Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Dance School Dropout - November 17, 2007

When I was five or six, my mom enrolled me in tap and ballet. She saw great potential in me—because I walked on my tippy-toes a lot. My life as a child star is documented in a solitary black and white snapshot. I’m posing in my leotard, my legs crossed in some sort of ballet stance, my head tipped adorably to the side, my face beaming a precocious grin, my eyes a-twinkling.

It was so exciting to line up at the bar along the mirrored wall in the dance studio. I was going to be the next Annette Funicello and make it big on the Mickey Mouse Club! As the youngest and smallest child in the class, I was positioned at the end of the line closest to the instructor so I could see what was going on. Unfortunately, for me, there was a second instructor at the other end of the line, and when the class turned to face her, I became the caboose. I would lean over as far as I could to catch sight of this instructor, but it was a big class, so I had to wait until the next dance position slowly inched its way back to me, and by then, the class was already on the next move.

Those of you who enjoy ballet (this does not include my husband) are familiar with the strategy of one ballerina performing a pirouette, or some other fancy-termed movement, and then, one by one, the other tutu-clad dancers follow in turn. Well, I’m certain that the origin of this dance motif was discovered by my astute dance teacher as she observed her modeled movement make its way, one student by one student, along the mirrored wall, much like the movement of the segments of a centipede, inching its long body forward.

On second thought, maybe it began as a settled-for performance of four-year-olds who always look to the left or right to see what the dancer next to her is doing, and thus each dancer is one or two seconds out of sync. Did some exasperated teacher notice that the proud parents and grandparents thought this phenomenon was oh so cute and see its potential as a show stopper on a grander scale?

Alas, I never made it to the stage because my mama pulled her frustrated, whiny, little girl out of class, with good intentions of reenrolling me when I was a bit taller—which never happened. Ever since that day, I have had a dancer locked away inside me, screaming to be unleashed. A few years ago, my hubby invited my inner dancer to participate in a ballroom dance class at the Paramount. I lamely agreed to do so, and proved to everyone that my latent dancing abilities were past their prime. It’s sort of like how the best time to learn a second language is in childhood when the brain is eagerly creates new pathways for such learning. The road to the dance center in my brain was closed, my creative energy long ago diverted elsewhere. Once again, I became a dance school drop out.

Bemoaning my failure as a dancer, to my friend, Cheryl Surbaugh, she creatively pointed out to me that my graduate degree from IU was in “GuiDANCE and Counseling” and that I was, in fact, dancing metaphorically with my clients. This was about the time I was reading books by Harriet Goldhor Lerner entitled, The Dance of Intimacy and The Dance of Anger and I could really grab on to Cheryl’s metaphor and dance with it. Still to this day, I use the metaphor of dance with my clients, reminding them that, “In life as in the dance, grace glides on blistered feet.” (Alice Abrams)

Take a closer look at the word “G-U-I-dance. Might it also mean, “God, you and I dance”? While I may always be a clumsy three-footed dancer, like Gene Kelly, GRACE lovingly takes my hand and glides me skillfully through the storms of my life—to the tune of Singin’ in the Rain, of course.

“Take up your tambourines and…dance with the joyful.”

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