What happens if your shoe falls off?
After a week of preparing our competition teams for their first competition of the season, which starts tomorrow, I reflect on my life in this crazy dance studio world. As a dance teacher, I have had many amazing moments, like when our team won nationals with a dance called “Time”. Amazing moments that may seem small to some. Like when that one little girl had been working on her Irish all year, and she finally got it, and I screamed with excitement, like I had just won the lottery. I also remember an awful moment when one of my students passed away in a tragic car accident and I didn’t know how stop my tears. I remember days when I ran into former students who thanked me for their experiences dancing with me growing up and all I had taught them. I also remember tougher days, when I hardly made enough money to pay for rent or food, but somehow God made sure he provided for myself and my children. Somehow, I just always understood that dance was my calling. It was like a whisper in the wind, or more a shout in the wind, “teach dance, teach dance, teach dance”. What a blessing it has been.
Someone taught me this “dance thing”, or as it may be better called, this “life thing”. Tomorrow, on our first day of competition, my students will be headed to competition, while I will be headed to church to pay my deepest respects for a man who taught me so many things that I didn’t even realize until I got much older. This man taught me that giving is sometimes more important than receiving. This was done by his by example. He taught me that I was important because I was a dancer with his studio. When I walked in a room, people knew I was special. He taught me that sometimes you don’t always get the gold star, but if you work hard enough, maybe you will someday, no guarantees though. He taught me there will always be a variety of people in class & life (all with different backgrounds, personalities, economic means and educational levels) and we can show empathy, respect, equality and kindness, regardless. I learned that everyone in the room mattered and that every dancer was important.
I heard the phrase “Weyenberg, get the lead out”, more times than I can remember. I remember Friday conversations after dance when we would go out for Friday fish with my grandma and grandpa. I remember a man who believed in my dance abilities sometimes more than I did my own. I also remember hearing the phrase “what do you do when your shoe falls off?”. The answer was always “keep on dancing”. Even though my own children danced with me at my studio, long after he retired, every time we saw Uncle Ricky, my girls would hear this same phrase, “what do you do when your shoe falls off?” Of course they would say “keep on dancing”. I taught them well, you know.
Until I got older and reflected on life, did I really grasp that this phrase is not a phrase so much about dance, but a phrase about life. I guarantee each one his students over the years has heard him say this phrase countless times. Forever more they will remember this phrase. His words and training in dance and life are molded into their being. When life gets tough, when challenges arise or when the world seems dark – “keep on dancing”. When your living life on cloud 9 “keep on dancing”. Make the best of each day everyone! Face your challenges and believe in yourself.
Tomorrow, many family, friends and former students will say goodbye to someone who made a significant impact on their lives. Thank you for giving me the gift of dance. Thank you for making a difference in so many lives. I will honor you by continuing on my dance journey by sharing your message of “keep on dancing” and making a difference for the next generation.
For every former student who experienced the “right of passage” dancing with him (and Patti) in the “12thStreet Rag”, I hope you always remember this dance. I hope tonight when you get home, you stand in your kitchen and do a tap dance that begins with 12 buffalos. With a smile on your face, remember “to get the lead out”. I hope that no matter what obstacles or challenges you face in life, that you “keep on dancing”. As a dance teacher and studio owner, I give you a gold star!
RIP Uncle Ricky Verhoeven
Kim Mader, Footworks Dance Company Director