In search of the last dance
Leada Devaney, Hartselle Enquirer
Miss Dot's claim to fame was that, after two kids and a couple of years past age 40, she could still do the splits.
This was amazing to all of us in her ballet class. We were about 4 or 5 and to us, she was the best dancer in the world.
At the end of every dance class, she would haul out a gymnastic mat and let us twist and tumble to our hearts' content. Our parents probably loved this, because we got all our energy out before they took up home, so no one grumbled if we stayed a few minutes late to turn one more cartwheel.
At the end of each of these gymnastic sessions, Miss. Dot – I never knew her last name – would do the splits. We applauded to the best of our 4 and 5 year-old abilities.
Miss Dot was one of my first ballet teachers. She and Miss Sheets – who's first name I never knew – were the instructors in my ballet class. I was 4 years old and loved ballet, or least my version of it, which involved shiny costumes, bright lights and getting to wear make-up.
Each year, we had a ballet recital. It was held at a large high school in Birmingham and parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters filled the auditorium.
Miss Dot and Miss Sheets had two dance schools: one was in Huffman, where I grew up, and one was in Vestavia, commonly referred to as "Over The Mountain."
"The Over-The-Mountain girls are wearing corsages," I heard our mothers whisper.
By the next year, we all had corsages, too.
Most of us 4 and 5 year olds were either raindrops or daffodils or butterflies. Our parents sat through hours of dancing just to see us flap our pink wings for two minutes.
By age 9 or 10, we had graduated to solos. That was the best because we got to pick out our own costumes and dance all by ourselves in front of the big spotlight.
At least by this point the parents got to enjoy about 5 minutes of their child dancing. Of course they had to go through 30 other 5-minute dances before they got to see their own Twinkerbell.
I kept dancing until my early teens, years after Miss Sheets passed away. Miss Dot was always my teacher and, for as long as I took dance from her, she could still do the splits.
Too bad I can't – that's a skill that's long gone.
Occasionally, however, I do pull out the old pair of ballet shoes in a box in my front closet.
They started their career as white, only to be painted silver for one recital or another. They are scuffed and old and flat as a pancake. But they are mine – and splits or no splits – they are part of a time I will always love.