A Luminous Halo

"Life is not a series of gig lamps symmetrically arranged; life is a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end." --Virginia Woolf

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Location: Springfield, Massachusetts, United States

Smith ’69, Purdue ’75. Anarchist; agnostic. Writer. Steward of the Pascal Emory house, an 1871 Second-Empire Victorian; of Sylvie, a 1974 Mercedes-Benz 450SL; and of Taz, a purebred Cockador who sets the standard for her breed. Happy enough for the present in Massachusetts, but always looking East.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Charmaine School of Dance

In the sixth grade, with my best friend Kathy Kos, I took dancing lessons at Charmaine School of Dance. Here's a Google shot of the block; the dancing school was upstairs, right in the front. That's the corner of White Street and Sumner Avenue in Springfield, Massachusetts. I'm talking 1959.

Charmaine was a blonde with big hair. She taught us four dances: the waltz, the fox trot, the cha cha, and the lindy hop. The waltz was easy, the fox trot I totally didn't get, the lindy hop terrified me. I did like the cha cha. One, two, onetwothree. One, two, onetwothree. One, two, onetwothree. Pretty easy.

First we were separated into two groups--boys and girls--and we practiced the basic steps. The cha cha was just a line, back and forth, back and forth. Then we had to partner up and dance around in a circle, mix it up. I hated that part. I didn't know anyone except Kathy, nobody talked to me, and everyone had sweaty palms and smelled like fear.

My first record was "Diana" by Paul Anka: a cha cha. I bought it the following year, in 1960. I carried it around with me and played it endlessly. When I played it, I did the cha cha by myself, as though following footprints on the floor. I can see myself now, in the finished basement at my Aunt Jean and Uncle Mickey's, playing that song and doing the cha cha. Back and forth and back and forth on a beautiful fur rug my uncle had brought back from one of his overseas trips. Wasn't I cool!

That was the room where my cousin Michael was to die, 45 years later, alone, while watching TV. I'm sure there's plenty more history in that room. But for me, it was only Paul Anka and the cha cha cha.



Blogger Linda Carraway said...

I thought you might be interested in the following: before Charmaine's opened at the White St./Sumner Ave. location, the second floor dance studio was the home of Bourman School of Dance. It was operated by a dear, older Russian man who made even knock-kneed dancers like myself feel like princesses. I didn't know at the time, but it appears that Mr. Bourman was a significant part of the ballet scene in his early days: http://michaelminn.net/andros/biographies/bourman_anatole/

5:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I took from Charmaine back in the day, but it was ballet only. I wonder if you know what happened to her or Mrs. Sales (her mom I think) who used to be the "secretary"? Boy, just seeing that photo brought back memories. I think I still have my programs! Thanks for sharing.
~ Christine

7:20 PM  
Anonymous David Potter said...

I was one of Charmaine's earlier dance students. She and her family, Irving and Lenore Sayles, lived across the street from me. That's how myself and the neighborhood kids started dance classes. I started my dance classes, tap dancing, at the age of 7 during the 1957-58 season. Classes were held in the basement of Washington St. School. From there she opened her studio at the American Legion on Belmont Ave., then to a storefront the next block up on Belmont Ave. and finally in 1964 (January) to the 2nd floor ballroom style studio on the corner of Sumner Ave. and White St. This was formerly the Bourman Ballet School. I studied with her tap and jazz all the way through my highschool years...I was an assistant teacher, then a teacher for her school during my highschool years and a couple years out of highschool. I have been teaching dance ALL these years since then. Like Charmaine, I achieved a Masters degree in Dance Education MANY years ago now. Though our teaching styles are different, I still view dance as education not just something for the kids to do.

4:46 PM  

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