IN203 Honors Seminar: Global Haiku Tradition
Dr. Randy Brooks • Spring 2006

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Dancing to Myself

Stephanie Dietrich


Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas
sung by John Denver and Jim Henson

Ripping open the box, she can barely wait to see what it contains. She’s spent an eternity waiting for this moment. And now, after what seemed like forever, she looks inside the first box...

“My baby ornament,” her six-year-old voice squeals with delight. She reaches in and picks up the delicate ornament that she holds so dear. Out of all the Christmas ornaments that get hung on the tree every year, this one is one of her favorites.

She works with the excitement and enthusiasm of the young. Each crumple of newspaper reveals another forgotten treasure. One by one, they make their way onto the enormous evergreen tree that will reside in their family room for the next month.

And it’s a big one this year. The size of their tree seems to grow with every passing year. As she and her brother grow, they insist that the tree be as gigantic as the last. The result will one day be a tree that brushes their 8 foot ceiling.

MOther Fucker—
Dad’s fighting
with the tree stand
Merry Christmas

Finally, the moment has arrived. Since the year is 1992 (an even year), it is her turn to put the angel on top of the tree. Her dad places the plastic angel in her hands, and she cradles it in the crook of her arm. Looking down at the fragile face, she feels as if she were holding Baby Jesus himself.

Her dad grasps her firmly by the waist and lifts her to his strong shoulders. Placing a hand on the ceiling for safety, she stretches an arm, already long for her age, across the seemingly huge gap. She gently sets the angel on the top of the Christmas tree.

“walking” on the ceiling—
his hands on my waist
dad blinks away plaster

Once more returning to the earth, she looks up at the tree. Someone, her mom, probably, turns the lights off. All is silent, save for John Denver and RoIf the Muppet, singing their peaceful harmony. Sitting in the darkness, she is happy. For though at six years old she doesn’t realize it, this is Christmas.

Part of That World
From the Disney movie “The Little Mermaid”

“Please, Dianna,” the five-year-old brunette begs her best friend. “Please, let’s sing it.” She watches the young blonde next to her, waiting for an answer. She’s on the edge of her seat. She wants more than anything in the whole world to sing, “the Little Mermaid song.”

rewinding the video
for the 58th time—
Mom unplugs the TV

Dianna finally relents, and sitting up in their kindergarten bus seats, they begin the song. “Look at this stuff. Isn’t it neat? Wouldn’t you think my collection’s complete?”
Like every little girl, she wants to be a princess when she grows up. But not just any princess. She wants to be a mermaid princess. Like Ariel. She wants to explore the ocean with her fish friends. She wants to search for human artifacts amongst sunken ships. And she wants to fall in love with a handsome prince who will whisk her away to a castle by the sea.

stuffing two legs
into one pant leg—
“Look Mom, I’m a mermaid!”

But since she’s banished to the land, she lives vicariously through her imagination. Her dolls morph constantly from human form to that of mermaids. Her friends in the backyard take on the role of her mer-friends. And when all other medias are unavailable, she closes her eyes and lets her imagination take her to the depths of the sea.

And now, on the bus, their song is coming to an end. They slowly slip from their seats to the floor, as Ariel once sunk to the ocean floor in despair. With eyes of innocent hope, they reach towards the ceiling of the bus for things they don’t yet understand. But they will. And one day, they too will long to be part of another world.

wanting to be
a ballerina or a princess
. . . either one will do

by Zoegirl

Never. Not even once. Since the moment she first became conscious of the shape of her body, she has never been happy with the way it looks. No matter how often she looks in the mirror, no matter how much she pulls in her stomach or sucks in her cheeks, no matter how many crunches she does in the dark of the night, she’s still not satisfied.


But in her mind, it’s justified unhappiness. Really. Her thighs are too large, and shake and jiggle like Jell-O when she moves. Her stomach is entirely too flabby. Never mind the four perfectly toned abs, the result of hours of crunches and Pilate’s. The stomach muscles between her bellybutton and pelvis are hidden under a layer of fat, and it’s not attractive. And that butt! In her opinion, the worst part of her entire anatomy. It’s huge! More of a growth than an actual muscle. Oh, happy would be the day that she could just lop the entire thing off! Really, how could anyone be happy in a body like hers?

three hours later
she finally finds jeans
that don’t make her butt look big

And if things weren’t depressing enough, she has chosen to surround herself with beautiful bodies five days a week. One look around the dance studio and anyone can understand why she is so hard on herself. Long, sleek legs. Tiny waists bend and sway. They are everything she wishes she were. Standing next to them, she feels over-sized, frumpy, and fat. That’s really what it is. She feels fat.

Standing up from her comfortable sitting position on the floor during a Wednesday Dance Alliance Repertory Company rehearsal, she winces as her joints pop and crack. She begins to amble to her place on stage left when she’s stopped short. “Alright ladies,” her dance teacher yells, “let’s lose the clothing.”

She inwardly groans. She hates having to strip down to a leotard and tights. Wearing spandex pants and a tee shirt over it is bad enough. Stripping down to the minimal layer puts her ego in a headlock and reduces her to a water buffalo. Steeling her nerves, she rips off her out layers of clothing.

As she walks across the room, she tries with everything in her to avoid looking at herself in the mirror. Maybe if she doesn’t look, she’ll forget that she’s fat. But the reflection in the mirror is like a ghastly car accident; she can’t help but turn her head and steal a disgusted glance in the mirror. She turns away quickly. It’s too unbearable to see.

avoiding the mirror—
the picture in my head
prettier than the one
in front of my eyes

But to her own amazement, she glances again for a second look. It’s not as bad as she had expected. She stares at herself in the mirror. Whoa. Where did all that leg come from? They seem to go up to her armpits. Studying her figure with a critical eye, she takes note of the curves that she cursed only days before. They’re not as bad as she’d thought. Rather womanly, really. She lifts her chin. Attractive. Like an Amazon queen, she thinks with a smile.

Hearing the introduction of “Rhapsody in Blue,” she waltzes to her place. Peeking at herself above the heads of her classmates, she can’t help but laugh. She’s been beautiful all along. She just had the wrong eyes in. She is beautiful.

Voice Within
by Christina Aguilera

Everybody has one. A place where they go to escape. She has one, too. It’s nothing special. Not even recognizable, since it changes form with circumstance. Her special place is anywhere with a flat surface about 10 feet wide and 10 feet long. Her special place is anywhere she can dance.
And now, as she plods across the floor to stage right, she needs that place more than ever before. Life is choking her. Wood smoke in her eyes. Burning. Choking. It’s distorting her vision. Weighed down by the pressure of life, she closes her eyes, hoping to make it all go away.

shoulders hunched
the chill fall rain beats them down
overdue books

“Young girl, don’t cry. I’ll be right here when your world starts to fall.” It’s as if the song were meant for her.

As she steps out onto the dance floor, the smoke clears, It’s peaceful. Cooler. It is the soft, clear, white light of a naked light bulb glowing softly. The shell of her stress and tension is left standing, frowning on the side of the stage. The one that dances now is her soft, vulnerable side. Like Brie cheese after the outer skin has been removed. She has no concern, no care, except the dance.

It’s then that she experiences the true euphoria of dance. It makes her want to cry, except that she is so intensely joyful that she can’t; all she can do is move her body to express what she feels inside.

a leotard and jazz shoes—
that’s my therapy

Leaving the dance floor, she must return to the smoky outside world. But somehow, the smoke is a little thinner than before. The pressure is a little lighter. And out of the corner of her eye, she can see the comforting glow of a naked light bulb.

for the first time
since she woke up

Just a Little Girl
by Amy Studt

She surveys the room grimly as she falls into a split. Pressure is so dense in the room that it could be eaten with a fork. One of them will walk away with a scholarship. Three million of them will not. Competition is fierce.

But today she’s not competing with the other dancers in the room. No, her opponent is much more dangerous than that. To come out victorious is going to take every ounce of skill and focus in her body

The man to beat is her dance teacher.

Adam has made it quite clear that he’s not happy with her absence from the two rehearsals preceding this competition; he even went so far as to threaten to cut her from dances. The only way to regain his favor is to win this battle. All she has to do is make the first cut of this audition.

upside down
and head between my legs
I notice a run in my tights

Easier said than done. Generally only one dancer from their company makes the first cut, and it’s always one of the more advanced dancers. It will take everything she’s got. But she has got to prove her worth.

All too soon, the dancers are herded to the side of the room to perform the combination they’ve just learned before a panel of judges. She’s visibly shaking, but she knows what she has to do. “Do or die,” she whispers to herself. Sending a silent prayer heavenward, she joins the ranks of the first group to go across the floor.

And she dances. Not perfectly, mind you. Her triple pirouette comes out as a double, and she knows that her large body size is a strike against her. But when they line up in front of the judges, she holds her head high as if to say, “Here I am, take it or leave it.”

She holds her breath as one of the judges jumps down off the platform and circles around behind the line. Though she knows her chances are next to nothing, her heart is pounding as she prays for a nudge in the back, indicating that she can stay. She can feel Adam’s eyes boring holes in her back, and she prays.

adjusting my dress—
hands shake and breathing shallow
I wait for my fate

And suddenly there is the feeling of a knuckle in her spine, and her heart leaps. Suppressing the urge to jump in the air, she cannot suppress the huge grin that spreads across her face.

Turning her back to Adam, she swaggers over to the side to sit with the other finalists. Slowly dropping into a straddle split, she smirks to herself. She made the cut. She wins. Adam will never admit it. But they both know it. Don’t underestimate me, Adam, she thinks. Never ever underestimate me.

first meeting
since their fight—
he opens the door for her

Waiting For Life to Begin
from the Broadway musical “Once on This Island”

Arms full, she must juggle a dance bag on one shoulder and balance the grocery bag on her opposite hip in order to extract her key from the bundle. She finally finds it and manages to open the door to her Manhattan apartment before everything falls to the floor. Once inside, she carries the paper bag to the kitchen, where she begins to slowly unload groceries. The four hours of dance class and rehearsal have taken their toll on her body.

She finds a note lying on the kitchen counter. “Went to the gym for an hour,” it says.

“Dinner’s ready in the oven. I love you, baby.” She smiles. Despite the two years that have passed since their marriage, her husband can still make her smile with the tiniest gestures. Turning, she takes a peek in the oven. Lasagna, her favorite.

Returning to her task, she glances at the clock on the wall. Three hours until she’s called to the theatre for the Thursday night show; she smiles with excited anticipation. No one expected Wheat Toast and Marmalade, the biggest hit on Broadway, to take off as quickly as it did. After a year as the lead role of Annika, an up and coming dancer, she never tires of performing it. She still lives for the rush that accompanied the rising of the curtain and the roar of the crowd at the end of a performance.

The sound of the lock being opened causes her head to pop up, and a huge grin to appear on her face as her husband walks in the door. Sweaty though he is, she can’t help but throw her arms around his neck and plant a kiss on his lips.

A beautiful apartment, an amazing husband, and the job of her dreams. Life is perfect...

She’s suddenly brought out of her daydream by a piercing squeal and giggling that only makes her headache worse. The beautiful visions in her mind are gone, and she finds herself once again in a crowded classroom in a broken down high school.

spring rain
collecting in buckets—
rural high school

She watches as the prom queen chases after the quarterback, who is holding her left shoe high above his head. What’s wrong with these people? she wonders to herself. What is this, kindergarten? She’s amazed at the lack of maturity surrounding her. Seniors like herself, they’re all headed off for various colleges, also like herself. What desperate college accepted them?, she thinks to herself. I give them two weeks before they drink themselves out of college.

Turning her head the other way, she can hear discussion of last weekend’s beer bash. Listening to stories of throwing up and passing out, she wants to stand on her chair and scream. She feels so far beyond them all; six weeks of college last summer have taught her what’s important and what’s not. She knows where she wants to go in life and how to do it. And she’s ready to do it.

But in the meantime, she’s stuck here with a classroom full of children. It’s like they’re stuck in a bubble, she thinks. They have not idea what’s coming, nor do they care. Closing her eyes, she conjures up the image of her apartment in the city. But I’m here, and I’m ready. Just waiting for my life to begin.

spring evaluations—
her professors tell her
she’s working too hard

Without You
by Justincase, featuring Michelle Branch

Gritting her teeth, she tries to steel herself against the salty drops of pain hovering in her eyes. Her jaw trembles from the effort, for this is no time to cry. Chicago traffic needs every ounce of skill and focus to get through. This is no time to cry.

But despite valiant efforts, she can feel them trickle down her face. Reaching for her sunglasses, she attempts to hide her pain from the intruding eyes that seem to come from all sides. And she cries.

“This wasn’t supposed to happen,” she whispers. “I’m not supposed to love. I can’t afford to love.” But as the lonely twang of the guitar echoes through speakers, a similar ache echoes through her chest. She realizes that despite all efforts, she does love. Is there any other explanation for the tears that bathe her cheeks?

bitterly watching
the happy couple—
I remember the last time

“How will I go on without you?” the two voices question each other. How indeed? With every mile she puts between them, a parasite called love eats away at her heart, bite by bite. Her chest heaves painfully as she tries to understand the ache in her heart and the river of tears on her face. Something about the way he had looked at her through honest eyes, held her with protective arms, and stroked her face with a Midas touch has softened her protective barrier. Despite all intent to distance herself from him, she now realizes that she never can. Not without throwing out a piece of herself, too.

Glancing back behind her, she wants nothing more than to get off at the next exit, get back on Westbound 1-94, and drive back to Chicago as fast as she can. But for once, it isn’t the lure of the big city that calls to her. It is the call of a deep voice and a gentle laugh. It is Greg. It is the potential for love.

calling him to tell him
I forgot my hairbrush
and my heart

Keep Talking
by Pink Floyd

She’s drowning. In silence. She tries to take a deep breath, but her lungs will only take in inefficient gulps of air. Not nearly enough to sustain her. Her face is turning a brilliant scarlet and she has to clench her fists to keep them from shaking.

They’re all looking at her. Staring. Very blatantly. She averts her eyes away from her classmates, hoping that maybe they’ll all disappear. They don’t. They sit there, waiting for her to speak. She can’t.

I try to tell them
why I can’t talk

She’s starting to panic. She has to read that word. There’s a whole monologue yet to be read out loud. The word has burned itself onto her brain, reverberating against her skull. She opens her mouth and tries to say it again. Nothing.

The longer she stands there staring at the word, the more panicked she becomes. And the more stuck the word becomes. And the more panicked she becomes. Until she can do nothing but shake and wish she could melt into the wooden floor.

This isn’t supposed to happen to people like her. She’s smart. She’s confident. She’s a freakin’ theatre major, for cryin’ out loud! People like her don’t have speech problems. People like her don’t stutter.

family, firemen, foot rubs,
and the power to speak--
things you take for granted

Finally, she manages to spit the word out. It’s bitter tasting, like the juniper berries she used to try and eat from the backyard. The room breathes a visible sigh of relief. And somehow, she manages through the rest of her monologue. Everything is back to normal. The illusion that everything is “just fine” has been resumed.

Trying to explain
my little “problem”
. . . so uncomfortable

The Skyline Firedance Suite: Prelude to the Dance
by David Lanz

stirring me
the ring of a phone…
news awaits


“Hey, hon, it’s Janelle?”

“Hey Janelle, what’s up?”

“I just wanted to call and congratulate you on making Dance Ensemble."


“Oh, haven’t you seen the cast list yet? It went up this afternoon.”

She’s absolutely shocked. Though she auditioned, she didn’t actually expect to be accepted into Millikin University’s advanced dance performance group. Stammering a thank you and good-bye to Janelle, she shoves her feet into the closest pair of shoes, snatches a purse, and charges out the door for the callboard. Upon arriving, she stands and stares. There it is. Her name. Sandwiched right in the middle of the group.

alone at the call board…
I sheepishly take a picture
of my name on the cast list

Weeks later she finds herself in rehearsal for the dance concert. She’s never had such an exhilarating experience as performing with this group. Running around, jumping on each other, and exchanging cheek kisses, this is like no other choreography she’s ever performed before, yet it is more thrilling than any dancing she’s ever done before. Unable to wipe the enormous grin off her face, she charges across the stage and leaps, landing on her partner’s back. This is the dancing she’s dreamed of; the kind that makes her feel complete.

the piano drives
my body into the air
celebration of love

Bittersweet Symphony
By the Verve

Walking into Her dorm room, She can’t help but be relieved that the room is empty. The day has been long, and She is beyond tired. She needs some time to relax and get Her thoughts back together before Her roommate, Heather, returns from whichever of her millions of activities she is at now. Ever since she’s been diagnosed with bi-polar, Heather has gone through a medley of different emotions, and each one more extreme than the last. Her struggle with the turmoil inside her head requires much support, and she has relied on her roommate for all of it. It is getting to be too much. As She lay on her bed, She wonders what mood Heather is in today. As the minutes pass, She begins to drift out of consciousness…

empty eyes—
the drugs that dull her pain
dull her

Suddenly, She is snatched from Her snooze by the sound of heavy footsteps running down the hallway, accompanied by the sound of sobbing. Heather bursts into the room and collapses on Her bed. Her sobbing is so uncontrollable that She has a hard time understanding what she’s saying, but one word comes through loud and clear: can’t. She’s scared to death. Despite Her soothing words and pats on the back, She can’t get Heather to stop crying. Heather begs Her to take her to the hospital, and She dives for Her car keys. Leaving Heather in the care of their neighbor, She runs for the car.

Heather continues to sob uncontrollably the entire drive to the hospital. Her sobs are intermitted with pleas to help her, that she can’t do it anymore. Speeding through a red light, it’s all She can do to keep driving. She feels completely helpless.

“you’ll be okay”
do I lie more
to her or myself?

Rushing into the hospital, they are taken to a small examining room, where Heather is administered some form of a sedative. Standing beside the bed, rubbing her back and watching Heather drift into fitful sleep, guilt starts to overtake Her. She knows that She hasn’t been the nicest to Heather lately, bowing under the combined pressures of full-time classes, a part-time job, and dealing with the stress of living with someone with bi-polar.

Despite what the nice nurse has told Her, She can’t help but feel as if She is responsible for the state of the girl crumpled on the hospital bed. In quite of the dim room, She holds Heather’s hand and prays that she doesn’t loose Her best friend to herself.

what can I do
to ease your pain?

perched on the hospital bed
I read her some haiku—
eyes glaze over

Origin of Love
from the movie “Hedwig and the Angry Inch”

Leaning on the black iron railing, she looks off beyond the Mexican resort below into the ocean. The cool breeze of evening has begun to overtake her, but she’s too hypnotized by the blazing sunset that is intensifying over the ocean. Deep pink streaks fly across the indigo sky, and rose bellies of the clouds rest gently of the horizon. It’s like nothing she’s ever witnessed before.

water lapping—
in his eyes
my smile

Suddenly there is a warmth behind her, and a pair of long arms wrap around hers. Though there is no doubt in her mind as to who owns them, the kiss on her jaw confirms it. Turning to look into the technicolor eyes of her boyfriend, Greg, she can’t help but smile. This is only the second Christmas they have been an item, but to her it feels as if he has always been a part of her life; or maybe that’s just the way she feels that it should be.

two left feet
I salsa anyway
just to see her smile

Diving into his strong embrace, she wonders how she ever got on without him. She always used to say that she wanted a man who simultaneously excited her and protected her; that is exactly what Greg is for her. He is her sanity and her excitement, and more.

He breaks away from her arms for a moment, and when he returns, the sweet music that is “their song” is floating out onto the balcony. Her eyes can’t help but fill with joyous tears as she comes to the realization that she has discovered so many times before; Greg is her other half. To be without him is to be without part of herself, and that just can’t be. Holding him as tightly as she is able, she wishes she could simply meld together with him. They’ve made the attempt before, but always at some point they have to once again separate into two beings. She knows one thing for sure, however; no matter how far they must separate their bodies, they will always be part of each other. They are one.

gripping his biceps
in the dark
we transform into one


© 2006 Randy Brooks, Millikin University, Decatur, Illinois
all rights reserved for original authors