Saturday, July 10, 2010

Pass The Dance Shoes Please

   I am a dancing queen. This is not a self-dubbed title that I've given myself. Dancing is what I do and queen is what the name Jeanna means. I have always wanted to be a dancer ever since I was 4 or 5 years old, I remember vividly wanting to take dance. My older sister did take from Mr. Saxon at the rec. department, I, however, did not get to take classes. I remember her recital costume, it was blue satin with blue netting and had silver coxcomb trim on it. It was divine. When she would go to class I would don my green one-piece swimsuit with three very large buttons down the front and just hope that Mr. Saxon would invite me to join the class. He never did. But, still I would dance, and pantomime, and choreograph in my room and even my other older sisters would ask me to teach them how to do the current dances of the day. I taught my sister, Sherrie, how to do the pony to "Summer In The City".

   I had a best friend, Lisa Wilemon, that lived across the street from me. We would sing and make up dances for hours to the Beatles, the Supremes, the Archies. She tells me now, that I made her do all that singing and dancing, that may be so, but I had to interact with her ventriloquist dummy (see "Will The Real Me Please Stand Up?). I still have only a certain tolerance for dummies, even now, none. She still does ventriloquism to this day and I still dance.

   I made up a move once called the 'bully twist' and I danced it to "Wooly Bully", everyone would ask me to do it for them. I loved that. I got my big break to perform my first solo for my 4th grade class for 'Show and Tell'. My teacher, Mrs. Wilda Jones, was so gracious to let me perform this dance in front of my classmates. I do not remember feeling nervous or anxious, I couldn't wait to show the class what I had choreographed. It was to "All You Need Is Love" by the Beatles. It could not have been very good, but she was so encouraging that I felt I should continue dancing. She is also the reason I blog, she nurtured me in my writing as well.

   I got my first opportunity at 16 to choreograph for my high school's musical production of "Bye Bye Birdie" and also do a solo in it as the 'sad girl' to "Put On A Happy Face". By this time I was not only taking dance classes but teaching dance and gymnastics. I also knew that that was what I was supposed to do with my life.

   Since that time of my first desires to dance, I have produced, directed, choreographed, and danced in hundreds of  performances as well as taught thousands of students, of whom three were my own children and five of my six grandchildren. I still remember every students face and usually their names. I am now teaching children of former students. It will be a couple more years that the children's children of former students will be ready to teach! And I have loved it all...every minute of it. 

   God has seen to it all along this path called my life, that there were people there to help me press on in where I was going. Mrs. Ziegler, Mrs. Jones, Mrs. Calvin, Shirley Sumners Wright, Ed Dodd, were some of the teachers that influenced me and gave me an opportunity to grow in confidence and experience. Maxey Veazey, Shirley Cardwell and many many more influencers, too numerous to mention, that invested in me and helped bring me to this very place.

   2012 will mark my 40th year teaching dance. I pray that I have returned the blessing that my mentors placed on me by giving the gift of purpose, passion, creativity, focus, desire, fortitude, and lots of sweat to my students. I am very saddened that my wonderful love of dance was not caught by my daughters or granddaughters. I will not be able to ceremoniously carry out the "passing of the dance shoes" to them. Generationally speaking, it will begin and end with me. But they will have all of the years of my notebooks, notes, videos, pictures, and memorabilia, the evidence of how much this queen has loved to dance!

   I don't move quite as quick as I used to and my flexibility is slower to respond. I limp from the truck coming home from class sometimes and my legs throb after pounding the floor for hours but through all of it, I love it, and would not trade my career choice for anything else out there. I have truly loved dance and it has loved me back. It has been good to me. I have danced in rain, mud, red ants, cow patties, on grass, on gravel, on concrete, in front of car lights, on stages with holes and splinters in them, on flat bed trailers, in parking lots, pastures, churches with tiny altar areas, and in 3,000 seat arenas with 300 hundred piece orchestras and 500 member choirs with boom cameras swinging over my head. I don't care where, I don't care when, I just care to dance.

   I am determined that I will continue to "pass the dance shoes" to new generations to come and share my love for movement as long as my body will let me. There's just something about moving. Music. Mirrors. Barres. Costumes. Stages. Dancers. Learning. Growing. Performing. It's where I find who I am...the Dancing Queen.

   "You are the dancing queen, young and sweet, only seventeen. Dancing queen, feel the beat on the tambourine. You can dance, you can jive, having the time of your life. See that girl, watch that scene, digging the dancing queen."

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