If not sport, certainly athleticism

For many of you, I apologize in advance. This is after all a sports column and ballet, in and of itself, may not be sport. It is, however, a very serious athletic endeavor. Twenty years ago, I went kicking and screaming to my first ballet performance. I admit it was made easier by the fact that my daughter was cast as “a little mouse” in Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker, but only a tad easier. I had also found myself to be a bit discouraged that Sarah’s time at the dance studio was somehow taking time away from real sports. As the years went by, however, I began to develop a real appreciation for what is athletically required of the dancers.

This week I received the bad news that Patricia Dodd had closed her dance studio that had for many years traded under the name The Chesterfield School of Ballet. Dodd, who will hopefully remain a driving force for the Chester Center for the Arts, felt that the time had simply come. She cited the intense competition in her industry, as well as the fact that many of her older dancers had become heavily involved at either the specialty center at Thomas Dale High School or the Appomattox Regional Governor’s School in Petersburg.

I am thankful to Dodd for the service she has provided to generations of young dancers in the Chester community. She taught her students grace, poise, responsibility, teamwork, commitment and self-confidence. And, she taught them to dance. My daughter marveled upon taking dance classes at the college level at how so many students who had taken dance their entire lives had no clue as to what they were doing.

Over the years, I have had what could be called a love-hate relationship with Mrs. Dodd (I was afraid to call her anything except Mrs. Dodd for at least 10 years.). She expected the best from her dancers and she usually got just that. I would often try to sneak Sarah out of class early to attend a basketball game and would be met by a very disapproving eye. Sarah’s other athletic passion had been swimming. Her best stroke was the butterfly, and Mrs. Dodd didn’t like that a bit. “Swimmers shoulders are much too broad,” she would constantly warn Sarah.

What I do know is this: When Sarah arrived at the ballet school as a 4 year old, she was an extremely shy little girl. She emerged from the school a graceful and confident young lady who is now comfortable on any stage or behind any microphone. I am proud to say that Sarah is now teaching ballet at the Conservatory of Dance in Galax, and I can only hope that she will be able to pass on the same qualities to her students that Dodd passed on to her.

Pat, I’m sorry that the school is now closed. I’m thankful for what you did for Sarah and for the hundreds of other students that came your way over the years. In wishing you a long, happy and productive retirement, I also thank you for assisting me in gaining an appreciation for ballet. I actually buy tickets these days and no longer lament the fact that had the dancers taken a different route, they could have been fabulous triple jumpers!



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