Wednesday, April 23, 2014

T is for Tiny Dancer

At four, she did gymnastics and played soccer. At five, my daughter decided she wanted to dance. 

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.

In third grade, she decided she wanted to do a solo for competition. Miss Karen choreographed a sweet little ballet for her, and, with no sign of stage fright, she danced alone on a big stage for two different competitions.



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.















22 comments:

  1. This is a beautiful piece, Dyanne. I can empathize for you daugher, and similarly, my "T" post also talks about a time when I participated in something I was truly passionate about, and when the e next experience didn't live up to the priors, for me it was time to move on.

    Tell your Tiny Dancer that she is a brave young woman, and that we all know Miss Karen is watching over her. And who knows, maybe someday she will dust off her ballet slippers and find an opportunity to dance yet again. She has many years to spin into it.

    Kate at Daily discovery

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    1. Thanks, Kate! The door isn't closed; she can go back if she changes her mind. And she does get to dance in show choir, although it isn't the same.

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  2. Oh, what a poignant post. Life is full of choices--not just between good and bad, but between good and good. Your daughter sounds like a very talented young woman, and I'm sure Miss Karen would be proud of her.

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    1. Thank you, Kristi. She really gave doing it all her best shot, but she finally had to make some tough decisions. I think Karen would be very proud of the young lady she has become.

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  3. I so loved reading this Dyanne. Ur daughter is blessed to have Miss Karen and she must be proud of her watching her up above from the sky !
    Ur daughter is shining. She is truly talented
    May god bless her. May she pursue whatever she wants. She looks so graceful in the pics. M sure the real dance wud be a delight to watch
    GOOD LUCK

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    1. Oh, thank you so much! She was a beautiful dancer and learned so much from Miss Karen!

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  4. A gorgeous, gorgeous, heartbreaking story, but LOOK AT YOUR GIRL DANCE!

    WOW! She's incredible :D

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  5. Goog God your girl is amazing on so many levels.Beautiful post.

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  6. Ah Dyanne, what a lovely post today. It breaks my heart that your daughter and the other dancers had to go through so much in such a short amount of time.
    You have a fantastic daughter, but I'm sure you don't need me to tell you that. :) I love the photos you included.

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    1. Thank you, Christine! It was so hard to lose Miss Karen, then four months later lose the studio.

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  7. This is so beautiful I cried. Thank you for this memory and your gift to us. jean xox

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    1. Thank you, Jean. It made me cry to write it, too.

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  8. This is a beautifully written post. I had a lump in my throat reading it.

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    1. Thanks so much, Shail. I have wanted to write about it for months but just couldn't do it.

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  9. Tears in my eyes. What a beautiful journey for your daughter. She will be successful no matter what she chooses because she is disciplined and puts her heart into whatever she does. Gail

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    1. Thank you, Gail. I think my daughter is going to set the world on fire some day!

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  10. What a beautiful and very moving post, I have a lump in my throat reading it. Dancing was my own passion for many years, and although I had a natural talent for it I started too late in life to do anything with it. I hope your daughter does manage to go back to it, but whatever she chooses to do she will no doubt be a great success - you should be very proud of her.

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    1. Thank you so much! She's made out of some pretty strong stuff.

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  11. I was all thinking of jokes to sling like... how your daughter now laughs at fart jokes and wears yogurt spoons on her nose, what have you done to her?! Then the story become very emotional. Then you made me tear up, which made me listen to sad music making me tear up even more. Or cry... whatever.

    This is an amazing, beautiful post. I'm sorry that your daughter (and everyone, really) lost someone like that at such a young age, but I am glad (if I read it correctly) that they were able to perform that tribute. I hope so... before the tornado. If so, despite the aftermath, I think it's oddly poetic. I'm weird, though. If not, then it is utterly tragic. Still a tragedy overall, and I hope your daughter takes up dancing again at some point. I'm sure Miss Karen is looking after her.

    Sounds like she definitely keeps herself busy, which is great. I never ever had that kind of ambition and motivation (and still don't, sadly).

    On a random note, I'm glad your clock survived and is still on it's first life!

    Jak at The Cryton Chronicles & Dreams in the Shade of Ink

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    1. Jak! I never saw this comment!!! Yes, the tribute recital was held the night before the tornado. The only time I have ever been glad Karen was gone was when the tornado took the studio. That would have been so very hard for her, even if she hadn't been ill.

      I often lack motivation and ambition, too. And please keep in mind that when my daughter isn't actively participating in one of her activities, then she is lying on her bed, watching Netflix for hours on end.

      The clock thing is pretty amazing! That was the only section of wall that didn't fall or otherwise blow away (cinderblock building), and in spite of all the rain that followed, that clock just kept ticking.

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