The Private Dancer of An Opera Singer
by Alexis Charles-Papillion
As a dancer who is the daughter of an opera singer, I understand what most mainstream communities don’t…. Beyond the glitz and glam of music and other forms of entertainment, the performing arts industry is held together by millions of people who are striving to perfect their craft. If you’re not spraining an ankle, slipping a disk, pinching a nerve, stressing your vocal cords, fighting laryngitis or bronchitis, there is always some kind of price to pay when the performing arts become a family business.
My whole adolescent life I was set on finding what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wanted to be everything from a professional gymnast to a veterinarian, a professional WNBA player to a Nike shoe designer, the list goes on. Once I tested my abilities at almost everything, I was positive I had found my niche as a singer/songwriter. I knew my mother was also beginning her own career as a vocal performer and I figured she could be my manager. Now, because the industry is full of cutthroat, money hungry sharks, I knew the only person I could trust and was comfortable with would be her. In preparing for fame and stardom, I knew I would need to, one day, perform for an audience. I couldn’t be scared, so what better than to sing my songs for my Mom? Besides, she was my toughest critic. I knew she would give it to me straight. If I could make it past my Mom in a make -believe audition then I could make it past anyone. I was either going to sink or swim. Before I warmed up my voice, I begged and pleaded with my Mom to please hold her laughs until after I finished my entire song and that she not make fun of me if it was bad. Like I said, I was going to sink or swim and unfortunately— I sank. I sank low. Remember, I asked her not to laugh…. she laughed anyway and crushed my little heart. Her criticism was bitter sweet, “Lex, booboo (her pet name for me) you know I love you, I really do, but that just wasn’t good. Maybe you should consider another profession.” You know how mothers are when they’re trying to give it you straight and temper the blow at the same time. I understood though. I swallowed my pride, marched upstairs, retired my vocal cords and cassette tapes and started soul searching for another passion. Like my mom and I always say “on to the next one”. You see, since the beginning, no matter what I thought I wanted to be or how many things I wanted to try, my Mom has always supported me one hundred percent, behind-the-back-laughs and all.
Once I entered my freshman year of high school, I knew the fun and games were coming to an end. I started my new and final love—dancing. I have developed a passion for it. I had always danced for fun but never really thought of it as an actual profession. I started training seriously and took to it as if I had been dancing all my life. My mother began to fully support me after seeing my first high school dance performance. My mother’s feedback was most important and all I cared about. She said that she could tell that dancing was made for me. She was proud that I had finally found my forte, something I was exceptional in. If she was happy, and literally trying to reenact my choreography (trust me- a tragic sight) then I knew I had put on a spectacular performance. Truth be told, it has been a secret dream of my mother’s to be a dancer.
I became grounded and dedicated. The more interest I gained the more our schedules overlapped and we drifted away from one another. The only time we saw each other was in the morning and evening or helping one another get ready for school or a performance. Our days consisted of requests and demands. “Lex, can you start my car, can you run some errands for me while I’m in rehearsal? Mommy, can you please help my find a costume and iron it or help me with my hair?” We were always ripping and running. Loving on the go…. It definitely got hard at times. When you have so much going on you start to take each other for granted.
My mother means the world to me, discombobulated schedules and all. If I become half the woman she is I have no doubt my success will come. Her dedication and commitment to singing inspires and moves me. When I dance, her voice is my music, my muse. She is always in my head. Even though there are two members of the Papillion-Posey family fighting for the spotlight, she never steals mine. Instead, she holds me up at every turn. Last year I had the honor and privilege of sharing the stage with her in Carmen, a gypsy dancer to her show-stopping, head-turning Carmen. The spotlight should have been on her but all she spoke of, to anyone that would listen, was how great I was. Wow, a priceless time that I’ll cherish forever and a desire for more to come. Needless to say, I am very proud of my mothers’ accomplishments as a wife, opera singer, teacher, and student but most of all, I am most proud that she is my mother. Obviously there is a bond between mothers and daughters like none other and to have your mother share and participate in your love of the performing arts only strengthens that bond. She calls me her ‘private dancer’ and I am blessed to oblige.
Keep your family close no matter how hectic and crazy your schedule gets or how tired you are after a performance. Go the extra mile, call a family member today. Tell them you love them; tell them about that high C you cracked on….. It was probably their love and support that helped you become the success you are today.
Alexis Charles-Papillion is the daughter of Operagasm Founder and Director, Erica Papillion-Posey. Alexis just completed her freshman year at Colorado State University where she majors in Dance and Sociology.