I have written many articles which include bits of my personal history in dance; my very late start at 25 years of age and a family structure that did not encourage or support a career in the arts. I have previously recounted an incident that occurred during an argument with my mother, when she said: “But you never asked for dance lessons”. And she was right. I never did. And at the time that I wrote that article, I said that the reason why I never asked for dance lessons was because I felt that hearing “No” would have been too painful. And that is true.
But there was another reason.
Our memories and our minds work in mysterious ways, and recently a memory came flooding back with a vengeance.
My sister, who is four years my junior WAS, as a small child, given dance classes. On a few occasions I was brought along and, through a glass window, I watched her classes. I studied her teacher, Mrs. Wright. She seemed to hold the key to a world that I so desperately wanted to be part of. I watched her teach class, and I hung on her every word. I was nine years old. I was the type of child that never wanted to make waves. I was the type of child that wanted to be “good”. I was the type of child who desperately wanted to fit in; although I never really did.
At the end of the class, the children came streaming out of the studio and Mrs. Wright stopped to chat with some parents. Again, I was hanging on her every word. And in one of these casual conversations I heard her say, with a roll of her eyes:
“Thank God I have no BOYS in this class this year”. As if boys in her dance class were a problem. As if boys didn’t belong or fit in.
Those words had power. Those words affected me.
I HEARD that remark. And I listened. And consequently, I never asked.
Perhaps if I hadn’t been brought a long that day I wouldn’t have heard that remark. Perhaps I might have asked for lessons. Perhaps I might have had a different life. But our lives take the path that they take, and I will never know what might have been if I had started training as a child. I have taken responsibility for my decisions and made my peace with them. However, I still wonder…
But I do know that we must be mindful of what we say and do around a child. Our words have power and their futures are so uncertain.
Children will listen.