No 03 1-17-2020 “See Clearly in 2020” Changing Lives Through Dancing
Our motto this year at Arthur Murray Santa Monica is:
“See Clearly in 2020. Make all your dancing dreams come true!”
When I was a very young Arthur Murray Dance Instructor, I taught a blind woman names Joan. She had been sighted and due to an illness lost her vision in her late teens. She was 28 at the time. She was attending a formal military dancing party and needed some lessons. Little did she know that I would remember my lessons with her over 40 years later.
First, she asked me to position her head so she would look “normal as she said it” while she was dancing. She looked at me dancing by placing her hands on my face and head as she “read” my own looks. She also asked me about her gaze and wanted me to train her on looking as if she was still sighted. For a 20-year-old guy, this was an amazing blessing and made me realize that she could see far better blind than I could seeing with good eyes.
Her attitude on life was that she was normal, and she accepted her lot in life and was moving on. She asked me about how to do her makeup and hair and how to accept an invitation to dance and how to hold a partner. We had so much fun together and these lessons changed her life and changed mine. In the end, she became a beautiful follower with a natural and graceful look. Truly, she could see perfectly in her own beautiful way.
The second student who changed my life forever was my deaf student who I taught for over 10 years. Her name was Roz. She lost her hearing from a childhood illness. She was married to a hearing man and had hearing twin daughters. Roz taught hearing at high school! Roz once told me that she was at the chalk board and said without turning around “Stop That” to two specific students. When she turned around, they asked her how she knew since she could not hear them and Roz said “I could feel you getting into trouble!” All her hearing students truly respected this amazing woman!
Roz was also a Rabbi and she signed in Hebrew to the deaf at a deaf Temple. What an amazing woman. After a few years, Roz became my confidant. We became very close and relied on our friendship. She was deaf and Jewish; I was hearing and Catholic. We were so very different, but the same in our convictions and courage in life.
Believe it or not, Roz gave me my best dancing lesson ever. My signing was good at that time and once, Roz stopped me and said I had signed a cuss word. She scolded me and said that “Arm Styling is the Language of Dance”. I asked her to repeat this to me and I have used this thousands of times to hearing dancers. With Roz, I learned the importance of what our arms and hands “said” to others.
My two most amazing dancing experiences were with Roz. We did our first dance show for several hundred deaf high school kids and deaf adults, dancing 4 different dance routines. Roz did not prepare me for their reaction and when we began to dance, they began to clap in rhythm to the music and cheer for us. I cried most of the performance. The music was unbelievably loud, and they could all feel the music in the air and through the floor. They could all “hear” and enjoy the dancing!
Our second show I was prepared with ear plugs and stronger nerves. We danced 4 full routines for a packed venue, and they clapped and cheered, and I still cried, but was overwhelmed with amazement as to how they heard and enjoyed the music and especially the dancing!
Roz was my first and only confidant so far in my life. On the last night of her life before the cancer took her body, her husband held her hands up to the keyboard so she could say goodbye to me. I still weep over that email farewell exchange, crying now as I write.
The next day, her husband had just read Roz’s will and Roz requested that I attend her funeral at Mt. Sanai to help bury her. I was the only non-Jewish person wearing a Yarmulkes to help carry her coffin. Hundreds of hearing students, deaf students, friends, members of her Temple streamed in all day for her service to say thank you to Roz. She truly changed my life. I may never find another confident as she was to me again, but I was lucky to have at least one in my life for over 10 years.
Roz truly could “hear” much better in life than I have ever been able to. My student, Joan, who was blind could see so clearly in all matters of life. Thank you to both these great ladies who taught me so many great lessons in life. I owe you both a thousand thank you’s for a lifetime of great memories.
So, please open your ears and eyes and listen and see clearly in these new Roaring 20’s!
Thanks for reading,
Keep on Dancing!