WEST FARGO — There's a meme I saw on a T-shirt the other day. It reads, "That's a horrible idea.....what time?"
It reminds me of an interaction I had a couple of months ago with my friend, Penny Andrist. Penny is one of those effervescent, charismatic people that can talk you into just about anything.
She's best known as a children's entertainer — Penny of "Penny and Pals." For nearly 30 years, she's had children in the Upper Midwest singing along to her hits, including, "Rockin Robot," "Copy Cat Rap" and my personal favorite, "Uncle Underwood's Unbelievable Ugly Underwear."
My kids grew up listening to her and I can say in all honesty, them playing her DVDs and CDs over and over again did not drive me slowly insane like some other children's programming. Yes, I'm talking to you, "Dora the Explorer."
Penny's music is fun, educational and ear worming in a good way. (My husband and I can't mention popcorn, peanuts and pretzels in the same breath without breaking into "Pig Parade.")
But I digress about how Penny led me down a path I never thought I'd take. This summer she reached out and said, "Hey Tracy, wouldn't it be fun to learn how to dance on a big piano like Tom Hanks and Robert Loggia did in the movie 'Big'?"
She had me at "Tom Hanks." I love him. Could I really emulate his dance of "Heart and Soul" on the piano? Penny had to remind me that imitating Tom Hanks would not make him my boyfriend. Not to mention Tom and I are both happily married to other people.
Even so, I said, "Sure, Penny let's do it." West Fargo's new Rustad Recreation Center has a "Big" piano that we could use. It will be available for the public to try during its grand opening next Tuesday, Oct. 15.
So Penny and I set out to practice. This is where the whole "horrible idea" thing comes in. All I can say is that dance is way harder than it looks. Of course, it doesn't help that I've never had a piano lesson. (I played the viola in high school, but last time I checked, there was no oversized viola I could stomp around on.)
The combination of "Heart and Soul" along with "Chopsticks" is a pretty challenging cardio workout. After our practices, my knees and back ached and I was pretty sure I was the least musical woman on the planet, which was a crushing blow considering the hours spent performing "Dancing Queen" in my childhood bedroom (and even in my car as a grown-up).
It was reassuring to find out that Hanks and Loggia actually practiced for months for the dance number. According to insiders, Hanks and Loggia arrived on the set the day of the piano scene to find stunt dancers dressed like them. Director Penny Marshall wanted them there in case the two stars couldn't pull off the number. Feeling slighted, Loggia told the stunt dancers to "take a hike" and he says he and Hanks did the scene in "just about one take."
Did we do our piano scene in one take? Well, maybe, maybe not. I will tell you we didn't have it in the budget to hire lookalike stunt dancers, so we were pretty much on our own.
When all was said and done, piano dancing with Penny was not a horrible idea. In fact, I'd say it was "Big" fun.
If you go
What: Rustad Recreation Center ribbon-cutting and grand opening
Where: 601 26th Ave. E., West Fargo
When: Ribbon-cutting is at 3:30 p.m., followed by the grand opening 4-6 p.m.
Info: Grand opening will include the Rustad Rec Challenge, where participants visit stations highlighting activities they can do at Rustad while touring the facility. Completed challenge forms will be turned in for a chance to win a year’s worth of free admission to the playground, open gyms and pickleball sessions. Door prizes will be given away, and a free synch backpack will be handed out to all who attend while supplies last.