Photographs Contributed by Nancy Ackerman
The huge cast of 5-6-7-8! was a treasure of talent…upstage, downstage and backstage. And many of the original performers and crew from the 1985 production not only stayed on for the many productions that followed, but honed their talents even further when they departed Aramco. It’s immensely satisfying to not only look back on the top-notch productions, but to remain in touch with these wonderful people, now scattered around the globe, and I continue to marvel at their accomplishments.
I am particularly admiring of one of my original dancers, who never missed a major show despite a huge load of teaching dance on her own, and juggling her choreography with mine trying to keep it all straight. This classy lady is Kay Siebold, known to many as a dance teacher extraordinaire, who produced the best tap and jazz recitals for young folks ever to be found. Kay’s credentials are enormous, and her contributions to 5-6-7-8! were a big part of its success.
As Kay puts it, ‘we all had different jobs in Aramco, but had our dancing in common. And those friendships we made remain to this day.” She particularly loved the camaraderie of the dancers that was so special, and the fact that they were dancing in a country with so many restrictions and limitations for women. Kay says, “we lived in a dream…rehearsing in dance clothes, to be the best we could be but at the same time remaining sensitive to local customs by wearing long skirts and jackets outside the rehearsal venue so as not to offend”. It was wonderful that we could do this.
Kay’s personal burden was that she was not only a perfectionist with herself and her students, but felt enormous pressure during performances…feeling she could not make a mistake in front of those she taught or their parents. Actually, she confesses to loving the rehearsals more than the performances…working together with friends, dashing out with them during a break to the snack bar, complaining about the weekly weigh-ins to keep svelte, supporting one another learning difficult dance moves, and just relishing being active in the dance world.
One of Kay’s agonies was that I always began a step on the left foot. She always started her students on the right. She now claims, “just think what good training you gave my brain.” I’m sure she is putting a positive spin on a frustrating physical challenge!
During one show, Kay remembers that she would frantically change (all the dancers had personal dressers backstage to assist them in the very quick changes that were necessary, including shoes) and recalls that before one number she would find her entrance wing in the shadowy darkness and whisper out to find Kay Caraway, so she could get in place behind her…feeling relief when she heard that Texas accent murmur “Ah’m right here”. She would then slip in to grab her waist. As they heard their cue in the opening bars of music, they stepped out into the brilliant rainbow of lighting done by Susan Cowles, and let muscle memory take over. All they had to do now was smile.
Giving credit to others is part of Kay’s personality and she gratefully remembers the professionalism of costumer Ruth Meyers, the beautiful artwork (program and set design) by Scott Mussett, still an Aramcon, and many others. She also throws a few bouquets my way, and the one I cherish most is her belief that I pulled out the dancer in them. Yes, I had good dancers to work with, but also talented folks with little or no dance background as well. With our combined energies, we created a troupe to be proud of. It was not easy and much of the choreography was hard. But no one gave up (of course you will get it!) and everyone aspired to the high standards that were set, and expected. My dancers were harder on themselves than I ever was. It was their desire to do well that made us so successful.
Our reward came when every ticket sold out at every show, standing ovations from enthusiastic audiences were given at every single performance, and we felt a sense of pride in bringing a high level of entertainment to sophisticated Aramco audiences. DTG honored us as well, with many Arab coffee pots awarded for Best Production, Best Lighting, Best Costumes and Best Director.
Alas, all good things come to an end. And although 5-6-7-8! was no more after 1992, the talent of the people involved remained as vibrant as ever. For Kay Siebold, her teaching talent reached new heights when she left Dhahran after 13 years of “K’s Dance School” and teaching hundreds of students. She immediately leapt into teaching jazz and tap in Venice, Florida, building up their tap program, winning high awards including a Platinum (highest) for best small group, best presentation and qualifying for New York. After five years Kay moved up and is now teaching at the Manatee School for the Arts for the Carty Academy; not content with having those advanced tappers and jazz students, she also teaches tap in Sarasota for the School of Dance Education. Want more? She is also still performing and doing choreography for major Florida productions. And one of her fondest memories is a teaching stint she did when visiting daughter Tana in Ennis, Country Clare, Ireland. She taught “American” style dancing, which they loved, but Kay’s thrill was watching a class of the true Irish dancers, which she says “were fantastic”. The grass is always greener………
With a smile, Kay says “my big thrill- performing in Las Vegas for the 2000 reunion of 5-6-7-8! How special was THAT!”
I’m hopeful Kay will be kicking up her heels again at our next reunion in June, 2005.