If we were having coffee today I’d have to tell you about my daughter’s recent award. Well, it wasn’t a formal award. It was more a bit of recognition from one of her students. As you can see from this picture, it was an homage in the form of a 10 reasons list. It brought tears to my eyes.
I posted this on Facebook at first. It got a lot of likes and a few comments mentioning that we, her parents, had done such a good job. Sure, we enrolled her in dance. We paid for it. We rallied through rehearsals and competitions. We volunteered where we could and continued to encourage her. But, seriously, that is just the tip of the iceberg. It’s a good metaphor. Beyond all of that, lies the truth. She worked hard. She formed and molded, she learned, she studied, she practiced, and she focused. She did everything she could. This is all her.
We’ve seen a lot of dancers come and go, a lot of them very dedicated dancers too. A very few have progressed to the level Audrey currently enjoys. In short, most of those past dancers burned out. Audrey continues to flourish.
I’ve seen her take recital classes of tiny dancers, four and five years old, who most teachers feel lucky if they manage to go through most of the motions and make her dancers actually dance. They stand out. Where others see a bunch of little kids who find it hard to keep focused longer than five minutes, Audrey sees a class she can teach and then she motivates them to learn. She is a master teacher, one who makes it fun while instilling knowledge and skill. Little students love her and older students love her even more.
It hasn’t been easy for her. She’s short. The common perception about “tiny” ballerinas? It’s a myth. Ballerinas need to be at least four or five inches taller than she is. Almost always. But she learned and practiced and applied herself. And she thinks dance, a skill she very early figured out makes her an exceptional choreographer.
She’s done some remarkable things too. Did you know that she was the first person at Duke University to earn an official Bachelor’s degree in Dance? The first. Their department had a dance minor for a long time and she was a dance minor her first year. But while Audrey was there, they upgraded the program and she was the first declared dance major. She’s concentrated on teaching but has had some great experiences professionally dancing in a few companies.
Teaching dance pays okay, but most of the time it’s a part-time job. She’s compensated by teaching a lot, sometimes at as many as five or six different studios. That, my friends, is true dedication to her craft. I frankly don’t know how she keeps her schedule straight.
So go back and reread that list after reading this short essay. One could easily change “Jazz” and put in “Ballet” or “Modern” or “Tap.” THAT is my daughter. Her mother and I couldn’t be more proud of her.
Thomas Fenske is a writer and “dance dad” living in North Carolina. You can get more information at http://thefensk.com