The Healing Horse, Ch. 33, Scene 3: The Studio and the Lesson

Photo of a dance studio

In real life, I devoted years to teaching dance and fitness, especially to people with disabilities and elders. It was a wonderful career, and without Al Gilbert, it might never have happened. He was magical!

(Image by JPK1993, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Scene 3: The Studio and the Lesson

Gilberto opened a door at the end of a hall and held it for Karen. She walked into a dark room and waited.

He treats me like a gentleman treats a lady. She smiled up at him. “Thank you.”

He flipped a light switch, and she caught her breath. The walls were mirrors with barres in front of them, and the polished wood floor gleamed. This was a real dance studio, just like she’d seen in movies. She took a deep breath and held it. She felt at home. This was where she and her inner dancer belonged.

Gilberto put a record onto a phonograph, and a simple tune filled the air.

“Let’s start with the basics. Listen to the music. Feel the beat and the rhythm. If you can feel them, you can dance to them. Come over to the barre and hold it with your right hand. Now stand up tall and proud.”

He would tell her this many times over the years.

He grinned. “That’s perfect, tall and proud. Now put your left hand near your hip. You’ll be in this position lots of times.”

She stood up even taller.

“This is tap dance, so we wear tap shoes.” He lifted his right foot and pointed at the toe. “This is the ball tap. Now you lift your right foot and show me the ball tap.”

Karen lifted her foot and pointed. She had worn the Mary Jane tap shoes around the house, but had paid little attention to the taps, other than clicking them on the floor.

“Now, let’s learn the shuffle. This is the most basic tap step. You brush the ball tap on the floor as you swing your foot forward, then you brush it again as you swing it back. Is your left leg strong enough to hold you while you swing your right foot?”

“Yes, with the brace on, it’s strong enough. My body has some problems, but my spirit does not.”

He swung his right foot forward and back. Tap tap. Tap tap. “Now you try.”

She held the barre and swung her right foot forward. Tap! She swung it backward. Tap!

“That’s good. Can you do it faster?”

Tap! Tap! Tap! Tap!

“Listen to the music. Everything is in time with the music. Tap with the beat.”

She let the music move her and felt her inner dancer come out.

After a few minutes, Gilberto put his hand on her shoulder. “You’re getting it, Karen. Can you remember to practice at home?”

“I promise you, I will practice every day. I will become a dancer.”

He laughed. “When you smile, your heart smiles from within.”

Original text ©2023 by Karen Lynn-Chlup. All rights reserved.

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