wanted to go down to Salem with her on Tuesday to testify in front of the Senate Committee to help pass the resolution to establish Oregon Dance Week. I’m pretty sure I just stared at her for a few minutes in shock. I am not a public speaker (at all!), and my mind was racing with everything that could possibly go horribly wrong — but how do you say no to that?
I reworked my original email into a 1 minute long testimony and prayed that I wouldn’t throw up as soon as I opened my mouth to speak.
And then it was over.
No, seriously. The drive down there with Diane took longer than the waiting to testify and testifying combined, but the whole process was exhilarating.
I met Senator Bonamici.
The three of us were called forward.
Senator Bonamici spoke.
The committee asked questions.
Diane and Suzanne answered while I sat silently praying they didn’t ask me anything, because I couldn’t remember my own name at that point.
They voted unanimously to pass the resolution.
Oh.My.Goshness: I just testified in front of a Senate Committee.
I just helped establish Oregon Dance Week.
I just blew every excuse I’ve ever had for not being able to do something out of the water.
It’s a year later and I still don’t truly believe it really happened, but I get a little kick every time I remember the experience and how proud I am of myself for taking a chance, espeically when faced with intense fear and the posibility of public embarassment (even if it was all in my head). It really is about mind over matter, and I’m so happy to have had the opportunity to be a small part of something that means so much to me.
There are free dance classes, exhibitions and open rehearsals happening all over the country this week (and in the coming weeks, for cities/states that have chosen to celebrate during a different week – I’m looking at you NYC!).
Let me know if you get a chance to participate! I would love to hear about your experiences with dance.