Never Stop Moving

By
More by this author
Stepping onto that grey marley dance floor was like landing on another planet. To my left, there’s a seventyish woman in a thong leotard. She is a cross between Bette Davis in What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? and one of those dancehall hostesses from Sweet Charity. To my right is an even older man in a hot pink Carmen Miranda tank top rolled up to reveal a leathery stomach. Part of me wanted to run screaming from the room. But curiosity prevailed. Taking a deep breath and finding a place at the barre was probably the best decision I’ve ever made.

During my freshman year in high school, I fell in love with dance. I was terrible, but I loved it. Before that, the extent of my dance training had been rolling around on the floor with other three year olds. Now, in high school, I was still dancing like an awkward toddler—arms and legs flailing, attempting to do what my brain wanted them to do. I wanted to be better than that. So every summer morning, as well as every Saturday during the school year, I would spend an hour on the subway from my home in Brooklyn to the upper West Side of Manhattan. At Luigi’s Jazz Center, I found exactly what I needed.

Luigi created his own jazz technique after he became paralyzed on one side of his body in a near-fatal car accident. The doctors told him it was unlikely that he would ever walk, let alone dance, again. Instead of accepting this fate, Luigi developed a series of exercises to help himself recover. Here I was, almost 15 years old—too old to start learning how to dance—and here he was, struggling to dance against steep odds. I was inspired.

At the end of my first month at Luigi's, I was still cowering in the back of the classroom, hiding in the shadows of the better dancers. The more seasoned dancers were warm and welcoming. After class, we would go out for coffee and I would listen to their stories about being on the road, working with crazy directors, and falling in love with gay men. These women have been my support system as they challenge me in class and praise my growth and maturity. Even though my dad teases me and calls me “the honorary member of the post-menopausal club,” I am truly grateful to have these women for friends.

By August, my glissade began to look less like Charlie Chaplin and more like Cyd Charisse. The 83-year-old Luigi would continue to motivate me with his encouraging remarks, "You're getting so good! Beautiful." and the occasional, "Nice buns!" His elegant technique reflects his determination and success. The hard work behind each step is masked by the sweeping movements and lightness of the upper body. He taught me the nuances of dance and the importance of epaulement, the carriage of the shoulders, to give the dance shape and character. I soaked up his every word. By the end of the summer, I’d found my spot at the front of the class, an elegant port de bras, a new self-confidence, and some great friends.





Join the Discussion

This article has 2 comments. Post your own now!

ekaterinahansing said...
Nov. 21, 2011 at 7:47 pm
Gosh, I loved this! It was so beautifully written, it felt like you were right there talking to me! And I love the title, it's actually my "Motto for life" so of course I'd love it!
 
theaterfreak22 said...
Nov. 21, 2011 at 4:59 pm
Instead of calling it an essay, I call this a beautiful and inspiring story. I enjoyed the detail given and the passion portrayed through out every word. I myself work within the preforming arts and am glad to see someone just as dedicated to it as me.
 
bRealTime banner ad on the left side
Site Feedback