It was a simple enough question: “And how about you? Where are you now?” a colleague asked me after a meeting.
“I’m still at Danceworks,” I said as naturally as I breathe.
“Still…? Wow, you’ve been there a long time.” I knew she’d been at three jobs to my one.
“There’s always something more to do.”
I went back to the office and thought about why I’ve been at Danceworks for over a decade. I still felt motivated by our mission but had to admit that I’d stopped doing the one thing that had carried me through all the highs and lows: Dance.
In my early years at Danceworks, we didn’t have much more than our work, good spirit and each other. There was no money in the bank…literally; there was no money in the bank. And though I spent my share of sleepless nights worrying, I also had something that made me jump out of bed each morning. I loved to dance and making it possible for others. After a dance class, I’d move through the day energized and inspired.
These days, I say I want to walk into my old age, not limp into it like some aging dancers I’ve seen, so I’ve cut back on class to where I have almost stopped dancing. I realized how much I missed the exhilaration of moving to the music—where you forget about everything except the dance.
The trainings for Danceworks’ Mad Hot Ballroom and Tap (MHBT) were starting up in a couple weeks, and I gave some thought to learning the new dances along with the faculty. I had had great intentions of doing that back in 2006 when we started MHBT, but a couple sessions proved to be more challenging than I expected. Ballroom and tap are different from ballet and modern. I thought I was awful!
I couldn’t pick up the steps, and my old insecurities came back. I came to dance later in life, and I learn more like an adult, less like the kids who jump in. Bless the children who see it and try it; as adults, we tend to think (and over-think) the steps. I was a little busy at the time getting the program started, so I had a good excuse to quit. I put it on a shelf.
Now, eight years later, I decided to give it another try.
I felt re-energized for about a week but then the, I’m not so sure I’m going to have the time, all my meetings, you know? kind of feeling set in. I was already tired just thinking about it, and the first training would be on a Sunday afternoon. I’d have to go to the early service at church to make it. The conversation in my head went something like this:
I need my rest on Sundays. You don’t have to be great; you’re doing this to be more connected to the program. But I don’t want to look stupid. I hate feeling stupid. Get over yourself. Think how the students feel when they start the program.
I was nervous, but I pulled out a pair of dancing shoes, put on skirt and black leggings, went to the early service and then stood in the studio with the rest of the dancers. I watched the lead teachers, Jacqui and Christal, effortlessly execute the steps to the Salsa while my brain felt rattled. Then I started to move to the music.
“Basic….½ basic….and an underarm turn,” Jacqui demonstrated.
Okay, that’s fun….
“Three back breaks and a scallop, another basic and a cross body lead.”
Oh gosh…..can I see that again …..? Of course.
After six training sessions, I’m still not sure what the terms mean any more than most people would know ballet terminology. My flaps shuffle, and my shuffles flap, but it’s starting to come. Dancing gets me up out of my chair, out of my head and with people. It forces me outside of myself, out of my comfort zone, and I have to depend more on other people.
I’m not only learning steps, I’m learning about the faculty and who they are—all 47 of them. Once I stopped worrying about myself, I saw a roomful of wonderful people, all with great stories to share about why they are teaching for Danceworks Mad Hot Ballroom and Tap. These are people I want to be around—many of them are outside of their comfort zones, too, depending on others to help them, but they’re doing it because they know what it will mean to a child.
“Want to be my partner?” a kind, younger dancer asked me as I moved towards the wall to sit out a round at the last rehearsal.
“Okay…” And for the first time, I began to really dance it.
So why am I still here?
I counted 120 MPS schools that we could serve. We’ll be in approximately 45 of them again this year. It’s time to hunker down and make a plan! How long will it take us to have Danceworks Mad Hot Ballroom and Tap in every MPS school? Five years? Ten? We want to make that happen.
I often think about the words of a young man in one of the videos we made when we started the program: “You should try it,” he said. “It will change your life.”
The first feeling I had when I got there was scared, because what if I messed up or fell? But after a week, I wasn’t scared anymore, I was just eager to learn. 5th grade Parkside student
….and in case you, too, might be feeling eager to learn: http://danceworksmke.org/classes/adult/