By LOU WILIN
A group of 8- and 9-year-old skirted, budding ballerinas twirled on a recent afternoon.
Music blared. An instructor’s hands cued the tenderfeet.
They chassed, one foot chasing their other. They extended their arms. It was all practice for the 50th annual performance of Becky’s School of Dance before hundreds of family and friends.
Of the 550 enrolled last year, all but 15 were 18 years old or younger. About 10 percent of those under 18 will dance competitively into college and adulthood. Some will continue taking lessons through high school.
Some are casual dancers and just trying it or doing it for fitness. About 40 to 50 girls this year danced because they have ailments. Dancing can help those with rheumatoid arthritis by keeping joints limber and stretching muscles and tendons, said Meghan McClincy-
Woolley, owner of Becky’s School of Dance. Through dance, diabetics can maintain a healthy weight. For those with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, dancing provides a release and focus for creative energy, Meghan said.
Meghan herself spent many hours dancing at Becky’s School as a girl.
As an 8-year-old at the annual performance once, she was to perform a tap duet with her mom, Becky Taylor, the dance’s school’s founder. But several numbers before the duet, Becky injured her knee while leaping across stage. They would later learn she tore her anterior cruciate ligament.
“‘Your mom can’t do the duet,'” Meghan recalls being told. “‘She’s hurt.'”
Meghan was upset. She looked across stage to the other side — in their duet they came from opposite sides of the stage — and saw her mother. Becky took somebody’s tights and wrapped them around her knee.
The show went on. Meghan and her mom went on stage and performed their duet.
“That night we got home and her knee was just huge and we sat her up in a chair and just iced it all night long,” Meghan said. “She didn’t want to give up on me. She’s just special.”
Becky’s knee was never the same, even after surgery. She had pain when she danced and eventually she spent more time in the dance school’s office, relinquishing more of the teaching to others.
“It’s still a part of me. It’s something you don’t walk away from,” Becky said.
She started taking dance lessons at age 5.
“My father gave me a lot of great opportunities,” Becky said. Her mother made her dance costumes.
Besides taking lessons in Findlay, Becky frequently went with her Findlay instructor to Cleveland for more lessons. She also took classes at the Bach Conservatory of Music in Toledo. At 16, she studied at the National Ballet School of Canada.
Becky’s Findlay instructor sold her the business when Becky was 18, and still had a few months left in her senior year at Findlay High School.
She started with 60 students, from 3 years old through high school. As Becky gained more students, she hired additional teachers.
Meghan followed in her mother’s footsteps.
“She took me to tons of dance conventions and camps. When I was 16, what I wanted for my gift was to go to New York City and study dance,” Meghan said. “She took me to Broadway shows. We did everything up there that you could imagine. I was hooked.”
“There’s nothing better than going in a room and turning the music on so that it’s pumping in your blood, and just doing whatever your body wants to do,” she said. “There’s just nothing better. You feel free. You feel creative. Just makes you feel good. Gets your endorphins going.”
The shared love for dancing spilled well beyond the dance floors.
“When we came together at the table for dinner, it was always my dad wanted it quiet, wanted to converse, and my mom and I were always tap dancing under the table and he was always saying: ‘Can you please just stop that? Stop moving your feet. You guys need to sit still and have dinner,'” Meghan recalls.
When Meghan graduated from high school, she did not want to go away to college. Instead, she wanted to teach dance at the family business. But her father wanted her to get a degree to have something to fall back on.
Meghan went as far as law school, then quit at age 24 to teach at Becky’s School of Dance at night. During the day, she worked at McDonald Investments. Within 11 years, she completed a buyout of the dance business from her mother.
It’s a path she’s never regretted. And besides sharing her love for dancing with her daughters, 11 and 8, Meghan carries on the tradition, now 50 years old, of sharing it with others.
“When I’m stressed and I go in and teach a class with my kids — I call them my kids, all 550 of them — there’s nothing better,” she said. “They just light up the world. To watch them be able to come in here for an hour and forget about the outside world, and just be free, is wonderful.”
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