Being one of two stage managers of a major concert can seem daunting. If you have the right people with you, your job can actually seem like play. We just wrapped up the show in Chicago, and I was ready to head back to the tour bus. Just then, I remembered that I was supposed to give Celia my business card. You see, I wasn’t just a stage manager; I was also a ballroom dance instructor. Whenever we had off, I would either have a private lesson or teach a class if I could.
I made my way to Celia, and suddenly some force out of nowhere knocked me to the ground. It was like a flash black from eighth grade when that football player rammed into me on the way to class. Although, this times it wasn’t a pre-pubescent 8th grade lineman. It was Jamie Smirnoff, one of the lead vocalists for Rise to 5.
“Jamie! Watch where you’re going! You could’ve hurt me,” I screamed at him.
“Hey! That goes two ways lady,” he refuted right back.
“You can’t just charm your way out of everything with a smile and a song, Jamie. I could’ve been hurt. This isn’t football.”
“Will you stop being a drama queen? It was an accident.”
“Look, I have to get to Celia before she leaves. She wanted my business card. She and her boyfriend wanted a dance lesson next weekend while we’re off.”
“Wait… dance lesson? What are you talking about?”
“If you weren’t so in your own little bubble, you’d know what considering we work together so much. Look, I have to go.”
I couldn’t stand to look at him. He thought his dimples and six-pack made everything better. That was certainly not how I was raised. My family taught manners, respect, and most importantly earning life’s rewards through graciousness and hard work.
Walking in the chilly Chicago streets, it made me homesick. Sure NYC was not too far, but I missed home– The feeling of excitement, the bright lights, the smell of my favorite food, pizza. I’d only have to wait until next weekend to be there.
“And side, rock step… Cha-cha-cha… again! Side rock step… cha-cha-cha! Alright, gentlemen practice the sequence. I’ll go check the sign-in book.”
With my ballroom heels, my slimming black rehearsal dress, and a smile on face… I was hoping a dashing stranger would walk through the door. Who was I kidding? It was ballroom dance… most guys I knew thought it was either for taken guys to do with their wife/girlfriend or the popular speculated reason—the guy’s gay.
To my surprise…the last person I wanted to see walked through the door- Jamie.
With a Brooks Bros. suit and expensive Italian leather shoes, he looked like a magazine ad for cologne. Yes, he did look good, but I wasn’t letting him off that easy.
“Jamie. What are you doing here? This is my studio… If you don’t get out, I will make you get out. Are you forgetting I’m a black belt?”
“Easy crouching tiger hidden dragon. I’m here to learn. That is what one does when one comes to a dance studio.”
“Fine. You can be my partner for the evening. But if I feel as much as anything as you siding your hand to cop a feel on my ass, I will hurt you.”
“Don’t worry, your booty’s zero not J.Lo.”
To my astonishment, he was an excellent partner. He had great hip action in the Cha Cha (probably from all the hip thrusts he does), and I only dug my stiletto in his foot once. I was feeling exhausted, and was planning on heading home when he stopped me before I closed up the studio.
“Hey, Sandra. Thanks for lesson! I had a lot of fun, and you’re a pretty great teacher.”
“Thanks, it helps when I have a great partner.”
“You wanna grab some pizza? You know, just to talk….”
“Sure! I’d love some pizza. How about The Brick? It’s right around the corner.”
I’d hate to admit it, but he was growing on me. Once we started talking, I found out about how he’s not really fond of taking photos, but he knows it’s part of the job. He loves watching movies, and he loves to cook. What’s even sweet is that in his free time, he visits the children at the local hospital to cheer them up. On his visits he makes sure there’s no paparazzi following him so it doesn’t look like he’s hungry for publicity.
Over the course of a couple weeks we spent a lot of time together. We played scrabble on the way to different cities on the tour bus; we’d goof off backstage… we’d eat at tons of restaurants whenever we traveled… I had to face the truth… I was falling for someone way out of my league. Sure I worked for him, but let’s face it… He had worshippers. I was just someone who made sure he made it on stage on time for his numbers.
One night, after the usual high five fest backstage… he pulled me away from the rest of the crew and asked me out on a legit date. Of course, I was thrilled. I just didn’t know what to think. Could he really ask me out, because he liked me? Was he just doing it to make sure he had connections to keep his job?
I couldn’t believe it… One of the girls must’ve told him about my dream date. He took me to a secluded gazebo in Central Park and it was lit up with Christmas lights and candles. I saw a picnic laid out, and an iHome playing some beautiful music. We were all alone in one of the most romantic settings I’ve ever seen.
We shared some laughs over some tour goof ups, and spent the night reminiscing over childhood memories.
The night could’ve easily been a movie scene. The dazzling stars, the music, the park… it was too good to be true. My gut instinct was right.
“Sandra, if you don’t mind me asking… What happened that made you so guarded. I feel so comfortable with you, but something always tells me you don’t feel entirely relaxed.”
Releasing a big sigh… I had to face that I couldn’t keep pretending like it never happened.
I began to tell him how about a month ago, I returned home from dinner one night to find my apartment ransacked. Someone smashed my bedroom window, broke my TV and stole all my financial information. I couldn’t trust anyone after that. I barely slept for days after the incident.
It was all too much for me to tell it again. Only the cops and my parents knew. Why bother telling anyone else… I lived in NYC. Theft and robbery was as normal as passing by a hot dog stand on your way to work everyday.
I felt horrible for fleeing our date, but I couldn’t bear to see Jamie after telling him. He tried calling and texting, but I refused to answer. There was loud banging at my door. If it was Jamie, he could’ve just given up right there. I wouldn’t answer.
“SANDRA! OPEN UP! SANDRA! IF YOU DON’T OPEN I WILL BREAK DOWN THE DOOR!”
To save him from hurting himself, and potentially millions of people mad at me if he got hurt, I opened the door.
“Look, Sandra. I know you think you can’t trust anybody in this world… but your family, friends, and colleagues care for you. Yes, it was scary… but you have to understand that the rest of Rise to 5 and I have your back. You make our shows go smoothly, and you’re one of the sweetest people I know. I will make sure no one hurts you. You have my word on it.”
He looked me in the eyes, and swept me in for a sweet kiss. He was right, it was hard to trust people. However, with a guy who promises to protect you that can sing, act and dance—you gotta admit… It brings a whole new meaning to triple threat. I couldn’t help but for the first time really smile and enjoy the moment. I felt like this new beginning was the door to many amazing moments ahead. Life’s a tough journey, but if we have faith in someone and hope in something… the right steps take us on an amazing journey.