My Sternum

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Honestly, public speaking is not a problem for me. Standing in front of a room full of people who could possibly hate me excites me. Performing is my passion. I owe this to my dance teacher, Mr. O'Steen. Mr. O'Steen had passion and he instilled that in each of his students, myself included. He danced on Broadway and on television shows during the 1960's. Broadway. As a little girl I barely knew what this was. Over the past 10 years I have come to understand that Broadway is a symbol of accomplishment.

Like most little girls, I wanted to take dance. I loved dancing through the grocery store in my fluffy pink tutu. My mom loved that I was developing a proper posture. Before coming to Mr. O'Steen when I was five, I went to two different studios. My memory does not reach back that far, but I know I loved Mr. O'Steen. He cared about us and he cared about dance. Even when I was a small child, he wasn't afraid to tell me I was doing a peekay-step incorrectly. He was a teacher, and in my mind, a teacher's job is to assist students in reaching their full potential. This is what Mr. O'Steen did. He treated us like young women instead of girls, and as we grew he began to treat us like adults. He taught us from the Italian school of ballet, which involved learning French. He taught us beyond having straight arms and pointed toes. He taught us to relevey, not to stand on our toes. Because he taught us French terms, we felt capable. That is one of the main reasons I stayed with dance.

As I grew older, and as a dancer, his expectations for me changed. By third grade I was expected to have a thorough understanding of the basic positions; first, second, third, etc... This was a challenge for me but it was also something I became determined to accomplish. I was not only learning to dance, I was learning math, foreign language, health, and life lessons. I could locate my sternum by the time I was seven.

By sixth grade, dance was growing more difficult. With my schedule becoming more intense, it made sense for me to quit. My mom saw that I had developed excellent posture and that I could speak in front of others comfortable. She saw no reason for me to continue dance. By this point, I loved nothing more than performing because of Mr. O'Steen. I knew that quitting would disappoint him and me. Broadway was in my mind as the finish line to a life race. I had accomplishment set in my brain.

In seventh grade I started pointe lessons with Mr. O'Steen. My first lesson was the hardest half hour of my life. I couldn't walk in my new shoes which were wooden boxes covered by satin. It felt like I was purposely attempting to break my feet. Like everything else, Mr. O told me practice makes perfect. I practiced all year until my feet felt numb. I still have blisters that won't go away as a way to remember the pain that kept me going; as a way to remember Mr. O'Steen.

Last year, Mr. O'Steen was diagnosed with stage four Lung and Liver Cancer. He was in his 60's and 70's when he instructed me, which was incredible; however, it was not safe for him to continue dance. He spent a great deal of time in the hospital, but we all thought he would recover.

On January 30, 2011, Mr. O passed away. I remember every minute of that day so clearly, as if someone had told me to study it. It seems like a dream, but each Wednesday I know it's not when I don't have to put on my leotard and pack up my pointe shoes. When I found out I cried all day. I wasn't just losing my beloved dance teacher, anyone who had had the privilege to have him in their lives was losing a great man. The same values he taught me he taught to students he had 30 years ago. Mr. O'Steen loved to dance and taught others that love.

In 20 years, I hope to be an actress on Broadway. Whether or not I remember how to lace up my pointe shoes of if I can grand jete or bullrey ontourne, I will always know how to persevere, and I will always know that Broadway is for Mr. O. And every time I think of my sternum, I will remember Mr. O'Steen.





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