It had been such a casual, fleeting moment. That afternoon in 1990 when my mom came upstairs to ask me if I’d like to join dance. I paused and looked up only to shrug, “Okay,” as I continued to play with my dolls. I remember bits of it too, those first classes, even though I would’ve only been 4 years old. It often happens that way. These tiny, insignificant little things that end up being an absolutely life changing moment in time.
For 25 years, the dance studio has been my second home. Inside those stone grey walls and through the blue door, is a place where I learned discipline, nurtured my creativity, and experienced incredible triumph. I’ve been a butterfly, an international spy, and a cavewoman. I’ve done a Ukranian Waltz, a Cell Block Tango, and demanded R-E-S-P-E-C-T (in tap shoes, no less). I formed lifelong friendships that will forever be bonded together by our memories on the stage and in the classroom.
And my goodness, what dance has done for me, for so many of us. It’s so much more than callused feet and a means of exercise. It’s not all hair spray and cattiness. Dance is a character builder. It’s a way of life. It taught me the value of practice and hard work. Doing the same thing over and over and over again until you think that if you hear the song one more time your head might explode! I learned what it meant to be part of a team. That a routine is nothing unless you support each other because if one of you struggles, everyone will suffer. Dancing gave me an invaluable drive within my soul that is still with me to this day. That inner voice that wants to do better, that KNOWS I can do better. It taught me how to multitask. Balancing several classes and choreography, my mind full of commands to stretch knees, point toes, lift heels, suck it in, and faces, darn it, do not forget to smile! Dance brought me out of my shell, especially when I graduated from the volunteer program to become a full fledged teacher. To gain the courage to instruct an entire dance class gave me this voice that I’m not sure would otherwise have the strength to exist. Most importantly, I learned all the lyrics to The Little Mermaid’s ‘Part Of Your World’ and Beauty And The Beast’s ‘Be Our Guest’. It’s the little things, remember?
I will mourn my dance career. The “FIVE, SIX, SEVEN, EIGHT,” and seeing the smiling face of a child who just learned how to do a shuffle. I’ll yearn for the stories from the pre-schoolers and the laughter I’d get from the SAME joke I tell every single year. “Criss-cross banana sauce? Blueberry sauce?”, I ask cluelessly, “Haha no, Miss Alicia,” they say between giggles, “It’s criss-cross APPLE sauce!”
This morning, I will make my very last trip out to 1971 McLean Ave. I will say goodbye to those stone grey walls and that blue door. I’ll wave farewell to my dance family, and my second home. Thankful for every single dancer I’ve had the pleasure of sharing the stage with, and forever changed because of every dancer I’ve had the pleasure of teaching. Thank you mom, for asking that simple, yet life changing question all those years ago.
It’s the last dance. The end of an era. As difficult as it is to say au revoir, it truly is time. Thank you again for everything.
*curtsey and…curtain close*