All dance teachers are called Miss and then their first name. I never had a male dance teacher, so I don’t know what they’re called, but Miss Patty was my dance teacher from ages 10 to 17. I never saw her sitting down except on the floor with her legs spread apart in a split or a stretch. Other than that, she was standing and walking and turning and leaping and reaching in her opaque pink tights and one-piece bathing suit style leotard.
Her lips were puffy and chapped as if she spent a lot of time biting them but since I only ever saw them moving, I don’t know if that’s why they looked that way. She had dancer hands, the fingers always straight and stuck together with the middle one just a little lower than the others, looking for the thumb to connect with.
She was slim like a dancer is supposed to be but she didn’t like her butt, where the only fat on her whole body had gathered in a soft triangle that shifted from side to side as she walked. Her shoulder blades moved under the shiny bronze spandex of her leotard so her back was always moving and glittering. We mostly saw her back because she’d be at the front of the class demonstrating things. To see her front, we had to look in the mirror and when she did turn around to look at us it took a moment to adjust to her face being the opposite way.
Miss Patty had once had a dance career in New York City. Now she had two young boys with curly brown hair like hers and the dance studio in the basement of a five-storey office building in a small rural Albertan city. She was beautiful and mysterious, with a secret life behind her and we young farm girls and townies in front of her every evening. We did our best to copy her shimmies and shuffles and Fosse poses and stay on the beat and do things all at the same time as each other. Her smile didn’t often turn down in disappointment but sometimes her hands gave up a little and her fingers fell apart.