Bailey Steffen in one of her final dips as a member of the Utah Ballroom Dance Company

Although we never discussed the options, I’m sure there was an alternative to the jump that would have worked seamlessly. I also knew it was a chance to have a huge moment early to get the crowd into. With the encouragement of Bailey and Gary, I took a deep breath and cleared her light brown wavy hair by a couple inches. The next attempt grazed her head but we knew it wouldn’t be an issue so we proceeded with the next stages of the choreography.

Wednesday, it was back to the Livermore School of Dance where we got through 90 percent of the dance before heading upstairs to tape our interview that would be shown before we took the stage. We added a back flip and worked on polishing our turns. Bailey was going to do a cartwheel near the finish and gave me the option of matching her. Since I hadn’t done one since the age of 14, I said I’d try but couldn’t guarantee it. The plan was to spend the next two days running through the routine with music over and over until it was engrained and committed to muscle memory.

The plan changed Thursday when Bailey suffered an allergic reaction, not only cancelling our planned frozen yogurt outing but our critical rehearsal time. I could hear the scratchiness in her voice and the disappointment in not being able to practice was palpable. She calmly said we’d add some extra time Friday to smooth thing things out to be ready for the show. I told her to get some rest and that I’d practice what I could until we met.

I’d make the best use of the time by trying to nail the cartwheel—with the guidance of Youtube videos and Pleasanton dance master Jill Breckenridge. The attempts to channel my inner gymnast resulted in upper back and neck spasms. Rather than dance, it was off for a one-hour deep tissue massage along with alternating ice packs and heat treatment. Not exactly the way I’d outlined the week.

Oh well, there’s always Friday.

After a trip to the chiropractor, the scene shifted to Valley Dance Theater on Second Street just west of Livermore Avenue. Bailey looked a lot better, bringing a jumbo blue Gatorade to stay hyrdrated. Faith was rehearsing in the first studio and we were in the adjacent room to the right. Both studios were extremely hot and we needed several water breaks that slowed our progress. Since we hadn’t put on the ending, that was tops on the to-do list. It was a move called a “Candlestick” where I swing Bailey alongside each hip and once in the middle before one ultra-high swing that was guaranteed to bring down the house. She showed me the mechanics and we did a couple swings to each side. The key was to use her momentum to get her in the air by using a pretty deep leg bend—not exactly like a kettlebell swing, which requires more of a deadlift than a squat, but similar in the execution.

During the next swing, I felt a sharp pain in my lower back that brought me to a knee. Bailey asked if I was okay and we took a water break from a room that was getting hotter by the minute. We rested and took a peek at Faith, who was absolutely crushing her Salsa with Gary—major hip action, chemistry, sassiness and extreme confidence. I looked at Bailey and said, “Let’s go. We’ve got work to do.” Faith had clearly set the bar.

Bailey wanted to do the rest of the routine but leave out the tricks to spare my back. We performed the routine to music for the first time and paused where there was a jump, lift or cartwheel. She said there would be a different ending to replace the “Candlestick” that would be easier on my back—adding we’d be fine since there were so many other tricks in the routine. After a couple times through the dance minus the tricks, we called it a day and would try the dance in its entirety for the first time at Saturday’s dress rehearsal—the day of the show. If I wasn’t sweating from the heat, anxiety alone would have initiated the perspiration.

The evening was spent in bed alternating ice and heat. Things seemed like there were unraveling with my sister having to cancel the trip from San Diego because of a fall and my daughter suffering an allergic reaction to a spider bite, forcing her to pull the plug on the trip from LA. Cheryl asked I would be able to go through with it. I told her, “After three months, there’s no backing out now.” Maybe we have to do a dummied down version of the dance but we would take the stage. Winning wasn’t an issue—it was purely surviving and hoping to dance. I swapped some texts with Juliette and Mony. We all confessed to being nervous.

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