Status: Alternate

April 16
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Part 1: Tinikling Is A Thing

Every February, the Florida State Fair comes to Tampa. The months leading up to the State Fair of 1987 held more anticipation than any preceding year, because it was the first year I had a chance of performing an ancient dance tradition that had nothing to do with me or my ancestors. The dance is called Tinikling and it originated in the Philippines. The performance requires two people tap and slide two bamboo poles (or in our case, PVC pipes) on blocks of wood, against each other. The dancers then step over and between the poles in a rhythm as the poles are moved. So it’s actually a lot more hopping around trying not to have you ankle cracked open by a bamboo/PVC pole than it is dancing…but these were not details I was concerned with in the fifth grade.

Fifth grade is the first and only year one is eligible to try out for the Tinikling Team. Along with starring in a highly anticipated school-wide assembly, the dance team of all white students performing the ceremonial Filipino dance tradition were permitted to miss a day of school to attend the state fair. These were the details I was concerned with in the fifth grade.

Tryouts were held on the PE courts, after school on a Thursday afternoon. At least 50 students from the fifth grade took a whirl at an audition. I felt hopeful after I hopped and jumped my way through my allotted time slot. All I could to do was try and get some sleep that night knowing the team list would be posted outside Coach’s office in the morning.

I begged my mom to take me to school early that morning. I ran down the hall leading to Coach’s office and eyed the list taped to the door. Clear as crystal, there it was: my name! Then, after closer inspection, the words “1st Alternate” scribbled next to it. I was the alternate? Devastation sunk its claws into my gut. I knew what I had to do: convince my PE coach that he had made a mistake. So I waited for him outside his office and when he arrived…What exactly has to happen in order for the alternate to get bumped up? Wouldn’t it make more since – just to be safe – to bring the alternate to the state fair on performance day just in case someone broke an ankle or came down with a cold at the very last minute? These things happen, right?

I wished an assload of bad juju on every member of the 1987 Lake Magdalene Tinikling Team. Because if you have ever, in your life, been an alternate you are well aware that the people on the team never get sick. Never, ever. They go on to the State Fair while you sit in math class multiplying with decimals and chocking back tears.

Bad Things I wished on 1987 Lake Magdalene Tinikling Team:

broken bones
tardy slips
chicken pox
being grounded for life

Part 2: Advanced Dance

Fast forward a few years to cheerleading camp. Days filled with spirit fingers, pom-poms, high kicks and the dark underbelly of the National Cheerleading Association: The Advanced Dance.

Throughout your week at camp you learn many short dances, cheers and chants but the pinnacle of routines is the advanced dance. The counselors tease you with a performance of it the first night. You see a time slot etched out for it in the weekly schedule. And your team has to choose its 3 best dancers to learn it at the end of the week. Why only 3 members of your squad? Well, as clearly stated, this dance is advanced. The counselors don’t have time to repeat the same set of 5,6,7,8’s over and over. Only the most proficient and fast-learning dancers can attend class. Then, it is up to those 3 representatives to teach their squad the dance at their own pace.

Our coaches were very judicious and allowed the team to vote for who they believed should represent the squad and learn the advanced dance. We voted on this at the beginning of the week. Of course, there was an alternate just in case one of the chosen pulled a hammy while doing a split. Any guesses who received the 4th most amount of votes?

I was becoming furious with my alternate status, but I was older and more dignified than my days of begging coaches to change their minds. I took the road of maturity and devised a brilliant plan to get what I wanted.

When it was time to learn the advanced dance, the chosen ones disappeared to a secret room where they could get down to seriously advanced moves. The masses stayed behind in the giant gymnasium to learn more chants and practice tumbling. My coaches would never notice if I slipped out at the last minute. Better to beg forgiveness than ask permission. Besides, once everyone saw how hot I looked dancing the Advanced Dance, they would be thanking me. Hundreds of cheerleaders were on the gymnasium floor when the counselors called for the “advanced dancers.” They funneled towards a door in the back of the gym and I started to slowly scoot in that direction. After the door closed behind the last of the advanced dancers everyone in the gym was milling about preparing to learn a new cheer.

I made a clean break and slipped out the door. I took off running at full speed down the back hallway until I found the room where the advance dance was being taught. I slipped in and started stretching out as if I had been there all along. It took about 3 minutes for my teammates to catch a glimpse of me in the back corner. The look on their faces was just as I had imagined – a mix of shock and offense masking what I can only imagine was a inkling of respect. I fired back with a smirk and a wave as if to say, “You bitches want to make me an alternate? I will go rogue.” I also wanted to yell, “No one puts Baby in a corner,” but I was literally in a corner and there was no where else for me to stand so I decided, no.

Bad Things I Wished On The Advanced Dancers:

teen pregnancy
failing their driver’s license test
contracting STDs
summer school
bad hair days
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