Jean Croker Petke

Can you dance?

Can you dance?

My daughter started ballet lessons when she was six years old. On the first day of class all the mothers and daughters gathered in an old gym. Mirrors and bars had been installed along the walls.

The girls sat on the floor. The mothers perched on the first row of worn wooden bleachers.

Miss K, a former professional ballerina from New York, stood in front of the class. Her hair was tied in a high bun; her black leotard, pale pink tights, and ballet shoes completed her image. She looked very tall.

“We have three rules in this class,” she began. “There is no talking, no chewing gum, and no sitting down.” All the girls stood up. The discipline had already begun.

She explained a few other things, like being on time and what to wear. She was talking as much to the mothers as the girls. We got it. She was all business.

What I remember most from that first meeting is her words to the mothers:

If you are here because you want your daughter to have glitzy costumes and win trophies, you have come to the wrong place. If you can dance, you don’t need glitzy costumes.

And so it was. For the spring performance, the girls wore their regular leotards, tights, and shoes — the ones they wore to class every week. Miss K gave each girl a flower for her bun and a little net skirt that tied at the waist with a ribbon. That was it. The parents saw real dancing.

I’ve often thought about Miss K’s words: if you can dance, you don’t need a glitzy costume. Her words have application in many areas of life:

If you can cook, you don’t need the fanciest “gourmet” kitchen with every gadget and appliance known to the culinary world.

Wonders can be created with a knife, a pan, a stove and simple ingredients.

If you can write, you don’t need the most sophisticated software, a top-of-the-line printer, and attend every workshop.

A pencil and paper is enough to write a book.

If you are hospitable, you don’t need a picture-perfect house.

A cup of coffee and a place to sit is sufficient.

If you can engage with children, you don’t need the latest toys.

A box and ball is sufficient for play.

Wanting a glitzy costume and hoping for a trophy of recognition are just excuses for not doing your work with the tools and resources you already have on hand.

A shared meal of tomato soup and grilled cheese, accompanied by engaged conversation outranks any fancy meal.

The accumulation of words on paper creates its own energy and story.

A child who ignores all the toys and begs you to play ball wants companionship more than stuff.

Your efforts will not go unnoticed.


Dancing? It’s really not so hard.

Put on the music and move your body — in your blue jeans and tee shirt.

Invite someone in — even though your house is cluttered.

Write your words — on the back of an envelope with a stubby pencil.


Play with a child — invent a game with only a ball and a box.

What’s holding you back?

Just dance!

Until next Tuesday . . .




4 Comments - Leave a Comment
  • DeEtta -

    How very true! You can even buy a bag of Hershey kisses and have a battle. A lot to be said for the statement “It doesn’t take much….”

    • jcpetke -

      DeEtta, you taught me years ago that it doesn’t take much to have a good and memorable time. Those days of small, unexpected pleasures are the ones we still talk about with great fondness.

  • --- -

    Jean ======it has been a long time.

    I like hearing from you and knowing you are studying.

    actually you are doing just that. And it makes me envious—-making any sense?

    I admire the practice sessions. DISCIPLINE.

    The older I have become I find it is too easy to excuse one’s self. So spend my time clearing out shelves of books, knitting (from my Knitting Shop Days………….KATYDID (THE GREEN GRASSHOPPER} was such a busy place, classes. ladies of many talents. A few Air Force men too WHO WERE PREPARING OVERSEAS DUTIES., Lots of fun, originality, lots of stitchery problems. i’M OLD AND NO PEP ——-‘reached a very ripe age BUT LOVE HEARING FROM YOU WEEKLY..

    tHE RECITAL WENT WELL BUT WE HAD YOUNGER DAUGHTER HERE FROM TULSA WHO HELPED CLEAR OUT THE ANIQUES,LINENES, LINGERIE (THE GOOD STUFF), china, glass and silver ware. We are getting neater by the day which lightens my load.

    Drop in and have a glass of wine with us. KEEP IT UP AND ENJOY LIFE. WE DID JUST THAT AND IT HAS IT UPS AND VERY FEW DOWNS. kAY

    • jcpetke -

      Thanks, Kay, for your comments — and for reading my musings. You have always been such an encourager of my learning and practice. Yes, it’s been too long since we have visited but I’ll drop by one afternoon for that glass of wine.

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