Life Lessons from Dance: Tradition

Growing up as the daughter of a dance teacher has taught me so much more that just shuffles and plies. I’ve learned balance, focus, manners, perseverance. I’ve learned the importance of thank yous, the extra mile, and tradition. I’ve learned to accept critiques and to take orders.
It’s time to start chronicling some of these lessons.


Some families always watch It’s a Wonderful Life on Christmas Eve. Some always play pick-up football on Thanksgiving, and some always shoot off fireworks outside of town on July 4th. My family? Our traditions revolve around the annual dance recital.

Friday lunch is always at Rosa’s. The senior teachers always put down tape. Backstage snacks always include Cokes and brownie bites. Saturday lunch is always from Home Plate. Seniors always get flowers from their dad onstage. Old DG family always comes onstage after the evening recital. And we always try (and fail) to watch the original Star Wars movies the next Sunday. It’s tradition.

One of the most hallowed DG recital traditions is The Purple Trunk. Anything important goes in The Purple Trunk: my mom’s shoes, tape for the stage, the first aid kit, safety pins, caution tape. If it’s really important (music or technical sheets), it’s in The Gold Folder in The Purple Trunk. I don’t think we can do the recital without The Trunk.

Well, two years ago, the hallowed Purple Trunk was abandoned at the stage. Some member of our crew didn’t quite understand how special this thing is. It was left up there, crying and alone, mourning its separation from its family.
We mourned for about a year. My mom searched high and low at every store for another Purple Trunk, but none could be found. Finally, recital time approached again, and we had to decide what to do.

Instead of abandoning the tradition and throwing the rightful occupants of the Purple Trunk somewhere else, we improvised. I sat in the floor of my mom’s office with a new blue trunk, purple duct tape, and stick-on letters. That trunk now has (beautiful) purple accents and a sign on its top. It reads, “PURPLE TRUNK.” It is now The Purple Trunk, by fiat.

In Fiddler on the Roof, Tevye declares that the people of Anatevka keep their balance with one simple word: Tradition.
(Now you have that song stuck in your head. You’re welcome.) Our family traditions of The Purple Trunk and Muppet Christmas Carol connect this year to the one before it, allowing us to remain strong as a family. Cultural traditions of celebrating Christmas and Easter connect our generation to the dozens proceeding it. For the first followers of Jesus, the tradition of the Lord’s Supper served to connect all Christians together as one body, and set them apart from those around them who did not celebrate the bread and wine.

So, one of the many life lessons I’ve learned from dance is the importance of tradition in connecting the present to the past. As G.K. Chesterton writes, “All democrats object to men being disqualified by the accident of birth; tradition objects to their being disqualified by the accident of death.” I will value the meaningful traditions that I carry on, join in, or start myself for the rest of my life.

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