I was in was in my third year as a social worker
investigating child abuse during the day. I had actually tried hard for two years,
but had gotten disgusted because no matter how hard I worked, I almost never saw any
results. I still did my job, but my interest was clearly starting to wane.
One day one of
my co-workers asked me to show her a dance step. I worked with her for a couple minutes
and she got it pretty fast. She grinned and said, "You should be a dance teacher!
My boyfriend tried to show me that step and we got absolutely nowhere !"
I have little doubt she was just being kind, but for my Disco-crazed soul, that
was like throwing an ember on dry wood. My imagination soared! For the rest of the
day, all I could do was think about teaching a dance class. Finally I decided to do
something about it.
That night I practiced in my little mirror to KLOL till 2 AM. My
favorite song in those days was "The Year of the Cat", so I made up my own dance
routine. For two weeks each night I practiced until I was psyched and ready to go.
The night of my class there were thirty students. They all knew me
because I was also a student in the class. After stuttering for five
minutes, I finally told a stupid joke and out of pity the class laughed.
Five minutes later they were actually smiling and starting to get the
routine. As I walked to the tape deck to play "Year of the Cat", a man
suddenly ran in the room to say there was a bomb threat and to evacuate
immediately. I turned around to tell everyone we'd better leave when I
cleverly noticed they already had. This was after all the Jewish
Community Center and they obviously didn't need my advice.
Fortunately nothing bad happened. After a couple of minutes of standing in the parking
lot, one of the students suggested we continue. Why not? So for the next 50 minutes
I actually conducted a class in the JCC parking lot. If I remember correctly, we never did
go back inside, but we had a lot of fun anyway.
Nevertheless, I guess it is
safe to say that I bombed out in my first dance class....
One Thing Leads to Another!
Four months later I was playing volleyball at the JCC one night when my dance teacher
Rosalyn walked in to the gym. She asked me if I would like to substitute for her and teach
her summer class since she leaving for a long vacation.
By an odd coincidence two days
earlier during my daily daydream I had drawn up a syllabus for a dance class.
Nice timing. Interesting coincidence too.
I had one break like this after another in my first three years of
teaching, breaks that were so uncanny I have often thought I lead a
So that summer I taught my very class on my own.
I taught 8 one-hour line
My Graduation Present Leads to an Important Discovery!
Then on the
final night of class in August 1977, I took my class out dancing as a
Sad to say, before the night
started, these students barely knew each other. Line
Dancing meant no one had ever actually 'touched'
each other. For that matter, line dance classes didn't allow
for a lot of verbal interaction either. In fact when I
taught I had my back to my students and there wasn't any
mirror. Half the time they couldn't even see my face
while I was demonstrating patterns with my back to them.
No one knew anyone.
No one had to suggest I take my class out dancing. It just seemed
like the natural thing to do on the last night. So after class we
all got in our cars and took a ten-minute drive from the Braeswood
Jewish Community Center over to a Disco called the Rubiyat (later the
Bullwhip) on the Southwest Freeway.
I almost immediately realized how helpless they felt in this
environment. It was 20 strangers in the night. Third graders
on a trip to zoo have more confidence than these characters!
They were scared out of their wits when they entered!
Strangers in a strange land. Figure it out. If
they had had the guts to go out dancing on their own, they
wouldn't have signed up for my class.
No one danced.
Finally I realized it was up to me to get it
started. So I yelled 'Bus
Stop'. Magic words! Shazaam. Up they
popped from their chairs like dance zombies mindlessly
following their leader. They performed
the 'Bus Stop' among the safety of the group with me as
their fearless leader. Such courage on my part!
Hey, this was six months before Saturday Night Fever.
Give them some credit. Even though this was their
first trip to a Disco, they were way ahead of the
The 'Bus Stop' broke the ice. Now I couldn't drag them off the
floor. Vickie Sue Robinson belted out 'Turn the Beat
Around'. Donna Summer cooed 'Ooh, Love to Love Ya, Baby'.
Gloria Gaynor sang 'I will Survive.' KC and the
Sunshine Band sang 'I'm Your Boogie Man'.
Gee whiz they
fun!! Oh wow. You don't think my
little bitty heart was going pitter-patter with pride, do
you? I almost had a heart attack with
a drama coach how she feels after the first night of the
school play or a basketball coach after his kids win their first
game or a third grade teacher after the first class spelling bee.
These were my babies! I loved every minute of it.
I soaked up the joy.
This was the moment I knew I wanted to do this for the
rest of my life. And I had a strong hunch this was
what I was meant to do.
At last I had finally ended the confusion of those awful 'what do I want to
do with my life?' years.
I was 27. Watching them dance marked one of the happiest moments of my life. I had just
discovered I was born to be a Dance Teacher.
Now that I knew what my new career was, I decided I better
pay attention. So all evening long I watched carefully as the members of the group
interacted together and created friendships. Not just
boy-girl either, but 'friends'... hey, let's catch a
movie together, let's trade phone numbers.
Afterwards every one of my 20 or so students made a point of
thanking me for organizing the adventure. Several of them
admitted what I already knew. They told me they were too scared to go out by themselves, but going
as a group had made it so much easier.
I learned from the start that it was my role to create these
situations. I was not Cupid per se, but I was
definitely Cupid's assistant. I felt a responsibility to
foster events that allowed people to connect. And
dancing was the perfect vehicle.
This was my social work background kicking in. I had a
huge self-esteem problem from my years of never
accomplishing anything of note in my job as a child
abuse investigator. Now I had people thanking me for
doing something I enjoyed doing. Finally I was helping people!
It was about time I found a place to contribute.
When these people thanked me
at the end of the night, I knew beyond the shadow of a doubt
I had found my niche.
I believed I was on the right path.