In 1988 I attended classes at Uptown Dance Center in Dudley. The instructor was Leta Tavares. Those who were close to her would affectionately call her Lovie. I fell in love with her for two reasons. She was an African American Woman that reminded me of Darcel Wynne. I found her spirit to be vibrant and contagious.The second reason was she was a real dancer. I have seen her work on several TV advertisements in the late 80’s. Every Time one of the commercials would come on the screen, I would run and point her out. I was ecstatic to be around a black dancer. That was such a big deal in the 1980’s. It would be another twenty-five years for Misty Copeland to be the first African-American woman named principal dancer the world-renowned American Ballet Theatre.
In 1989, my mother took me to class to find the studio closed due to a fire. I was devastated. It took us a while to for us to track Lovie down. By the fall of 1990, I was back at Uptown Dance Center. This time Lovie was pregnant. My admiration and respect for her grew even more. This woman taught her students while in her third trimester. I have a vivid memory of her teaching and showing the class how to do backbends. Her 9-month pregnant belly protruded high in the air as she walked on her hands and feet simultaneously.
Every Saturday, I would plié and relevé at the bar. During class I considered myself to be normal. However, reality set in when the pain hit my body like a full speed Mack truck.. Dance offered me something the hospital and doctors could not. Dance gave me a sense of accomplishment, a realization that I could be as good at something. I would often daydream about what it would be like if I did not have sickle cell. I saw myself dancing at Alvin Ailey and possibly taking Broadway by storm. With my illness, I found it impossible to even make the Uptown Dance Center’s Company. I was always an understudy. During each class, I would learn every part and wished one of the girls would trip or get sick so that I could have a chance. I never did. Later on, I realized it was because Lovie was always worried about me. There were days that I would beg my mother to let me attend dance class right after I was discharged from the hospital. That made my mother and Lovie completely nervous. However, they both realized dance offered me something the hospital could n’t, a sense of accomplishment, a realization that I could be as good or better at something I loved just like a “normal” person.
Dance was more than an escape from reality. It became the foundation for my self- image. I was more than “the sick girl." Although there were times that I would dance through the pain, Although my dance dreams weren't fully realized, dance is a significant part of my life. My vice was a therapeutic component that helped heal my soul.