The Fan Club

When my 81-year-old mother was 17, she left her small town in Virginia to seek fame and fortune as a professional dancer in New York City. She determined quickly that she was out of her league—there are some great dancers in New York—and returned home to build her confidence and teach in the local dance studio where she had trained. Twelve months later, technique sharp and esteem boosted, she returned to the Big Apple and knocked on the stage door of the Music Hall to request an audition. This time, the Rockettes said “Yes.”

My mother danced in that glorious line for five years, until she met and fell in love with my father. She quit the troupe to form a family. As much as my mother loved performing, she also loved being a mom, and in those days, back in the 50s and 60s, women often didn’t do both. She chose motherhood.

When the youngest of her five children enrolled in grammar school, my mother returned to teaching dance, for five years in someone else’s studio, and for eleven in her own. Almost every little girl in our seaside New Jersey community took lessons from my mother at some point in her childhood. Her students numbered in the thousands. Mom taught them about Swan Lake and George Balanchine, Jerome Robbins and West Side Story. She taught them time steps and waltzes, the importance of good posture and holding one’s head high. My mother made moving from a small town to the big city seem possible and performing professionally an attainable dream.

My mother’s story is part of our family’s personal history, but I didn’t realize how far-reaching her influence was until I joined Facebook. From day one, friends were sending me messages: “How is your mom? She was the best, most patient teacher I’ve ever had.” Or, “Her Rockette history—so glamorous!” One student who owns a studio herself wrote: “I owe much of my technique to your mom. She instilled in me a love for the art, which I try to pass on to my students.” Several friends asked if they could form a Facebook “Fan Page” for my mother, but she wouldn’t hear of it. “I was just doing what I love to do,” she said. “Really, I’m nothing special.”

So today I’m posting a photo of my Mom and me, sharing a Coke on her eightieth birthday. To me, she is something special. I’ll always be her biggest fan.

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4 Responses to “The Fan Club”

  1. Lorrie says:

    What a beautiful tribute to your mother. I love that you have both instilled motherhood with passion for your kids and beyond your kids.

  2. A passion for dancing and children is something our family definitely shares, thanks to my mother. I really appreciate your comment.

  3. I didn’t know that! How cool! You guys look a lot a like!

  4. Jessica says:

    Glad you found me, Kelly. Love your blog!

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