Last month, I promised you a story about my upcoming dancing in the street. Well, I’m back from that adventure. There was pain. Ow. There were also tears. But mostly, there was love. Be ready to be bombarded with pictures of some generous, lovely women dancing their hearts out and a few vintage pics sprinkled in just to make you jealous of our hair.
In mid April, I hopped on plane and headed back to my hometown of Phoenix, AZ to dance with my high school dance group, CHSazz (pronounced “shzazz”). It’s a jazzy razzamatazy kind of name, don’t you think?
Here we are at one of our dance banquets, circa 19__ (mumbled words) looking too cool for school. Oh, snap.
You gotta admit, we’re killing it with the hair.
Some of the women who attended are now in their 40s, me included. Our bodies were popping and locking and not in the street dance kind of way. I wish I could say “I’ve still got it.” But duude, I think my back is still stuck in the Bob Fosse pose.
And can we just pause for a moment and appreciate that I hadn’t worked out since 1987 (<— only a slight exaggeration) and there I was rehearsing for 3 STRAIGHT HOURS.
How did I do that?
My bones want to know.
The dance we were rehearsing for was a surprise tribute flash mob for our high school dance teacher, Irma Griffin, who is fighting cancer with her sassy spirit, a spirit that can only be compared to Bruce Lee’s, Xena the Warrier Princess’s, and The Fonz’s love child. She’s badass.
The idea was: she was going to know there was some sort of surprise, which was a visit from a former colleague and friend. That was the fake surprise. But then she was going to be led outside and see us coming down the street.
Here we come like a band of coyotes, yelling and whoo-hoo-ing, with tears in our eyes and our hearts racing.
Her first reaction to seeing us come down the street was priceless. It was an unforgettable moment. I can only imagine what she must have been feeling.
Mrs. G is the kind of teacher that stays with you forever. Her lessons have lasted my lifetime. She changed my life by giving me confidence and self-worth at a time when I was being told I wasn’t good enough.
She didn’t treat us like pimply, smart-mouthed teenagers without a clue (which we were, on occasion). She treated us like we were all uniquely special. She spoke to us like we were adults that deserved respect. She touched so many of our lives and, as a result, this warm, breezy weekend in Arizona was an outpouring of love and gratitude for her.
The dance rehearsals were not without a few injuries. One woman broke her foot! But many of us were h-hhh-hurting. I pulled a neck muscle in the first few minutes because I was late for the warm-up. The song was Can You Feel It by The Jacksons. The name was not lost on us because, wow, could we ever feel it! Groins were aching. Knees were pinching. Sweat was a-pouring.
But the hearts…they were swelling. SO much love was around us. It was a crazy, wonderful experience to be surrounded by 30 years of past students, who all loved this woman so much, that we came together from near and far to show our support and let her know she made a difference in our lives.
We were instructed to leave right after the dance was over because she needed to keep her immune system strong. To all of us, this felt unbearable. Most of us hadn’t seen Mrs. G in many years. To not be able to run up and squeeze her tight felt a little like having Channing Tatum right in front of you, telling you he thinks you look sexy and he totally wants to get down with you, but sorry, no touching.
No? Just me then? My point is, we all wanted a piece of Mrs. G.
After the dance, we all just stood there, waving our batons, and yelling out our love to her from the end of the driveway. We couldn’t just leave, could we?
No, we couldn’t. We wouldn’t.
She pulled up a lawn chair and we all sat in front of her on the grass like young children excited to hear her read us a story. I don’t know if I sound crazy, but it was magical.
One former student went up to her lawn chair and just laid down, belly up next to her and Mrs. G couldn’t hold it in any longer. She gave her a hug. Then another. And then the hugs were flowing to every single one of us.
She’s still a rebel.
We’re all part of a Facebook group honoring Mrs. G (there are 376 of us!) and, since the dance, we’ve been uploading pictures and videos of our fondest memories. One group of students snuck into her yard overnight and Mrs. G and her family woke up to this:
Every heart has a beautiful message on it. I was blown away.
Former student and family friend, Rosie Posie, who organized this entire tribute, had support bracelets made for all of us with #iagstrong engraved on them. Many of us haven’t taken our bracelets off since we got them!
I now know the answer to the question: how was I rehearsing for 3 straight hours, yet can’t seem to find the time or energy to exercise for 10 minutes in my daily life? It’s because I love it. Irma Griffin taught me to love dance. And dancing for her again made me forget everything else. I think I will be embarking on a quest to find a dance class near me.
I am not too old for this.
Only when I’m dancing can I feel this free. – Madonna
I’m sure Mrs. G would agree.
Rosie put together this GoFundMe page to help the family with expenses during this difficult time. As anyone who’s been through this before knows, every little bit helps.
Thank you for letting me share this experience with you. I am grateful to have been a part of it.
See, I knew you would be jealous of our hair.