This summer 21 year old Cynthia Cardon, a Harvard College senior majoring in English and a former ballet student who currently lives with her parents in Wheaton, is learning how to roll her stomach. "I can do it in front of the mirror," she says.
She also does a fairly convincing job at the Club 400 Cocktail Lounge where she is the one go-go dancer from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. at $10 an hour every Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
Club 400 is past the Ft. Meade barracks on Rte. 198 and then down the Rte. 175 strip of cocktail lounges and fast food franchises.
"It has a pool, a bar, a deli, and me," says Cynthia Cardo with a grin. Cardon is a fixture on the club's 5 foot by 5 foot corner stage - a 5 feet 4 brunette wearing silver colored sandals and a blue multi-colored bikini with black fringe on the bottom.
A little eye make-up and a lot of body turn Cardon, who is beautiful in a wholesome way into a sultry figure who undulates, slick, stamps, and occasionally dances on the tiny stage to the latest in disco and pop music.
After spending one year and two subsequent summers go-go dancing she says she is good at what she does.
"It almost a negation of everything I'd done before," she reflected. Now 21, she studied for 12 years at the Rockville School of Ballet, while she was in elementary school and at John F. Kennedy High School in Wheaton. She spent three summers in New York at the American Ballet Center and the summer before her freshman year at Harvard she danced in the Wolf Trap Company.
At the end of a trying freshman year, Cardon decided to take some time off from school. A friend at Harvard who was a go-go dancer in Boston suggested she try the same.
"The only thing I was trained to do was dance." Cardon said, "although go-go dancing sounded a little far-fetched." So two summers ago, she went to an agent, a mile away from her home, who booked dancers into military base clubs. For her audition, she borrowed a bathing suit and white boots and went off to dance at club at Andrews Air Force Base. She was hired.
"I wasn't very good," she remembers and laughs. "I don't think I had ever played a song in a jukebox. I'd never seen a go-go dancer. At the beginning I was too rigid. By the end of the year I was more relaxed and more sensual. But it wasn't really until this summer that I began to incorporate some of my dance training into my go-go dancing."
One year and two summers of dancing has proved therapeutic for Curdon. "Unconsciously, it was a way to feel like a woman and not like a little girl, although for the first year I kept feeling like a little girl," Cardon calls. "It was a real step in working out my feelings about myself as a woman."
Cardon sees her job first and foremost as to entertain. "It's taken until this year to really feel sexy and enjoy it," she comments. "I didn't until this year."
On stage at the Club 400, she acts out the lyrics to songs. She plays up to the audience, blowing one a kiss, casting a long glance at another. She prides herself on the high kicks she does and the balance she has attained through her years of ballet training.
"I'm no longer naive enough to think they're just watching my dancing," she admits. "I have a certain sense of humor about me, but it does still bother me to see people just watching how I shake."
"On the other hand, I like people to watch me dance . . . I'm a ham. I enjoy being on center stage. This is no exception."
Cardon's first jobs as a go-go dancer were in nearby military clubs and on the naval base at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. "It was a perfect vacation," Cardon says about the naval base. "They took care of everything for us. We danced four hours a day and spent the rest of the time at the beach."
Now, she spends 10 hours a week dancing in military clubs at $9 an hour and 12 hours a week at the Club 400 at $10 an hour. The money has paid for half of her sophomore and junior year tuition at Harvard.
Her feelings about dancing have gone through a series of changes. "At the beginning I disassociated myself from the audience and the job. I avoided all eye contact with the people," she remembers. "Last summer I would rush out of the club as fast as I could. Now I really like sitting and talking to people."
Cardon has no qualms about telling people in the clubs that she goes to Harvard, but she does hesitate somewhat to tell new acquaintances at Harvard that she is a go-go dancer.
"I know their reactions," she says. "I know what my preconceptions of go-go dancers were. But as I respect myself and my job and my coworkers more. I'm less sheepish about telling people."