In our line of work, we never know who will walk through our door and allow dancing to become a part of their lives. We are blessed by our greatest teachers each and every day, our students. Each person we come in contact with gives us a gift just by being at the studio for any length of time.
Like any good chemical reaction, when we come in contact with a student we are all effectively transformed. Take for example the dear departed Mr. Robert Lint. He inspired many of us with his humor, his zest for life, and his quotable sayings. I still quote him and tell people about his life lessons. Teaching Mr. Lint broadened my horizons, and I will eternally be grateful for the opportunity to have worked with him. Always willing to strive to improve, he eagerly took coaching from each traveling consultant and any new teacher. Humble to a T, he never let an unkind word slip his lips. When we would fuss about his heel leads, he would concentrate and do them better in his Tango. And of course when we would fuss about his frame, he would concentrate and pick his elbows up. Every now and again, he’d remind me that he was happy in the Bronze, and that they made him bump into Silver. That was as close as he ever came to a protest…and he always did it with an impish grin. We’d prepare for a showcase or a Dance-O-Rama, and when he didn’t always win first place he never let it bring him down. He’d smile and say “Nobody bats a thousand.” We’d sometimes chat during a water break, and I once asked him if he ever dreamed about his dancing. He said sometimes he’d have one of those dreams where you struggle through the dance and can’t seem to remember the steps, but other times he’d dream about the kind of dance when everything just comes together right with the music. He told the story of his first showcase, where he missed a pattern and Karen whispered to him during the dance “It’s ok, just do another box” and sure enough they came right out with the music. He explained how impressed he’d been that she knew just what to do to make it come out alright with the music. Even though he was a bit of a worry-wart, he was willing to be coaxed. One trip to Hawaii he said he’d never be willing to walk on the beach because those crabs might nip his toes, but sure enough when we offered to help him on and off with his socks and shoes he took a walk on a sandy beach. His laugh was best when it inevitably lead to a snort, and he loved to laugh. This man taught us many things, and his spirit touched and changed the people he came into contact with. He studied the dances in earnest, and tried his best. He would welcome any new student and say “Don’t worry, just do what I do” and he knew exactly when he should try leading his Silver patterns and when to keep it more basic. His spirit lives on in the way that I teach, tempering exactness with humor and a sense of adventure.
Each person whose lives we touch equally touches our lives, our hearts, and our teaching is adjusted. When a student asks a question, we learn how and when to answer with authority, and when to humbly ask a fellow teacher or coach for help. We grow and become better versions of ourselves each time we are challenged. Sometimes it is mysterious, the way in which we are transformed. And sometimes it is so obvious to us, even our families notice a change.
In this season of reflection, we thank each student (past and present) for the blessing of time spent together growing. We can only suspect that the imprint each of you have left on all of us is matched by the imprint dancing has left on each of you. We look forward to the future lessons as we each learn from each other.