The Dance of Life
With Father’s Day just around the corner, I wanted to share a little bit about my younger daughter (as if the Mother’s Day pictures were not enough). She is older now, just finishing her sophomore year in high school. How quickly they grow.
My daughter, Tessa, is a dancer.
This year’s dance season has just come to a close with her performances at Ithaca College. This year she was a member of the “dance team”, a group of high school age girls that have gone through successive years of dance study at Armstrong School of Dance.
The team girls not only take numerous classes, but also compete in various competitions and take workshops with top choreographers. They have done extremely well this year having qualified to compete in “Nationals” in New York City at the end of June.
I am constantly amazed at the poise, stamina, discipline, and determination which my daughter has exhibited all year taking seven dance classes a week and assistant teaching in one combo class of very young children, while also taking two gymnastics classes a week, keeping excellent grades, and a very full social calendar. Thank God for the energy of youth. Thank God for a season with only minor injuries and strains and blisters that heal. She makes her parents very proud. She also wears us out and taxes our schedules with daily transportation, food on the run, and out of town trips, shoes and tights and costumes. But it’s worth it.
Armstrong puts on an amazing series of dance performances over the first weekend in June each year. Scores of young dancers performing ballet, tap, lyrical, jazz, hip-hop, precision, and point, show off their talents on the stage of Ford Hall in the Whalen Music Center at Ithaca College. The early performances are the younger children, with a couple of numbers by the team girls to help “Wow” the parents and show them what their young offspring might accomplish if they just stick with it.
The older girls perform later massing on stage again and again in colorful costumes, entering and exiting with precision, amazingly organized back stage so as to allow for the numerous costume changes without collision or mishap. It’s a mammoth under taking. Karen Gorsky and her mother, Ann Armstrong, who are the heart and soul of Armstrong, run a well oiled machine and pull this off in a way that looks almost effortless, thanks to the help of several dance teachers, assistants, the team girls, and team mothers.
On Saturday nights, the finale is followed by tearful goodbyes to the senior girls who are usually leaving for college. Flowers are exchanged and the goodbyes and thank yous are said. And it is clear what a tight loving family this group becomes as they spend years together in pursuit of joy and movement and music.
I love it that my daughter dances. Our house is always alive with music playing from her room. At times the dining room lamp appears to dance as well, as her bedroom floor bounces and shakes from in house practices. A testament to the durability of our one hundred eighty year old house. Dance keeps her awash with joy (though often exhausted), toned and beautifully physically fit, and gives her a purpose and goal that has helped her to grow in so many wonderful ways. She is a girl of many friends and her team members are another source of friendship in a group outside her normal school social circle.
Tessa’s experiences through dance have shaped so much of who she is. Graceful and poised, light-hearted and determined, an awareness of gain and loss, a bonding with others in a deep and spiritual way. Between the pain and struggle of pushing the body to its limits and the emotional experience of feeling and living the music, the working together with a group that must perform as a whole, the inner growth of a young girl’s character is fed. The connection between dancer and instructor is that of student and mentor, yet sharing as sisters. It is personal, spiritual, community, and family. She is a fantastic girl that her Mom and I celebrate, and regardless of what ever path she chooses for her life, she is and will always be a dancer. And of that, we are very proud.
My dancer is also a poet, this poem dedicated to a former dance teacher.
La Danse De La Vie
[Dedicated to Margot Agostini]
By Tessa Cannon
My toes curl against the hardwood floor
My blistered feet glide gracefully
As my arms lift with poise
My porcelain fingers drifting gently
I am untouchable
But my wavy hair begins to fall
And old wounds begin to hurt again
But as I leap and pirouette
My falter seems insignificant
But my feet slide from beneath me
And it seems
That as I hit the unyielding ground
My wounds dig deeper
But after the show is over
And my tights are ripped
And my dress is torn
And my uncombed hair gathers
Around my tear-stained face
I pick myself back up and dance again
For the voice inside my heart
All images (except the formal dance portraits) are copyright © George Cannon / All rights reserved.
Copyright © Imageguy, all rights reserved.
Poem is Copyright © Tessa Cannon