One morning last week, rain poured down from the gutter over our back door, making it impossible to leave for Danceworks and stay dry. My umbrella was in the car.
It was one of those days my husband and I give each other the look, can’t we just stay home….? Thoughts of heading to the couch with books outweigh our responsibilities.
I quickly changed coats, making a more practical choice, threw my running jacket over my head and made a dash for it. Water splashed up over my shoes and dripped all over the seat as I slid into the car. I reached into my pocket for the key and realized it was still in the pocket of the impractical coat.
In Danceworks’ parking lot, I snapped my umbrella up before I got out of the car, creating a little shelter. The wind turned it inside out and broke three of the metal rods. I got out, shaking it back down, but it preferred to stay in reverse. I got wet.
Once inside, I hurried down the hall which also serves as a waiting area outside the studios and found two bright faces looking up at me. I stopped. “Well, hi there. How are you? Are you dancers?”
“No.” They shook their heads.
“You look like you are!” I had their attention. “I’m Miss Debbie–what are your names?”
“My sister likes to dance!” said the younger one.
“Jillisa,” said the older one.
“Laylone!” said the first, squirming down off her seat, showing me a twirl.
“Wow! So what brings you here?”
“We’re waiting for our mother.”
“Who’s your mother?” They gestured to a beautiful young woman down the hall, cleaning windows.
“Ah….would you like to dance?”
“Yes!” they answered in stereo sound.
“Well, maybe I can help with that. What kind of dance would you like to do?”
“I do that!” I said. “Good choice. I’ll be back in a minute.”
I scooted up the narrow winding steps leading to our offices. “Good morning!” Everyone was busy at work. We had a big event coming up, but I had something else on my mind. I set down my broken umbrella and briefcase, then reached for my big book of Classical Ballet Technique and returned to the girls.
“I want to show you something,” I said sitting down between them. They leaned in and we looked at the dancer on the cover together.
“Look at her hands. Shake yours out and see how your fingers fall naturally–the middle fingers slightly reach toward your thumbs. You can hold the two together, like this, to keep them from getting stiff when you dance. Try it. See how graceful your fingers look? Just like dancers!” They were up out of their chairs then, copying the arabesque they saw in the picture. “Hold your chest up as you lift your leg behind you so you can keep your heart open. That’s right.”
We went through the five positions, and they showed me that they already knew how to do passé. “I watched my mother,” Jillisa told me.
I left them dancing to get the shoe fitting kit, and they tried on ballet slippers. Amy (Education Director) and Melissa (Operations Director) organized our Second Chance to Dance sale. We collect second-hand dance apparel that looks like new. We had shoes in their sizes, and I showed the girls how to tie the strings correctly.
“Can we dance in them?”
“Yes.” They were off, spinning and leaping up and down the hall.
“Can we keep these….?”
“Yes, you may.”
I found out that their mother was one of our new work-study students. This is an opportunity we offer to do a little work in exchange for classes, an hour of work for an hour of class. That’s how I got my classes back when I had a voracious appetite for dance.
I found out the girls’ mother was a graduate of Milwaukee High School of the Arts and had done some teaching at the Y. She was working to take classes once her children were in summer school.
“You might want to talk to Amy about assisting with our summer camps,” I told her.
“I wouldn’t be good at that,” the young woman said.
“Yes you would, Mama! You shouldn’t say things like that until you at least try! You will be good!” The wisdom of children is all around us.
Miss Amy joined us, and she helped find the right class for the girls on the schedule. Suddenly, I heard Amy say, “Is that a happy tear?” The mother was overwhelmed by the opportunity for her girls. Tears rolled down her cheeks.
“Tears of joy.” I hugged her. “That often happens around here.”
The family was back at 5:00 pm for Ballet I with Miss Kim (Artistic Manager). Jillisa had on a tutu she had made herself out of strips of tulle, and Laylone had on a little black skirt over leotards and tights. As we often discover, they were already dancers. We just open a door for more.
Welcome to the Danceworks blog, where we're hoping to share a little bit more about the heart and soul behind Danceworks… what made us join the dance and keeps us dancing, what keeps us inspired, and where we can share some of the stories worth telling.