It’s in the Blood


It must be in the DNA! How else can I explain Emmaly’s passion for dance?

My parents loved to dance and as a young couple they square danced in Panama and Denver until the family grew to five children and their responsibilities increased. I still have a beautifully decorated square dance skirt and top my mother made for herself. My father always loved to waltz and especially polka and would engage anyone available in a rousing polka. My older sister took ballet for many years. As an adult she has always danced, taking ongoing folk and African dance classes. My older brother also enjoyed folk dancing. There are family rumors that he briefly studied ballet to improve his football skills. And then I arrived. Dancing is not in my blood. There were attempts at dance classes. I remember one fateful modern workshop with Hanya Holm at Colorado College my mother thought might be good for me, but I was ridiculously out of place. (Probably an attempt to civilize me.) I would rather be playing sports than dancing. I lasted painfully for two classes. My two younger brothers were not so involved with dance but there is a family photo of my youngest brother busting a ballet move in a leotard. Dance was always a part of my family story, and every time my mother had one of her get-togethers there would be dancing starring my father.

There is no evidence of dancing on the paternal side, so if it’s in dad’s blood it is well hidden! But dad loves to “shake a leg” and has a very unusual style.

When little Em at five decided she wanted to be a ballerina it seemed natural to indulge her whim. I called various studios checking on times, classes and prices. The winner was Lucy Hayden who was wise enough to invite me to come observe. Hayden’s School of Ballet was where the baptism into the dance world began. Em’s first recital was that year and the wee bluebird costume is still in the closet. It is difficult to know what she was thinking in those early years of her dancing experience. What made such an indelible mark on her, I wonder?

young Emmaly

Every Saturday from Kindergarten until she was able to drive I took her to ballet lessons. I was not a particularly devoted parent; I would leave during class to go for a get-away walk. There were monthly tuition checks written to the ballet schools, credit card charges for leotards and tights and endless supplies of slippers and pointe shoes. Her bedroom décor had a dance element as well.

In middle school it became clear to me she was no longer just taking lessons. This dance thing was in her blood. It was becoming more of an obsession.  At the end of eighth grade Emmaly attended her first summer program at Jillana’s in Taos. There she spent her whole day dancing with young people equally in love with ballet as she was. Once she could drive, she went to different schools around town and took a variety of dance lessons. She performed for various companies that would visit town or put on the annual Nutcracker. Every summer from eighth grade on she attended a summer program. She would rather be dancing than celebrating her birthday at home!

In high school, evenings were spent at dance lessons rather than with high school sports or activities. That is not to say she was not involved with her high school; she was an outstanding student but her choice for free time was always dance.

As the time for college drew near, dance was still the major consideration. Only schools with dance degrees were considered. Emmaly could have attended any school she wanted anywhere she wanted. She could have majored in any subject from architecture to rocket science if she had wanted. And yet there was that darn dance again directing her college choices. Fortunately she attended the school she wanted and three and a half years later she had a BFA in Ballet and a BS in political science.

Then off she went to San Francisco to pursue dance and to write about dance, and to think about dance and to watch dance, and to live with dancers and to be immersed in dance. She could have worked for the tech world and become rich with that non-dance degree that she chose not to earn. But she created through dance a different kind of wealth. She has performed, interviewed, met, studied, choreographed and become lifetime friends with dancers from all over the world and of all ages. She has an intimate and deep knowledge of dance. And she has never for one second been bored or complained about how hard it is, how little money she has, how tired she is. She only complains about how undervalued and underappreciated dance is. And her vow and goal is to change the whole world’s view of dance, to reconfigure the dialogue, to empower everyone to dance and to make dance an essential art form.

Since five years old, her passion for dance has not diminished. Rather it has blossomed, flourished, expanded and exploded into unexplored realms.

I suppose after 24 years of her dad and I sharing dance with Emmaly we cannot be nonchalant about it. I still don’t choose dance for my physical activity. But I am an ardent fan of Emmaly, her friends and fellow dancers, I religiously read Stance on Dance. I care about dance because I care about Emmaly. I know about dance. I don’t know it intellectually. I can’t name the steps and I don’t know the progressions. I do know about dance in ways that only a parent or spouse could understand. I am so very proud of Emmaly and what she has gotten from and given to dance. My own world is bigger and better because of her love for dance.  Now it’s in my blood too.

Emmaly and Cathy

Emmaly and her mom, Cathy