There is another person I always remember when I walk into the gym to teach a class.  Fanie.  She was my childhood ballet teacher. Stephanie Valencia Kierlin might be the most graceful, most eccentric person I have ever known.  She went by the nickname Fanie (pronounced fah-NEE), always wore bright magenta lipstick, and loved dance more than anything in the world—perhaps aside from teaching children to love dance.

When I was just four years old in my pale pink leotard, I began my ten years of study with her.  Still I can picture how, in pre-ballet, we sat in a circle on the studio floor, the smell of rosin tickling our noses while we “made waffles” to stretch.  With the soles of our little ballet slippers together, the space between our opened-up knees held giant imaginary batter bowls, into which we poured the sugar and flour we had reached across our nimble bodies to grab from imaginary shelves.  Then we stirred with pretend wooden spoons as our bodies flattened out, around, and over our tiny legs in baby-pink tights, to stretch us out for class.  I think to myself, if only I can recapture that sense of playfulness in something as simple as a warm-up stretch.

I think of Fanie whenever I ask members in class to challenge their balance, or when I tell them they must point their toes.  In Body Jam, when I extend my arm and attempt a graceful pose for half a second before we hit the next shimmy or hip roll, I remember Fanie and how beautifully she moved.  How she smiled as she did.

As much as I love dancing, at a certain point when I was a teenager, I had to choose between ballet class and all of the other fun activities I wanted to join after school.  Now, at the gym, I realize I haven’t left Fanie or her ballet behind.  She sustains me in the strength and poise she taught even before I could appreciate that her lessons might help me teach others.  

Movement definitely has an emotional connection, and I wonder, what is that emotion for you?  Which movement, anything from a mambo to a bicep curl, makes you smile at yourself in the mirror?

– Sarah

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