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Archive for April, 2013

Rhythm is a Dancer

I love dancing. LOVE it. But, I’m not a dancer, and honestly, that doesn’t matter to me. I was that child that had a Mickey Mouse leotard and wore it daily with whatever shoes I thought looked good with them (apparently I thought leather loafers with tassels were a good choice). I had in it my mind I was going to be a ballerina, much like many other little girls around my age. I would talk about it endlessly with my parents who would try very gently to let me know that the life of a ballerina is a hard one, that I would probably destroy my feet, and get arthritis and be decrepit when I was 30 years old. They weren’t wrong, these things would probably have been true, but a bigger reason, the actual reason I never became a ballerina was because I was a pretty chubby little girl who just threw her heart out to everyone she met and I think they thought the world was going to be pretty unkind to me. To their credit, they were probably right, but I just kept on dancing, and I guess to my credit, I still do, albeit badly, I just move to the beat every chance I get. 

I do think I have limitations on what kind of dancing I will do though, and I think a conversation I had yesterday with (you probably already guessed) my cabdriver. I was in a rush to get somewhere and was rifling through my bag and the car was silent. A few minutes into the car ride, my cab driver points to his dashboard where there is a business card sitting on it, and asks while pointing to the business card:

“Have you ever been there?”

I read the card and it says “TruClub”

Ignoring the interesting spelling choice, I’m still rifling pretty vigorously through my bag, but not wanting to be rude said

“Uh, no. Have you?”

“Yeah, it’s a good place, it’s brand new”

“Wow, that’s awesome” not really knowing what else to add to this conversation

He then adds: “Yeah it’s a dance club” 

My interest is somewhat peaked at this point, so I ask, “Oh, cool, do you dance there?”

He gets kind of serious and says “Oh no, no, I can’t dance, but you could dance there or anyone could dance there if they wanted”

“Oh well that’s good, I love dancing”

“They even have poles there”

“Poles? Like to do pole dancing?” at this point I’m wondering where this conversation is headed

“Yeah, you can dance on the poles, or anyone can dance on the poles. They also hire people to come and dance on the poles, it a mix. They have men and women dancing on poles”

“Oh, well, I mean that’s good that there are both men and women dancing on poles there, I don’t think I want to watch people dancing on poles though”

“Well, you can dance on the poles and not watch other people, or you can just dance on the normal dance floor”

“So what you’re saying is that I have dance options?” At this point I’m full on laughing out loud at this conversation I’m having with this guy. He seems amused and also laughs.

“Yes, many options. I don’t dance, I just watch. Some people can dance, some people can’t, and those who can’t watch.”

“Well, I guess so. How do you know about this place?”

“I own it” at this point, I’m opely laughing at how ridiculous this conversation is

“You own this dance club? How did you decide to open it?”

“I own the building the club is in, so it’s good”

“Yeah, I really hope it works out for you, and maybe you’ll decide that you want to dance there one day?”

This left him roaring laughing, which again I mirrored as I was getting out of the cab. 

I forgot about this conversation yesterday I had in the cab, until I went to my Zumba class at lunch today. Now before I start talking about Zumba, let’s just make sure we’re all on the same page here. It’s a ridiculous class. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE it, but it’s ridiculous. I take it because a.) I love dancing b.) I laugh during every class and c.) It attracts such a mish mash of people that I find fascinating and today was no exception. 

Before I get into Zumba, let me describe where Zumba is located in the gym I go to. Zumba occurs in the middle of a lot of action. It’s in the interior of the running track with people zooming around you, on one side there are huge weights and machines with many people doing serious pumping of iron, and on the other side is a group of serious fitness enthusiasts who are doing the craziest circuit training routine I’ve ever seen. Then there’s us, the Zumba folk in the middle, with me usually sneaking in to be at the back of the class so I can muddle through without too much attention. 

Zumba doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. It’s a very confusing mixing of different ethnic dances with the word Zumba thrown into famous pop songs. As a person who took ballroom dancing, the massacre of the Samba, Cha Cha, and Merangue are particularly painful, so I just overide and do my own thing during those times because I just think of my past dance instructors and how they would openly weep if they saw what was being done to these beautiful dances.  

The instructors are usually pretty wonderful, and they work it. It takes a lot of energy to lead a fitness class, but Zumba takes it to a whole new level, not because it’s crazy difficult, but because you have to thrown on a persona to do it. What’s weird about Zumba is that it makes me feel like I’m auditioning for a bad dance troop. We get the choreography just as we start, we’re all in front of a mirror and we’re being watched by everyone exercising on the track. We’re all there staring at our instructor as she leads. I don’t know why I never noticed how hilarious Zumba was until today. There we all were, getting through each song doing the best we could, and I started looking around at everyone, and I think the reason it felt like an audition is because everyone was so committed to the music and the ridiculous dance moves, and it feels like everything is on the line. We get the choregraphy two seconds before and it’s show time. Perhaps my feelings towards Zumba are heavily influenced by my deep love of dance movies/shows ie. Center Stage, Step Up and SYTYCD, I mean can you really blame me? 

Another thing that makes Zumba really hilarious is all the “sexy” dance moves it incorporates. I love dancing, but you will never catch me grinding with anyone, or doing a Beyonce booty shake, it’s not in me, and you can go ahead and call me a dance prude, I won’t put up an argument. But in Zumba, there’s an excessive amount of “sexy” dancing. Like I’m talking full shimmies, bum shaking, hand sliding up the leg and body, it’s all a lot. And there I am uncomfortably sticking out my bum wanting to die, while hilalriously laughing, while trying not to trip the runners with my booty. It’s a lot to think about. 

I always leave a little bit of my pride on that Zumba floor, but I’m usually grinning as I leave thinking about how badly I looked. Today, I was in the dressing room when I ran into my Zumba instructor when she stopped me and asked:

“Are you a dancer?”

“Uh, no, but I used to do some ballroom dancing, but it was a long time ago”

“You move so beautifully, I was watching you behind me in the mirror doing the Cha Cha and all I could think was how I wished I could dance as well as you”

Huh. Well, look at that. Apparently I’m not as invisible as I thought I was in the back row and…apparently someone thinks I’m a dancer. My five year old self would be pretty pleased with this news. 

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Since moving to Saskatchewan over a year and a half ago, I’ve been confronted with Christianity more than I have in a long time, maybe even ever.

Growing up, contrary to what maybe a lot of other people experienced, I had a wonderful religious upbringing (if you can call it that). I grew up as an Anglican that attended a really wonderful parish, and I was probably the only 7 year old that asked my parents if I could go to church, which they happily obliged to probably equally surprised that they didn’t have to force me. They didn’t even really go with me, mostly they just dropped me off and picked me up when church was finished, and I usually had a great time. I didn’t know it then, but the Anglican church in Nova Scotia, and maybe more specifically my parish, seemed to be pretty progressive in the 1990’s. I had fantastic women  role models and they played a huge role in my church (my minister went on to become the current Bishop), I never heard anyone speaking badly, or asking me to think badly about same sex relationships, and people were kind and generous. The people I saw on Sunday were warm people that genuinely made church a great place to go to. Sure, I’m sure there was politics going on that I wasn’t aware of, but even as I got older, and even now, it’s a place I feel like I could go back to with open arms waiting for me. It was not a hell fearing, God punishing church  guilting  people into giving a percentage of their wage and donating it to the church. In fact I didn’t know those kinds of churches existed until a friend of mine took me to her church when I was in my early teens, and I knew that I felt uncomfortable even at that age, something didn’t sit right with me. While I never really talked about homosexuality with my parents or parish, I just knew in the back of my mind that it was something to accept in other people, it didn’t even occur to me until I sat in that church that people could feel otherwise. I always knew there was differences between denominations, but it really wasn’t until then that I really began to understand how deep those differences could be.

Anyways, I digress, I had a positive religious upbringing where I didn’t feel like beliefs were forced upon me, nor did I feel like my beliefs were preachy or pushed upon others. I was probably most heavily involved in church related activities when I was in my teens. I attended a Liberal Arts Roman Catholic University that I loved (although I didn’t choose it because of its’ religious affiliation), and ironically, during that time, I became less religiously involved. Not because of any reason really, except that I got busy, I moved to New Brunswick and the Anglican church there is surprisingly different, and I never had much interest, so I just stopped being involved. Over the years, my feelings towards religion has changed, but it was never because of my direct experiences with it, in fact I still find a lot of solace just by sitting in a church pew, I’m still awestruck by the beauty of churches, even if I feel conflicted about them.

But this post isn’t about my religious beliefs. It’s about Saskatchewan.

I first came into contact with Public Catholic School Boards when I moved to Ontario to obtain my teaching degree. I don’t know if this is surprising or not, especially now living more and more west than where I initially came from, but the Maritimes don’t have a Public Catholic School Board. In fact when I first heard they existed I was…surprised, and really uncomfortable with the idea. In fact school and religion were very separate all throughout my public school years in Nova Scotia, and in hindsight I think that’s extremely important. However, I’m wondering now, what happened in the Maritimes to separate church and state that didn’t happen in other provinces?

Anyways, when I was checking off the boxes of where I wanted to teach in Ontario the options were

-Public

-Private

-Catholic

For personal and ideological reasons I only chose Public, and it’s not something I gave much more thought to. Many other teachers that I went to school with in Ontario spoke very highly about the Catholic School System, and I believe them, I believe they had wonderful experiences with wonderful educators and that they could readily defend them. When I moved to Saskatchewan, I once again discovered that  Public Catholic Schools were alive and present, and again I made a conscious decision not to teach there. But you can’t get away from Christianity here. Not that I’m trying to “get away from it”, but it’s never been so blatantly apart of my everyday life as it has been here, it seems to be everywhere I go. What’s also strange about Saskatchewan is the people that have brought up Christianity with me have done it in a very passive and friendly way in the assumption that I too shared in their beliefs, and that it was just common knowledge that most people felt that way. It was never hit me over the head, preachy, but it did catch me off guard because most conversations I have ever walked into was always under the assumption that people may and probably do believe in very different things than I do, and that it’s not always a good idea to bring up religion (or politics for that matter) with people you’re meeting for the first time because it may not end well.

Religiously speaking, negative conversations hasn’t happened to me yet here in Saskatchewan, but I do feel infiltrated with a lot of talk about Jesus and the daily role he plays in my life. Now, obviously you can take or leave it, but the awkwardness really comes into play when you’re working with children.

Kids are amazing and really fun to work with. I have the privilege of  tutoring kids during the evening, and I teach anywhere from 1-3 kids per hour and sometimes we get into some really insightful and lovely conversations. Many kids here are taught to love Jesus a lot, and they do, and Jesus would blush at all the great things that are said about him at my table. Even if they’re not in the Catholic School System, they’re still most likely talking about Jesus a lot at home, and while I think that’s great, it can make for some intense conversations at my table. Parents pay a lot for their kids to come spend an hour with me, ideally, you would want your child to return to you telling you about all the great writing they did, or how to write a nice paragraph, or tell me the definition of  word I made them look up. Hopefully, that’s what is being said, but on some occasions I worry. I’m an English teacher, and my job is to teach your child lessons about how to express themselves and learn about the world around them, somewhere in there, I may also talk to them about how to be a good and kind person to others, how to be more responsible, and how they should develop a love for reading. Something I didn’t think I’d be talking about is how much Jesus loves our table, and the things he has and is going to do for our world. One quote I heard that pretty much broke my heart because it was so touching was”

“My mom told me that God doesn’t make mistakes. That God created us all to be different so that we could love each other and learn to accept each other. So people with Special Needs are perfect just the way they are, and we should love and accept them”.

Whoa. I mean, that’s some heavy stuff from a seven year old. Also, I’m a huge sap for inclusion, and religious or not, I’m obviously in huge support of accepting everyone, and I love it when kids tell me that stuff early on, it makes me hopeful for the future they’ll be living in. However, I also want to be an honest person, and something that’s really awkward to tell a child with shining eyes, looking up at you, telling you about their love for Jesus, is that not everyone believes in this same great guy that they do.

I mean I only have an hour to cover a lot of stuff, and the belief or non belief in Christianity is not one of them, but I also want kids to be able to have an open dialogue with me and to slowly learn about the world.

Last week on Thursday night the day before Good Friday, one of my students and I were gushing about how great “The Half Blood Prince” was when suddenly he asked:

“What are you doing tomorrow?”

“Sleeping in, like, yeah, sleeping in like it’s my job”

“Are you going to eat meat?”

“Well..um, I don’t know, but, yes, probably”

“But it’s Good Friday, people aren’t supposed to eat meat”

Ummmmm. So yeah, just like that. Religion snuck up on me again. I gently told him that different families have different ways of experiencing Good Friday and that not everyone even celebrates it (although celebrate seems like an awful word to use to describe Good Friday). Anyways, we’re chatting, and things are going well until another student at my table asks:

“So when is the second coming of Christ exactly?”

Whoa.           Whoa.            Whoa.

I mean I had to laugh (internally of course), this conversation was getting way more intense than I could have ever imagined, but there he was looking at me expectantly, and although I was flattered that he would think I personally would know the answer, the only thing I could answer was:

“I really don’t know”.

That answer, surprisingly, seemed to satisfy him, and the other student I was previously was talking to, and they resumed working. I then breathe a huge sigh of relief that I have dodged another bullet and wonder how much longer before I get hit. My biggest fear is that one of these kids will go back to their parents telling them about our conversation and something like this will be said:

“So, Lill says that the second coming of Christ is not going to happen”

or

“So, Lill thinks people should eat meat on Good Friday”

Now, neither of these things I have ever said, nor would I say, but it’s easy to see how those things could be misconstrued. Now imagine that I taught in a Catholic School and had to teach Christian Ethics (which I didn’t even know existed until recently) and had to give students answers on things like The Afterlife, punishment for sins, and I can’t even think of what else. It’s enough to make me need to breathe into a paper bag.

These conversations are mostly with elementary aged school children, and when (it’s a lot less frequent) it happens with my High School students, the conversations are less of a statement and more of a discussion. Obviously, I’m sure there are other teachers in other places besides Saskatchewan grappling with the same issues that I am, and I’d be curious to their approaches, but here I am, struggling with religion and education even though I’ve done my darnedest to avoid it.

Apparently I can’t, and in the meantime, I’m learning some pretty amazing conversational redirecting techniques that I think will serve me well in other aspects of my life. Lord knows I’ll need it.

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