I couldn't tell if the woman in my adjoining bathroom stall at Steamboat Springs High School was laughing or crying Monday night.
Evidently, she was amused by her skill in getting into a pair of dance tights - underneath a leotard she had on. Moments like this are not uncommon during "hell week" - the week before the Steamboat Dance Theatre performance.
Instances of ripped and unfinished costumes, last-minutes music changes, punctuality speeches, and other life and wardrobe malfunctions are expected.
"This last week has been pretty intense," said Valerie Piper, also a first time Dance Theatre performer. "My eating schedule is all messed up and I've been having mood swings and waking up cranky."
"I'm the one at the stop light dancing," said Michelle Brown, first time Dance Theatre performer. "I have had the CD playing in my car, and have been dancing down Lincoln Avenue since the beginning to drill the routine into my head."
The Dance Theatre gave Brown an opportunity to dance for the first time in 18 years.
"I'm tapping into that half of my life where I had been dancing since I could walk," she said. "But what people don't know is that we put in more hours than what is done in the studio."
Tamara Bereznak has been busy sewing, repairing and adjusting costumes and hot-gluing roses during the past week.
"Everyone has done something above and beyond rehearsing," said Bereznak, who has been in the Dance Theatre since 1993. "It's termed 'hell week' because almost everybody has to change their life in some way to be involved. You have to leave work early, make children and family arrangements, and possibly lose income if you have a night job."
Bereznak goes through this every year because it provides an outlet for her creativity.
"We do it because we love it," she said.
For me, it filled a void in my life that had been present since I stopped dancing. I used to dance at least four hours a day when I was an Eagle-ette. Now, my sore muscles and bruised legs from this week are evidence of my leave of absence. And despite having performed solo in front of crowds larger than 2,000 people, I still get nervous and feel awkward smiling through a whole dance routine.
But I love to dance.
Joan Donham has danced in the past 25 Dance Theatres because she gets to see the people she considers her second family.
"This is the only time of year I get to see my dance family," she said. "I don't even get to see these people in the grocery store."
There are many closet dancers lurking around Steamboat Springs who come out of hiding once a year to stretch their limbs, don fake eyelashes, bright red lipstick and a grin you can't fake on stage.
"You're going to see someone you will know smiling away," Bereznak said.
"You'll be pleasantly surprised who's on stage," Brown added. "It's worth just seeing your community in a whole new light."
Behind those intense stage lights tonight and Saturday night, your waitress, classmate, local museum executive director or schoolteacher will be in heaven because they are doing what they love to do. And dancing is only one part of that.