Dancing Through Life

Pardon the Wicked reference, but it seemed to fit for the title of this post. Hopefully by the end of it, you’ll understand why.

In my true writerly nature, I don’t do well talking about my feelings. In fact, the only way I seem able to process my feelings is by writing them down. The tougher the stuff is to deal with, the more I feel I need to write.

Today I got some sad news. Terrible news. News that took me a while to process, but when it finally hit, I had to hide in the bathroom to cry, because I didn’t want my roommate to ask what was wrong.

I received word that earlier this evening, my wonderful, energetic, amazing Irish dance teacher, Ann Richens, lost her battle with cancer.

I used to dance ballet when I was younger. I danced for several years before quitting. But soon after I quit…I regretted it. I never got to dance pointe. I missed the graceful movements. The regret hit harder in college, when I got the chance to take a couple of dance classes for PE credit. And then I fell in love with watching Irish dance and I knew that was what I wanted to learn next.

Two years ago, I stepped out of my comfort zone and decided to take Irish dance classes downtown. I fell in love with it immediately. I made friends quickly, I loved the movement, it was fun. I was glad I joined Columbus Celtic Dancers…and a lot of that was in part because of Ann.

Ann was, honestly, the most energetic person I’ve ever met. She could easily have kicked any of our butts if she’d wanted to. She was strong and inspirational. She encouraged us to try our best…and for those of us to whom the dance steps came a little easier, she pushed us to jump higher, step lighter, extend more. Those of us who chose to compete, she expected us to, not necessarily BE the best, but to DO our best.

And we did.

Many of us have won medals in competition, many teams from our group have gone on to place. We’re not world champions, but she treated us like we were. It was because of Ann that I felt comfortable enough to go into competition after dancing for only a year. It was because of Ann that this year when I competed, I won five medals.

Ann had more energy than most people her age I’ve met. She would travel an hour and a half each Monday evening to and from downtown to teach our dance class. She traveled to Ireland several times a year. She worked with us adults and she also worked with the Richens-Timm Academy kids. I don’t think she ever sat still for more than a few hours.

It was apparent to anyone who knew her that she loved teaching. She challenged me, she encouraged me, she inspired me. I’ll continue dancing, under however many teachers I end up having throughout the years, but Ann will always have a special place in my heart. She will never be forgotten by anyone whose life she touched, she was just that kind of person.

Ann, you will never be forgotten. You will live on in everyone you taught, in every dance step we learned from you, in every medal we win, and in every performance we put on. Thank you for everything. May you rest in peace.

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