by Catherine L. Tully
This is a difficult post to write; in part because it is an event that saddens me, but also because I want to do the topic the justice it deserves.
Louise Engstrom died last week.
Now, I don’t expect you to recognize the name. And if you Google Mrs. E, chances are, you won’t see anything other than her obituary, and possibly her Facebook page. So, you may be wondering–who exactly is she?
She was my first ballet teacher.
In the world of firsts, there are some that have the power to shape you permanently. Your first love. Your first real job. Your first time away from home.
Your first dance teacher.
In ballet, your first teacher is everything. Get one that doesn’t know what they are doing and you can wind up with ruined feet, bad technique or worse. Luck out and find a good one and you’ve got a shot at a career in dance. That is, if they don’t decide they will keep you all to themselves.
It’s easy to wind up being a big fish in a little pond when you study at a smaller studio. But in my case Mrs. E was a class act all the way. Not only did she let me go, she researched the studios that were available and chose the one that she thought would be the best pick for me…
She chose perfectly–and she prepared me well.
“One of the first things we learn from our teachers is discernment: the ability to tell truth from fiction, to know when we have lost our center and how to find it again. Discernment is also one of the last things we learn, when we feel our paths diverge and we must separate from our mentors in order to stay true to ourselves.”
― Anne Hill, The Baby and the Bathwater
So tonight, here I sit. Reflecting on what Mrs. E did for me. Realizing that without her, I may never have gone on to do much in the world of dance. Thankful for the fact that she pushed me to grow. And hopeful that in some small way I can do what it is that she thought I could.
Thanks for letting me go Louise. I think you and I may have gone about this in reverse. You separated our paths a long time ago. But only now, some 30 years later–I’m finding my center.
Who was your first teacher, and what did they do for you?