The famous Mr. Rose was my dance teacher until I left Beckley. He was the idol of hundreds, probably thousands of young ladies and gentlemen over the years. I can remember the first seeing him, he couldn’t have been much older than late teens and was teaching for Mrs. Beard’s School of Dance on the stage at what was later the YMCA – bet you don’t remember me during those days, Mr. Rose. I don’t think I was much more than 5 or 6 years old. I can remember my parents signed me up for tap and boy, did I HATE tap dancing. Those shuffle ball changes just didn’t come easy for a tubby girl that had three left feet.
I quit soon after but a couple years later Mrs. Beard retired and Mr. Rose opened his own studio. Not quite sure if it was always Beckley Dance Theatre but it was uptown just two doors down from Smith’s Grocery and the hangout of most pre and teen girls.
I can remember how my world opened up when I took ballet. I was so sure I was going to be the prima ballerina …. somewhere … that the extension would come, the handwork would develop and I could gracefully glide across the floor to the oohs and aahs of audiences everywhere. Not to be! We danced in front of huge mirrors – a girl’s delight! Mr. Rose brought in guest instructors who were famous dancers – I remember him bringing Nico Charisse (husband of Syd Charisse). I didn’t know exactly who it was, but it was a big deal!
I really was never very good. I got by but was never as agile as most around me. I can remember some who could basically wrap their legs around the neck – backwards. I never bent that way – oh I tried but was so long and gangly that it wasn’t going to happen. Nor were the splits on the grand jetes, more like a petite jete loudly landing with a thud instead of the lithe of a ballerina. I made it though a rousing rendition of 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 5th positions and a few plies. The barre work was some of the most fun of the class – it was me and the barre, not the other students – of which so many surpassed me in any dancing ability.
I think I did take tap for a while, to try again, but my favorite was jazz. I just don’t think I was born with rhythm and had it not been for jazz, I am sure I would have never made it through the sock hops and school dances.
Of course the recitals each year gave us a reason to glitz all out and think we were hot stuff because we were performing in front of people (read that parents that all thought their kids were the best). There were some extremely talented dancers that came from Mr. Rose’s classes that went on to the big time and there were mostly those like me that reveled in wearing the black leotards and pink tights and shuffling around uptown before and after classes like superstars waiting to be discovered.
As the years past and I realized I was too tall for most of the male counterparts and no where close to the abilities of many of my class mates, I hung up my toe shoes (which I still have with the lambswool toe stuffing and try on every few years for an en point down memory lane – and pay dearly in days to come) and concentrated on a baton, or two or three.
When I was in high school and I can imagine that most around me recognized that my ballet stardom was in my head, Mr. Rose gave me the opportunity to be his baton teacher and at least once a week I would haul a gaggle of baton twirlers that couldn’t stand still without the baton in motion to the safety of the basement to learn the 8 basics and a short routine. I don’t think we were ever part of the recitals but I know many of those young girls went on to twirl their hearts out, just like me, at the football games and parades down main street.
I am sure I am not describing only me – well evidenced by the Facebook page, “I am one of Jerry Rose’s Kids”. The thousands of kids that filed through Beckley Dance Theatre (where I first learned theatre could be spelled differently) were all there just like me. We loved the feeling we got through dance. While I remember Mr. Rose was the choreographer for Honey in the Rock and many of the amphitheater shows, I moved on to college and beyond and only snippets of his fame was sent to me in newspaper clippings from my Mom. Thank goodness for the technology we have today where we can enjoy seeing his accomplishments.
It was so good to see you today, Mr. Rose. Keep on putting stars in the eyes of all the young dancers everywhere!