You are so lovely
With you standing there
I'm so aware
Of how much I care for you
You are more than now
You are for always
I can see in you
My dreams come true
Don't you ever go away
You make me feel like
There's nothing I can't do
And when I hold you
I only want to say
I love you
-- Ballerina Girl by Lionel Richie
Five songs into the recital, my niece leaned over my shoulder from the row behind me and exclaimed, "It's Atia's song!" Tears welled in my eyes as Atia walked onto the stage in her bubblegum pink tutu and sparkly ensemble. A lump formed in my throat. My body tingled with anticipation.
Atia stood at full attention awaiting the music. She had practiced time and time again. She was ready. Her teacher helped her into position - front line, center spot. Her beautiful, strong body – all 44” of it – glowed in the soft spotlight.
The music began. Tap. Tap. Tap. Tap. The girls marched along to the beat. I couldn’t peel my eyes off of her as I sat at the edge of my seat. I knew the steps by heart and Atia executed them with confidence and charisma. I devoured each passing moment. The beats, lyrics and steps seared into my memory for all eternity.
Steve sat beside me utterly spellbound. His eyes tracked her every move, watching his 4 year old daughter gracefully tap her way across the stage. His smile widened with each new verse. Pride flowed through his veins. His angel was on stage and he was smitten.
Atia’s group of 3 and 4 year olds danced to Marilyn Monroe’s Diamonds are a girl’s best friend. The contrast between the pint-size, sweet-as-sugar, little girls and the sassy, diva-in-the-making lyrics was priceless. The vision of 15 kids waving their fingers back and forth proclaiming that “diamonds... diamonds... [they] don't mean rhinestones... but diamonds... are a girl’s best... best friend" was incredibly adorable.
Ms. Nicole, Atia’s dance teacher and owner of Collective Dance, asked me to emcee the event. That basically consisted of: welcoming the audience, introducing myself and announcing the rules – no photography, no videography, etc., etc. (which is why there’s no video yet - professional DVD coming soon - though here she is rehearsing).
Photo courtesy of Lisa Gottschalk Photography
During the intro, with Atia by my side, I explained how she had cancer which left her unable to walk, how she underwent years of chemotherapy, how she often daydreamed about being a ballerina, how she was now in remission and how this was her first dance recital.
The crowd erupted in applause. I was taken aback. I’m not sure why I was surprised, but I was. I paused, taking it all in. A theatre full of strangers showered us with compassion, encouragement and thanksgiving. They, too, became part of the celebration, as they bear witness to our dreams realized.
Atia survived cancer and now she was dancing. We told her she would dance some day. We knew in our hearts that she would, and we held on tightly to that notion.
All first dance recitals are special, amusing, heartwarming and blissful, but for us, this one was a dream come true. With it, we chasséd further from the life that was and closer to the life that is... A life full of endless possibilities, brilliant opportunities and shimmering moments for Atia.
Dance, little ladybug. Dance!
Steve was so incredibly proud of Atia. He must have told her 1,000 times how impressed he was and what a fantastic job she'd done. My heart melted every time he held her close and whispered praises in her ear.
Auntie Sonia, Grandma Lutarewych (who flew in from Florida) and Auntie Kathy (who flew in from Washington DC) were there for the special occasion.
Nana drove up from Springfield to see her princess dancing.
Atia's best friend and cousin, Cierstin, was there! Coincidentally, Cierstin had worn the exact same costume at her 1st recital, too.
Autie Julie, Uncle Jimmy (not shown), Cierstin and Paxton (not show) drove up from Springfield to see Atia's dance.
Asher was exhausted from all the excitement. He nearly made it to the end of the recital, but fell asleep just shy of the finale.
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