A million moons ago I taught tap.
I was the kid in middle school and high school who was always in dance classes. I was the kid who kept taking dance classes even as other students dropped out. I was the kid who competed in dance. I was that kid.
My specialty was tap. I loved tap dancing – the rhythm, pace, sounds – all of it. And I was pretty good at it.
In my 20s, I was approached by a friend to teach tap at her studio. I was a young pup, and with my schedule, it was easy and fun. I taught for her for quite a few years, but when I was pregnant with our second son, I was put on bed rest. I wasn’t allowed to teach tap – or do much of anything for that matter. After Squishy was born, I did not go back to teaching tap. I really didn’t miss it that much. My hands were full with a three-year-old and a newborn.
But, in the summer of 2012, I was approached by a former dance student of mine named Lacey. She was in her second year of running her own dance studio, and wanted to talk to me about a few things.
I stopped in and she sat me down and asked me to teach tap for her. She said all of the right things to convince me to teach: that I was enthusiastic, that she looked up to me, that I was a great tapper and that I was hilarious.
She played the funny card. I was hooked.
I taught classes at the studio all last year, and realized that, yes, I did kind of miss it.
At first, the mirrors were daunting. I wasn’t used to seeing my full self in floor to ceiling mirrors. Do you know what this can do to someone’s self esteem?! Scary times! Those mirrors helped motivate me lose weight. Really.
I also wasn’t used to tapping for three to four hours in a night. After teaching angelic high school students English all day, tapping until the sun was in bed was a hard transition for me.
But I did miss a few things about teaching dance. First, I missed the kids and how entertaining they were. Fixing hair bows and tying tap shoes and consoling little girls who missed their mommies was something I was not accustomed to being a mom of boys. I also missed the thrill of seeing their dance steps finally click – those “I got it!” moments. I missed choreographing and perfecting recital dances. But what I missed most of all was me. I know it sounds strange, but all the memories flooded back about how much I loved tap dancing and who I was when I was knee deep into shuffles, flaps and wings. I had found a part of me that was lost; a part I truly missed.
Teaching tap again has made me a better person. It amazes me how life can be a series of reinventions, but sometimes it is important to look back to help remember, reflect and refine today. Dance does that for me.
On the day of the recital, I told Lacey how important the year of teaching for her had been. I told her how I found a piece of myself I thought may have been lost forever. I thanked her for what she had given me – a chance to find a hidden side of myself I had thought was long gone.
She said these words to me: “You made my year special and memorable. I couldn’t have done this without you. Thank you.”
Maybe we all find ways to find ourselves.
Gotta love the dance.