Tuesday, June 7, 2011

My Lifelong Love of Dance

This weekend I danced in my first recital in 10 years, and it felt great!  I started a tap class last fall at a new dancing school after having been on a dancing hiatus for over four years.  I was a little nervous at first, not knowing whether or not I was still going to be able to keep up in an advanced tap class, but the ladies in my class were very welcoming.  I definitely felt a little "rusty" at first.  However, over the first few weeks, things slowly started to come back.  I realized that I still have difficulty sometimes remembering the names of certain steps, but not the steps themselves.

We did this tap dance to a song called "Work Me Down" with an 80's workout theme.  I'm sure you can tell by my brightly colored costume there!  There were times throughout the fall and winter when I was unsure whether or not I really wanted to go through with the stage performance.  I mean, dancing in class is one thing -- dancing on stage in front of an audience is another.  Now, after this weekend, and how great I felt after the three performances, I can't believe I even doubted for a minute whether or not to be in the show!  I am so glad I decided to go ahead and do it!

I first began dancing when I was four years old -- a full year before I even began regular school.  My mother enrolled my sister and me in what she believed was the best dance studio within driving distance.  Still, the studio was 30 minute drive from our home which is further than I think most parents would be willing to drive on a regular basis.  It was also located in the same city as where my grandparents and great-grandmother lived.at the time, which made it a little more convenient, I suppose.

My mother was not wrong in her opinion of the dance studio.  It was one of the best dancing schools in the state.  One of the most noticeable differences in the dancing school was that it was owned and run by a man -- Mr. Bill.  In the beginning, he taught all the classes himself.  As the number of students grew, he hired a ballet instructor.  Mr. Bill was (and probably still is) a perfectionist.  His standards were through the roof, and all his students knew they were expected to tow the line.  If you didn't, you would hear about it, that was for sure. When I think back on his style and methods, it saddens me to know that if he were still running a dance studio today, he would probably not be able to do it the way he could back then.  Today, too many parents would be calling him and complaining that he was too hard on their child -- that he would be somehow damaging their self-esteem.  Well, let me tell you, what Mr. Bill did by demanding kids give it their all and do their best, he was BUILDING their self-esteem -- showing them they were capable and making them demonstrate that they could -- if they just put their best foot forward (literally).  Sadly, many parents wouldn't see it that way today.  I am so grateful that things were still the way they were back then and that I had the opportunity to be a student of Mr. Bill's.

And, boy, did Mr. Bill know how to put on a show!  To this day, I have still never seen a dance recital as professionally done as Mr. Bill's dance recitals -- never.  And, believe me, I have tried.  I have had high hopes only to be disappointed over and over again.  In Mr. Bill's recital you never saw a student looking in the side wings for a cue or directions on what to do.  You never saw a student pick a wedge or adjust a strap.  The students were so well-prepared for the show, that the dress rehearsal was as good as the "real" show and people would attempt to sneak family and friends in to the theater for the dress rehearsal to get a free showing.  Mr. Bill had to have someone guarding the entrances to make sure only dancers and their parents and siblings were entering the building on dress rehearsal day.  When recital tickets would go on sale, parents would literally camp out in front of the studio in the early morning hours just to be the first in line to buy their tickets and get the best seats in the house.  That's how good his shows were!

My first year with Mr. Bill I did a combination tap/ballet class.  After that, I chose to continue in a tap class.  I took only tap classes until I was about 14 years old, which is when I began what was called the "Serious" program -- similar to a dance company.  At that point I was enrolled in four classes per week -- one ballet, two jazz, and one tap.  I was essentially with the same classmates for all those classes.  We worked hard all year and not only performed in the recital but some competitions as well.  Those were fun and exciting times in my life.  It was the first time I really felt a part of something.

I did that program for two years.  Then it was my senior year in high school, and I decided to stop dancing school altogether.  I'm still not sure how/why I made that decision.  Dancing school certainly did consume a lot of my free time, as I was at classes three afternoons/evenings per week.  I couldn't participate in most school-sponsored activities because of the time commitment to dance.  Maybe that's why?  Although, even after quitting dance, I never did sign up for any school-sponsored sports or activities.  Maybe I just needed a break at that time.

Anyway, as I mentioned before, the dancing school was a 30 minute drive, and at that time (the last two years I danced) my mother was not able to drive me anymore because of her job, so my grandmother would drive 20 minutes to our house to pick me up and then drive me the 30 minutes to the dance studio, wait anywhere from 45 - 90 minutes for my class to end, and then drive me back home, and then drive herself back home.  She did that three times per week.  When I think back on that, I am so grateful to her for doing that for me.  Without her driving me, I would have missed out on so much.

Through the years, I have continued to dance in some capacity.  I danced in college and in various other dance studios.  These past four years that I haven't been involved in dance, have been the longest stretch where I have not danced.  For me, dance is something I will always turn to in my life again and again.  I can't ever picture it not being a part of my life in some way.  My childhood memories of dancing school have stayed with me and continue to fill me with such fondness and longing for those "good old days."  I am excited when I think about what the future may hold for my own daughter and whether or not she will grow to love dancing as I have.  So far, she is very interested in both music and dance, and seems perfectly suited for dance and/or performance -- I am so looking forward to seeing what lies ahead for her!

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