Thursday, December 3, 2009


A story from my youth popped into my mind the other day, and I thought I would share it.

Earlier I spoke of my dear teacher Duncan Noble and how he came to mean so much to me. Well, there is another teacher of note who I was always respectful to, but I may have misbehaved a bit for. It's time fess up.

Melissa Hayden was a famous ballerina with the New York City Ballet, and she taught for years at the North Carolina School of the Arts. She was known for her tough and often ruthless approach to training. She was to many of the girls the teacher that Mr. Noble was to the boys. That said, she wasn't always the boys' favorite.

I had her in the tenth grade at 8:30am nearly every day. Oh what a way to wake up. "Honey, you can't dance! Go home, drive a truck, and make babies!" This was one of her motivational speeches. You couldn't help but be horrified, but at the same time, she was immensely entertaining. Well, perhaps now more than it was then.

During that time in my growth as a young man, my back would spasm. Conveniently and (coincidentally of course,) my buddy's back would do the same thing. Somehow, this would magically occur at least once a week at exactly 8:30am. I don't understand it to this day. It was a true phenomenon nature.

We would wait in the locker room until we were sure class had begun, and then we would sneak through the hall-our mission, make it to Student Health Services to see the Physio Therapist without getting caught by Ms. Hayden. Often we would have to take turns being the lookout to make sure her back was to us as we ran past the studio door and outside to our freedom. "GO!" we would whisper/shout, and then we would laugh all the way to P.T.

Once inside, we were in our sanctuary. We took our therapy extremely seriously. We loved to attach the electric stimulation pads to our backs while we iced them and see how high we could turn the voltage up when the therapist wasn't looking. We cranked it up all the way on most occasions, but were usually forced to stop once the P.T. saw our backs twitching. We thought it was great fun.

Afterwards, with our excused absence slips in hand, we would cockily limp back to school content with the knowledge that we had received good training for the day that was sure to enrich our development. Sometimes we would go back to class, but more often than not, we would go have a soda.

If the truth be told, what seemed like a weekly occurrence probably happened less often than I remember, and both my friend and I went on to have great careers. It's still fun to think back to those days. I was quite a serious student as I remember, but my time at NCSA was full of such fun memories. Many of my friends and teachers from there I still stay in touch with.

I suppose I will end this by honoring the memory of my teacher Melissa Hayden with this: Ms. Hayden, were it not for you, I wouldn't be the dancer I am today, but I definitely would not be the prankster I am today. Because of you I learned to set a clock forward on April Fools Day, bring a buffet of treats to have a party instead of class, but most importantly, my back feels great! Thank you!

Please note: memories like these help me as a teacher now because SOMETIMES I have a little more mercy when my own students try to pull one over on me. However, I'm pretty sure I would get arrested if I said some of the things to them that she used to say to us!!

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