Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Dancing Lessons

In the 1950s in San Francisco, little girls in our neighborhood took dancing lessons. I have no idea how much they must have cost, but they were held weekly in the Sunset District (on Judah St.? Irving St.?) at Miss Perkova's dance studio.

This would have been at the beginning of my dancing "career"--the dress was made of aqua organza. It took a lot of pincurls to achieve that curly hair--it certainly wasn't natural!


We were a two-income family, a rarity back then, I believe. My father, Dan, drove a tow truck at night; my mother, Elva, was an elementary teacher. Neither job probably brought in much money, but they managed to pay for the dance lessons and all the different types of dance shoes. I remember that we bought Capezio brand shoes at a store downtown, which meant getting dressed up (hats and gloves) and taking the streetcar.
I am surprised at how well I can remember each costume. This one was pale blue. I'm sure that whenever given a choice, I would always pick blue, my favorite color. This was still in my pre-toe shoe days.

My mother made all my costumes, which sometimes included matching gloves or mitts, hats, and decorations on the shoes. When I eventually acquired a dancing partner, Suzanne, my mother made her costumes as well.

Suzanne and I had so much fun being cowgirls, of course. These little lariats were reinforced with wire, so we looked all ready to rodeo! We tapped and twirled, and I remember dropping my rope in the middle of the routine at our dance recital.  

When asked what kind of lessons I was taking, I would rattle off, "Ballet, acrobatics, tap, and toe." I differentiated between ballet and toe because we had to take ballet for a long time wearing either regular ballet slippers or some flat, soft, suede shoes; once we had mastered the ballet positions and learned routines that we performed at recitals, we were able graduate to toe shoes. Did you know that the toes of these shoes are stuffed with lamb's wool that is first wrapped around the toes?

I can't remember a thing about this costume except that it looks like it was a lot of work to make, and that the little vest was made of black velvet

This one was red velvet with silver stars, and was made for my solo, Winter Wonderland. Toe shoes, at last! Notice the matching mitts and cap. My mother was making these things while working during the day as a teacher and taking classes at night at San Francisco State College. She sure had a lot of energy, and provided me with the model (working and taking classes) that I later followed. 

This must have been toward the end of my dancing years. The costume was blue satin with a red satin lining, and the tap dance was performed to the song, The Sidewalks of New York. I can still do the step we started with (or would be able to if my old knees cooperated) because I practiced it so much back then--stamp, hop, back, shuffle, step, and stamp...

As you will see in the next post, my mother even made costumes for someone who didn't take dance lessons at all.


1 comment:

  1. Oh, these pics...AND the stories...are priceless! Your mom surely was full of energy, and it looks like she poured her heart and soul into making your childhood a happy one! I love these kinds of stories and pictures. Thanks for sharing them.

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