Our original dance teacher was preoccupied. She was in "The Producers". She was going to Italy. She was thinking about starting a family. In short, she was busy.
Another dance teacher we tried, as it turned out, had other obligations also.
So I went to rehearsal that night prepared to tell the dancers that there would be no dance. No teacher. No pre-show entertainment.
But God watches out for the Little Theatre Group That Could. Although I didn't know it yet, there was a reason that I didn't just call everyone and cancel rehearsal. If I've learned one thing in theatre (and theatre has taught me everything I need to know), it's to wait. Wait and see. Wait to see what happens, wait and problems will solve themselves. Wait and a miracle may walk through that door. At five minutes until six, in walked Shelby.
A freshman in high school. Barely a year older than some she would be leading. I had my doubts. What did she know about leadership, about working with kids? About KidsPlay, for that matter? Oh, I knew she knew dance. But...could she lead? Could she inspire? Could she gain the confidence of my little non-dancers? Would she be able to teach even them?
She spent the first ten minutes learning their names. Wow, I thought. That was a really smart way to start. Especially considering that *I* don't often learn ALL the dancers names until the performance. The actors, yes, but the dancers--they belong to the dance teacher.
The interim dance teacher had given Shelby her choreography. Shelby looked it over, ran them through it, and picked up right where she left off. A difficult task. The tendency would be to start over and make it her own. As it turned out, that wasn't a problem. At all.
And so, Tuesdays and Thursdays, in 30-minute stints, she drilled them, taught them, loved them. Praising, hugging, counting out the measures in 8-counts. Worked in small groups. Worked in large groups. Kept plugging away, dancing, reteaching steps as needed, tightening the weak parts. Creating a dance number.
Usually, during the dance segment, I am busy--answering questions, getting stuff together, preparing announcements, talking to parents. But every once in a while I would stop and look up and see miracles happening. Our rag-tag bunch of non-dancers, most of whom had never danced before, were dancing. Counting. Smiling. Putting together a terrific dance number.
And Shelby was dependable. Always there on time. Always ready. And always going over time. So into what she was doing that 40 minutes would go buy before I'd finally look up and say, "You have one minute. It's time for the actors now..."
Last night, with her permission, I asked if I could have the dancers one at a time to try their costumes on them. So first went Jillian, into the restroom with a hanger and a bag. She came out in her leotard and cowgirl printed vest and skirt. Shelby turned and saw her and her mouth dropped open. "Oh, she's so CUTE!" she said.
She couldn't take her eyes off the young dancer in her costume, who would soon stand next to twelve other dancers, all in that same costume. And dance on the big stage. The dance that Shelby, herself, had taught them. And I saw in her face the big picture. You know the one. That vision of the future that keeps us all going. In that moment, she knew then that it wasn't all sweat and toil, drilling and counting. That there was a bright spotlight ahead for the girls, for her. An opening night in the future. That she was part of a something bigger than herself. That we all are. And what we do touches lives that touch other lives and other lives like ripples in a pond, ringing out farther and farther...perhaps far into the future. She looked at Jillian, she looked at me and she grinned from ear-to-ear. And turned back to the task at hand.
The shining face of Shelby. One of the sum of the parts that is greater than the whole.