Earlier today I found myself caught up in a discussion on the differences between a more mature, adult dancer, and a young dancer. On top of this, I had a friend ask me why in the world I began dancing in the first place, so I thought maybe I would address that in this particular post.
I didn’t grow up taking any formal lessons in dance. I enjoyed going to parties, weddings and school dances to move to the music – but I wasn’t trained in any particular style. When I was in high school, on a whim I decided to try out for the Swing Choir. I don’t remember how I knew about the group, but I had been a part of the Madrigals in junior high, sung in my church choir, and saw myself as a vocalist. You had to audition to be in the Swing Choir (although I don’t recall anyone having been turned away). The year I was a member our costumes consisted of tops that were red sequined short sleeve shirts, with red skirts that swung out when we danced. Did I fail to mention that this was a singing AND dancing group?
This was my first real introduction into the dancing world. We had several singing and dancing routines that we were expected to take around the city to various events. I was only in the group for one year in high school, then I went back to just the regular club dancing. After a few years in college, a friend of mine invited me to come to a class held by the Pashami Dancers, who taught African Dance. Needless to say, this was not something I had ever been exposed to before – but I loved, loved, LOVED every moment of it. I searched and searched for some good video’s to show you the type of dance we did, but the best I could come up with is the next clip.
I began studying martial arts about this time, which was my main focus for the next 10 years or so. I went on to have my children, and when my daughter was old enough I started looking for a dance studio for her to learn ballet. She started out taking a class at the YMCA, and I could tell that even at 3 years old she loved to dance. She knew all the steps, obviously had no problems with being in front of hundreds of adoring parents who were video taping and snapping pictures. I knew that I needed to find her a real place to learn.
I started making phone calls, and settled on the Elizabeth Williams School of Dance in Williamston, Michigan. My daughter has a severe speech delay, called apraxia, and I have a tendency to go all mother bearish at times. I remember telling Miss Liz that Vivian was by no means stupid, she just had difficulty with speech. Miss Liz turned to me and said “We don’t talk with our voices in ballet, we talk with our bodies.” I don’t know about you, but that was all I needed to hear. I signed on the dotted line and for the next year I brought my daughter to class and watched her blossom.
The next fall it was time to sign up for the new semester, and at our school you show up at a certain time for registration to discuss with the teacher the right class for the upcoming year. My daughter and I were dropped off at the door so I could fill out the paperwork. As I was getting ready to hand my registration information over, I noticed a sign that said “Beginning Adult Ballet, Wednesday 7-8pm”. I stared at it for a little while, and then asked the volunteers who were taking the forms (and who are now a dear friends) if the class was open for anyone. All of them started talking and encouraging me to come to class. I have to admit, I got rather excited. I ran out to the car and asked my husband what he thought. He looked at me, smiled, and nodded his encouragement. I went in, signed up, having absolutely no idea what I was getting myself into. I thought it would end up just being a break in my routine.
Little did I know that after only a few short weeks I would be encouraged to attend the Saturday class as well. I threw myself with a passion into class, pushing myself to get better at dancing. The next fall, I signed up for tap class – and auditioned for a part in the ballet “El Ranchero”. In one year I went from not dancing at all to dancing 4-5 times a week. It was absolutely glorious. I have since tried jazz and belly dancing (although belly dancing was not at this studio), always sticking with my core of ballet. Last December I was in the Nutcracker Ballet, taking a few bit parts – but also took the floor as one of the Spanish Dancers. Miss Liz has allowed me to take part in the advanced class since this past spring. I don’t know if I will be allowed to stay in that class come the fall, that is entirely up to Miss Liz, but I can say I have learned more, I have progressed faster, and I have become a far better dancer than I have ever thought possible in just the few short months I have danced with the advanced dancers. I would be honored to stay in that class, but for me it isn’t about which class I am in – just the ability to be able to dance.