The dance studio we chose was owned by a woman who had once owned our house. She was well-known in our town as a gifted, but no-nonsense, dance teacher. My daughter had a healthy fear of Miss Karen; she paid attention in class and was never one of the little dancers who hung from the barre or dizzied herself by spinning around on the dance floor.
|1st grade, with her beloved Miss Karen|
(See the clock on the wall? It survived the tornado,
and is hanging in my basement, still keeping
time, still the same battery.)
And it showed. At the spring recital (and if you have ever gone to a dance recital, you will know PRECISELY what I am talking about here), my daughter was the one the rest of the girls in the dance watched, following her about a half beat behind, because she knew every step, and they were, well, the ones who spent much of their class time hanging from the barre and spinning around on the floor.
By the time she was in first grade, Miss Karen told us that our daughter had a talent for ballet; she was disciplined, especially for a 6 year old. She knew all the positions and had beautiful form for someone so young.
By fifth grade, she was moved up to the advanced ballet class and started dancing on pointe. She continued to do solos every year, plus she helped Miss Karen teach classes to some of the younger children, acting as a demonstrator. Besides ballet, tap and jazz classes during the week, she also took a ballet technique class on Saturday mornings. Her world was centered around the dance studio, sometimes there five nights a week.
But during that year, Miss Karen began experiencing some health problems. Eventually, we learned she had cancer. She continued to teach, and my daughter continued to help her, taking on demonstrating for two technique classes on Saturdays before taking her own class, acting as her teacher's body as Miss Karen's body was failing her. The two of them grew very close.
On January 6, 2011, at the age of 62, Miss Karen peacefully passed away.She had taught thousands of dancers in over 39 years of owning the studio. My daughter was heartbroken.
Shortly before she became ill, Miss Karen's daughter, Nicole, moved back to town and began helping at the studio. After her mother passed away, she stepped in and carried on. The dancers eased out of their grief and continued with classes and plans for a recital in the spring which would be a tribute to her mother. It was a tearful, touching night, one which would have made Miss Karen proud.
Less than 24 hours later, the studio was gone, completely destroyed in the EF-5 tornado that hit Joplin on May 22, 2011.
My daughter not only had lost her beloved dance teacher, she had now lost her second home. And although the studio re-opened at another location, it was not the same for her. She loved Nicole, but she missed Miss Karen terribly.
She also began to get other interests. She became a cheerleader at her middle school. She played on the school volleyball team and enjoyed it so much, she played in the off-season on a traveling team. Then she tried out for (and made) show choir for her freshman year in high school. Her plate was pretty full. Too full, in fact; school policy would not allow her to play volleyball AND be a cheerleader in high school. She had to make a choice, and she chose volleyball. And due to time and financial constraints, we told her she needed to choose between travel volleyball and dance this next school year. She chose dance.
When school began this past fall, my daughter was busy with volleyball and show choir. Her volleyball schedule prevented her from attending ballet, but she went to two other dance classes a week and planned to re-join her ballet class in November, when the volleyball season ended. The dance studio moved into a brand new building, built to replace the one that was lost in the tornado.
But my daughter wasn't happy.
She missed Miss Karen. She tearfully said that, while the new studio was pretty and state of the art, she couldn't "feel" Miss Karen there.
Just as the school volleyball season ended, and on the very day she was returning to ballet class after a two month break, she was asked to join a travel volleyball team. She had a huge decision to make, and I couldn't make it for her.
She picked volleyball, but not before we both shed many tears over it, hers because she was afraid Miss Karen would be disappointed in her (she wouldn't have, ever), mine because my tiny dancer had grown up.