Friday, June 25, 2010

Thriller Cookies and My Weekly Date with Zombies

When I was young and overly ambitious, I was serious about achieving the items on my life's wish list:

1) Work on Broadway - Check. Over 40 shows.

2) Work in Television - Check. Two Emmy nominations.

3) Travel to distant and exotic lands - Check, over 53 countries.  Oh, the incredible places I've been above and below water!

Not once, ever, did I envision myself living in a small German village and recruited by a sister in law to choreograph a Thriller dance for 4th grade parents for an end of school year parent performance.

Not once.

But here I am. I did.

And it was fun.

When I informed Dr. B via Skype about my latest adventure, he howled with laughter. Seriously. Rolled on the floor. He gets endless amusement from my fish out of water situations and predicaments.

He was not laughing at my ability to do this but rather the incongruity of it all. I do have some experience. With the exception of the last several years, I have been dancing all my life. Up until I moved to Germany I took up to six ballet classes a week in LA with my all time favorite teacher - Hi Elspeth!

Ballet is where I used to find my solace. Everything bad in my life would just melt away by the second grand plie. Safe and sound, happy, Centered and completely in control.

I was lucky enough to take master classes and study Jazz, Modern and Tap with some incredible teachers in NYC in my 12 years of living there. I also danced my way through school, ballet camp every summer and all the way through college.

Sadly, I haven't been able to get it together to get to class here in Germany. When I first moved here for work, I was living in Munich, working 4 days a week in Cologne and traveling to other cities on location every week as well. Just too busy working and traveling. When I did try, I never seemed to connect with the teacher or the class.

Now that I have the time, it's almost impossible to find a good class out here in the sticks.

So Grade School Parent Recital Thriller it was. Liza Minelli in Stepping Out, here I come.

Every Monday evening for the last few months I had a date with 15 "zombies". There was not one dancer in the bunch but thankfully they all were very enthusiastic. I cut the song to 3:07, simplified and slowed down the moves. The most challenging part was teaching them the Michael Jackson kick and then preventing them from kicking themselves while doing it. We had to skip it in the end and just go with a straight kick.

What really made the difference was when I told them to stop trying to be dancers and to start acting like zombies. That gave them a lot more performance confidence.

Zombies parents...

Zombie Cookies...

As they improved with every session, their enthusiasm grew and their original simple black pants and white shirt performance outfit idea turned into full blown homemade zombie costumes.

A little fog machine was replaced by a much larger version and all sorts of tombstone set pieces were created.

We laughed a lot. Or they laughed at me. Mostly at my funny German and at my jokes. It was a stretch for me to demonstrate the moves, explain and count out loud in another language, anticipate what was coming next, watch and correct them as well in German. Much more difficult for me than everyday communication in German or teaching a dance class in English. Sometimes I would count out loud in one language and switch to another without realizing.

I also had to give my sister in law detention a few times. She's a wise ass that one.

I am sure my zombies will turn out a fine performance. Unfortunately, I will not be around as I had previous plans to be in the States. At our last rehearsal together, I wanted to give them something special to cheer them on so I created these Thriller cookies. They surprised me as well with a little prosecco party, presented me with a gift certificate for a massage and a lovely card signed by all.

For the cookies I made a delicious chocolate expresso rolled cookie recipe from the fabulous blogger/amazing cookie diva Bridget at Bake at 350. I didn't have all the cutters I needed so I made a few.

The frosting is the usual mix of powdered sugar with a little milk and meringue powder which I divided into little bowls and colored.

The bandages on the zombie heads and the crosses on the coffins were cut out of homemade marshmallow fondant. Clockwork Lemon shows you how to make your own fondant here.

For the gloves I painted on some luster dust to give them a metallic look and covered them with silver dragees in two different sizes.  They don't look right to me.  I think they came out looking like a cross between "jazz hands" and ladies gloves.  Making the fingers thicker and shortening them would have worked better.

It is now the first year anniversary of Michael Jackson's death. The power of his artistry lives on everywhere.... in a 4th grade class in a little village in Germany and even in a cookie homage...

RIP Michael...

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