ninety: a letter for my ballet teacher

I walked into Kathryn Austin’s dance studio, a gangly 6th grader with bushy bangs and a sudden desire to learn ballet. (Side note: I was only interested in gymnastics up until this point—gymnastics was cool—but tall girls are not cut out for back handsprings and when I turned eleven my coach pulled my Mom aside and told her, jig’s up.) I was placed in an age appropriate class, which meant plie-ing along side complete pros. Ms. Kathryn encouraged me, fixed my horrific turn out, and managed to work me into that year’s recital without drawing total attention to my flat feet. Friends, this woman is a master. I spent the better part of the next six years in a studio with this lovely lady, learning the anatomy of the body and so much more.

April 1, 2011

Ms. Kathryn,

I don’t know if I should erupt in applause, give you a big bear hug, or present you with a gallon of Fresh Market olives. I think you deserve all three. And then some.

When I decided to write a letter a day, I made a short list of people I knew, without doubt, I wanted to write to. You were on that list! And then your daughter—who is forever nine-years-old in my mind, but apparently is in college now, what?!—wrote me a lovely letter request. And if it even possible, my respect and admiration for you tripled.

You are one of the most determined and resilient people I know. I think it is just brilliant that you are getting your PhD. I don’t know how you juggle the three-hour drives or fit in all the research necessary, but I applaud you for doing something for you, and for setting such a wonderful example for your children and all who admire you. Those students of yours—in the studio, at UCF, old and new—are lucky ducks!

You are a wonderfully patient teacher (I speak from experience here) with a wealth of knowledge to share. As a dancer, you are bar none. I will always remember your solo performances during our recitals—they were breathtaking. And if your kids are any indication, you’re a damn good Mom too. But best of all, you are a wonderful role model. You lead by example and inspire so many people to do more, to be more. I would have never stuck with dance if not for your encouragement and support—and it has enriched my life beyond measure. And so many of the lessons you taught me during my formative years I carry with me today. You have such a positive outlook on life and truly live everyday to the fullest—this is the bread and butter of the journey, and it’s so often forgotten.

Thank you for being part of my story. And thank you for casting a little bit of sunshine in so many people’s lives. Best wishes and all the happiness you deserve!



Orange Line (sorry, no link. I picked it up at Urbanic)


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