When i was just five years old I was on stage, dressed up and dancing for a crowd. Other dance kids talked about the butterflies we would get in our stomachs before going onstage, but I could have sworn they felt more like those bats that always chased after The Count on Sesame street. I could feel five or seven of those bats flipping and flopping inside my stomach under my shiny, yellow sequined duck costume with the little yellow feathers that would flutter off as we were escorted in a little row to the side of the stage. Standing there in line with all the stage moms, teachers and dancers swirling around each other in a rush of colors and sound it was easy to get swept up in the chaos. The pressure to make everything picture perfect was so strong I could feel the tension and excitement building as it came time to shine. Stagefright was simply not an option.
There by my side keeping everything cool was little Mario Lopez. He may have just been five years old but he was at the center of the dance line, a shiny, black sequined little boy duck among all the sparkling yellow girl ducks. Up to the last moment when we put on our little dance shoes and Donald Duck hats we were just little kindergarten kids standing in a line. Once we waddled and quacked our way across that stage and shook our tail feathers we were all transformed into glamorous Disco Ducks. I stuck to Mario like glue and just followed his lead. I was able to remember more steps by following Mario closely. We stuck together on stage and the other kids always looked down the line towards us to make sure that they were dancing just right.
Maybe that’s why I was picked out of the class to learn semi solo dance routines together with Mario. We knew how to take cues from each other. We looked pretty cute dancing together too! One thing was for certain, when we got on the stage together the crowds all cried out with laughter and cheers.
That rewarding applause after all our hard work in learning the routine helped to transform our stage fright into stage fuel. In the seconds before we would take the stage, Mario’s eyes would always sparkle with a look of confident determination. The looks and expressions we exchanged when we danced on stage got nearly as much approval from the audience and judges as did our dancing. We certainly worked on our smiles as much as our steps!
This sparkling sequine world of dancing was just a small part of Mario’s young life. His parents, Elvia and Mario Lopez Sr brilliantly incorporated the lessons we learned from dancing into the multifaceted foundation they were giving Mario to build his life on.
As we began practicing for our first semi solo routine I didn’t realize how much of our lives would start to go together. I am so lucky to have had Elvia as my stage mother. She worked hard to include our family in the lives of hers. She also showed me her pride and dignity in being a young, Hispanic American individual. This pride is something the Lopez children have modeled so admirably into adulthood.