11 January 2008
Debra Miller's World of Dance
I have 9 years of ballet and tap lessons under my belt from Debra Miller's World of Dance. The photo from the right was taken in June of 1985, "The Wee Rockettes", I was 6 & just finished up 1st grade. This was my third recital at Miss Debbie's (as we called her), and I had 6 more to go.
Miss Debbie was crowned Miss Columbia Heights of 1976. In the dance studio was a portrait depicting her royalty, her long flowing brunette hair with tiara and sash and a velvet blue robe over her shoulders. She was beautiful. As I got older I always giggled when dads would come and watch our classes thinking that they were probably there to watch Miss Debbie.
My years spent in that carnation pink walled dance studio are bittersweet. I was kind of an odd little girl; an only child, very contemplative and I talked to myself a lot. While I do believe that I had a gift for dance, I think Miss Debbie was puzzled by me and wasn't sure what to do, so she just let me be. That aloofness was hurtful and made going to dance a little tough at times, but I really loved the recitals, so I stuck it out.
Every year we had a Christmas recital, in red and green leotards, tights, and legwarmers we danced to "Jingle Bell Rock" and "We Need a Little Christmas" at the local VFW hall. Afterwords we all gathered around a couple of tables and shared Christmas Cookies and punch. Then Miss Debbie's husband, Bob, would come out dressed as Santa Clause distributing gifts to all the dancers. This recital was okay, but for me it meant that I was at the halfway mark to The Final Recital. This was my favorite and why I stuck out the aloof MIss Debbie all year long.
The Recital was in the local high school auditorium and hundreds of dancing girls ages 3 - 18 huddled in the cafeteria/dressing room and Got Ready. The older girls cordoned off their section of the cafeteria with bed sheets as walls which made them very mysterious and interesting to us little ones. We would imagine them eating up their downtimelounging around giggling and changing the colored rubber bands on their braces. Our downtie was spent playing Candyland and Shoots and Ladders. The cafeteria held garment rack after garment rack filled with costumes, accessories, and little ballet and tap shoes. There were tables with a make-up station for each of us. Miss Debbie required that we all wear blue eye shadow, mascara, rosy blush and dark pink lipstick. I knew how to apply mascera by the time I was 9 thanks to Miss Debbie. The costumes were elaborate and typically handmade by our mothers. In the last 4 years of dance lessons from Miss Debbie, I expanded from tap and ballet to Jazz & Hawaiian. Yes, Hawaiian. Probably not too authentic coming from a little hole in the wall dance studio in Minnesota, but we did wear leys and our costumes were made from Hawaiian Print fabrics, and that's the closest some Minnesotans got to Hawaii in the 1980s.
The make-up, the costumes, and the cafeteria dressing room were a piece of what made The Recital so exciting for me. Waiting in the wings and watching the class whose dance was before us was another piece. But stepping onto stage, feeling the lights come up (always with my eyes squinched closed as tightly as possible) and then the first steps of our Recital Dance routine was the biggest excitement for me. I relished those minutes dancing on stage, they always seemed to go too fast and the minute they were over I began looking forward to next year. The Recital that is, not the classes.