Mourning the Loss of a Great Teacher

I’m not even sure how to begin writing this post.

Yesterday, my dance instructor, a woman I’d been taught by and worked with off and on for almost fifteen years of my life, passed away.

That loving, patient, wonderful woman instilled in me a love for dance and movement so deep that I cannot even begin to fathom the depths to which she must have loved it.

My earliest memories of being in her dance class (having been smuggled there on the quiet by my grandmother, sometimes) are some of the happiest I have.  I can vividly remember being lined up at the barre, practicing this move and that. Even practicing tap there. At the end of class, she would give us all “fairy marks” – little dots of her eyeliner pencil on our arms. As simple as that is, it made us absolutely fly at the end of class. She made us feel so special.

At least, that’s how she made me feel.

As I got older, my memories of class change to those of a girl that really wants to work to impress her instructor. I pointed harder, I worked to get my turnout better, with every move at the barre and on the floor, I thought about a hundred things to adjust as I moved. I so wanted to show her that I was a good student, because she’d been a fantastic teacher.

Through high school I began to work as a helper for her at her summer dance camps, corralling the little girls and leading classes. Choreographing short dances for them. Even taking some of them into another room at her behest, to help them with a particular step when they needed help learning it. I even began going with her to the local University to help her with her college classes.

She not only taught me to dance, but she taught me to teach it.

Unsurprisingly, through college at that same local University, I became her teacher’s assistant, taking on that role of leader and helper in her classes.

When she found out I would be moving across the US, she suggested I begin teaching dance when I got there.

…I never did do that, but the dream remains.

Simply because she believed that I could.

I had hoped that she could see what natural dancers the boys are turning out to be. But we never got the chance to visit her once they came into our lives. I hope that somehow in spirit, she can see them, and see the influence that she surely had on them, through me.

I guess looking at all of this, it’s not a wonder that I’m so incredibly affected by the news that she has gone from this world. So many were greatly influenced by her. She was a tour de force. A wonderful woman. An exceptional teacher and artist.

She will be missed.

Thank you, Joan, for all that you have done for me in my life. 

Row puts on her point shoes.

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