Tapped out? Let’s hope not

The front page of Monday’s Enterprise featured the sad news that one of our Miracle Workers was pulling up stakes and moving on.

The MW I refer to is Melissa Posthauer. And why is she a MW? Read on.

I met Melissa in the Blue Moon right after she arrived in town, fresh out of college. She was bright-eyed, smart, sweet and full of youthful energy and ideals. She was also hopelessly naive, I thought, since she said she wanted to teach dance here.

OK, I thought, she could teach dance but not as a job. I mean, starting any business on a shoestring is pretty much a losing proposition. But starting a dance studio, here, sounded less a losing proposition than a financial bloodbath. Or so I thought. And clearly I thought wrong. Melissa not only started her dance business, but she parlayed it into a huge success.

At one time she had more than 300 students, but after the birth of her son, she gave up her Tupper Lake class and cut back to a “mere” 285 students.

So how did she manage to beat the odds and become so successful? Beyond her dancing expertise and love of dance itself, she had a love of children and a powerful vision backed by more powerful persistence and endurance. Plus Melissa has that rarest of gifts that separates the great teachers from the others -?she cares more about giving than getting.

But now, after giving dance to so many of our youngsters for a dozen years, Melissa the Miracle Worker is gone. And what does that mean? Just this: Tri-Lakes dance instruction is pretty much kaput.

So where do we go from there? Ah, an intriguing question indeed. And Saturday I was asked that by a mother who’d just watched her daughter dance in Melissa’s last recital.

As for answers, there’s good news and there’s bad news.

A start

The bad news is we’ve now got a slew of dancers of all ilks and ages, but no one to lead them.

The good news is it does not have to stay that way. There are a couple of approaches people can take to get a new dance teacher.

One is what I call The Messiah Fan Club Strategy. This involves everyone just waiting, knowing the person you wait for will eventually arrive. In the case of messiahs, it’s really the only strategy there is.

Luckily, we’ve got other approaches to getting a dance teacher. Perhaps the best one is the one used by our local skateboard park meshugges – the Saranac Lake SkatePark Committee.

The time, effort and heart those people put into their crusade to get our kids a skatepark makes Hercules’ cleaning the Augean Stables look like child’s play. Spearheaded by Peggy Wiltberger, a tiny group of people lobbied, fundraised, cajoled and endured beyond endurance for over a decade to pursue their dream. And they’re still doing it because while their goal is in sight, it’s still going to take time and more effort before it’s in place. But clearly it will be ALL my hats are off to those folk (and remember, I’ve got lots of hats).

A continuation

And there’s the answer to “where do we go from here?” with a dance instructor. You want a dance instructor, you get in gear and find one. It might be a tough task, but it’s also a hopeful one.

First, Melissa said she wants to sell Motion in the Mountains, and that’s a place to start. She must have connections with other dancers and studios and maybe there’s someone who knows someone who knows someone who’d like to give it a try. It’s dauntingly exhausting work for sure, but it’s also a well-established, successful business that I’m sure has a reasonable buy-in, something you’ll almost never find.

And what if that doesn’t pan out? Well, then it’s time for the dancers’ parents to pick up the torch. With hundreds of parents to choose from and access to all our modern communications systems, a thorough, nationwide search for a new dance teacher could be instituted pretty quickly. How it’d go from there, I’ve no idea. But if it doesn’t even start, then the conclusion is a foregone – and sad – one.

Precedents aplenty

All of this raises a vital issue about America today – individual initiativeor the lack of it.

It seems in many ways we’ve become a nation of codependents. We want all sorts of improvements, activities, organizations, you name it but we expect someone else to provide it for us.

For obvious reasons, I see it especially in the school system. Parents complain about their kids’ lack of reading, writing or do ‘rithmatic skills, yet they don’t supervise the children’s homework. Or if a school art or music program is cut, there’s a hue and cry, but no initiative to pick up the slack privately.

Luckily, My Home Town is a bastion of grass roots initiative and organization. Pendragon, the carousel and the block party started from nothing.

Winter Carnival, a huge event early in the century, was a shadow of its former self in the early ’80s. Now it’s a huge bangin’ time – and I’m not just saying it because it’s the highlight of my year.

Or how about the Elks’ Club? For a long time it was, to steal both the metaphor and the words of ee cummings, as defunct as Buffalo Bill. Today it’s once again a rock-solid community organization.

Where’d the Petrova playground come from? Parents getting together and raising the money on their own, that’s where.

And I’m leaving out all sorts of other groups and their great work, due to lack of space, not respect or senility (I hope).

So if folks here want to keep the dance program going in Saranac Lake, they can. And for the sake of our young people, and to continue and honor the work of Melissa Posthauer, I hope they do.