In this scene, Karen’s endless practice pays off. She performs the difficult Maxi Ford turn while waiting for her dance lesson. On a personal note, without my beloved mother’s love and encouragement, none of this would have happened. Happy Mother’s Day to every mom in the world!
Here’s a lovely video of some young kids having fun doing Maxi Ford turns.
Scene 3: The Mirror
The next day, Karen rode to the studio with Mama. Someone had canceled, and Gilberto wanted to give her a free lesson. They hurried through the doors.
Inside, Miss Devine pursed her lips. “I’m sorry. There was some miscommunication. The boy we thought canceled showed up, anyway. But Gilberto can teach you in an hour.”
Karen frowned, but only for a second. She had an idea. “Is one of the dance studios free? I could practice until Gilberto is ready for me.”
“Yes. The small one.”
“That should be perfect. Is it okay with you, Mama?”
“Yes, but I’d like to run some errands. See you in a couple of hours.”
Karen kissed Mama goodbye and skipped down the hall to the empty studio. Inside, she looked into the wall of mirrors. Without the distraction of the other students in the room, she could see what she really looked like. She got a new perspective on herself and on how she wanted to look.
Within herself she did not feel disabled, but when she looked into the mirror, her reflection staggered her. Her left arm bent at an angle when she lifted it. It would not stay straight like her right. It remained at a 45 degree slant. And her hips were uneven because her left leg was three-quarters of an inch shorter than the right. Her body needed a lot of work.
If she wanted to become a teacher, she would have to train her left arm not to hike up whenever her right was in motion. She had to train those motor areas in her brain to work for her, just as she did with her left leg.
She would become even more disciplined and do anything to make her body strong so it could do the movements her brain told it to. Her strong lion arm would assist her left kitten arm. She was not afraid to show her vulnerability or her strength to the world.
What she saw in the mirror taught her love, unconditional acceptance, and humility. She would give the same to everyone that she was learning to give to herself. Like an oyster in a shell, she would develop her mind and body into a perfectly cultured pearl.
A dancer’s posture is perfect. Dancers stand tall and are proud of themselves. She vowed to give herself the same.
To be a real dancer, her body needed to look like a dancer’s. She gave herself an affirmation:
Through dance, I stand tall and proud. Through dance, I am a dancer.
This was now her motivation, then she thought, This is all wonderful. But if I don’t stop looking in the mirror and thinking about my posture, I’ll never start practicing. Now to become like the beautiful Bolshoi ballerina I met the other night.
She luxuriated in practicing her steps over the full area of the studio floor. First, with the elementary steps, she became more and more engrossed as she moved on to more advanced steps.
The Maxi Ford turn is named after a famous vaudeville tap dancer of the 1940s. Karen had watched Gilberto teaching it to some of the other students, and she had been secretly practicing it at home. She put her hands on her hips for balance and focused her eyes on the wall clock. Then she began the move. She stepped hard with her right foot, transferring all her weight onto that leg. Then she did a shuffle, a quick forward and back motion against the floor with her left foot, which made her body spin to the right, so she landed on her left foot and tapped the floor behind her left foot with her right toe. She repeated the motion, faster and faster, spinning across the floor from one wall to the other, where she reversed, stamped onto her left foot and did Maxi Ford turns the other way, back across the floor. Faster and faster, she spun, back and forth, back and forth, lost in the music and the movement of the dance.
A draft of cool air passed over her face and broke her concentration. She stopped dancing and turned to the studio door. Gilberto stood in it, tears of joy streaming down his face.
“Sweetheart, you’re dancing like a pro and without your brace. You don’t need that brace at all anymore.”
Original text ©2023 by Karen Lynn-Chlup. All rights reserved.