“Dance me to the end of love”

Posted on 27 July 2010

Memories of my dancing teacher: Gladys Gale

My dancing teacher is being cremated today. I have been thinking about her since her son, only child, sent me an email on the 23rd of this month, telling me that she had “passed away”.

She was one of the most beautiful women that I have ever met. Her son calls her “a babe.” She seemed more like a queen to me – so tall and regal, elegant and fluid in motion. Her every move appeared, to me, a dance.

I began dancing at her school when I was 15 – late for a dancer and was in awe of my teacher. She never yelled or screamed at her students but she worked us hard. When she praised me, I felt wonderful.

This picture of “Mrs. Gale” and her son was taken over 40 years ago and yet when I visited her last year, she met me at the doorway, in heels, posed, still a dancer. Though her hair was long and white, tied back with a ribbon, she looked much younger than her 80 plus years. We sat and talked. She told me that she was very ill. “But you look well, you’re still beautiful,” I said. “That’s the problem. No one believes me.”

I have no idea how we approached the topic but she told me that she had always been self-confident, never doubted herself. She knew she was a good dancer, wife, mother. She deserved whatever she wanted though she admitted to being a little too passionate about clothes. She took me into her bedroom and opened her closet door. It was no ordinary shallow apartment closet – it seemed to go backwards forever and every nook and cranny was stuffed full of clothes, bags, shoes… “I will organize it someday,” she sighed.

She had moved to the penthouse apartment after her husband died – a sweetheart of a man – who adored her. I think only once did I hear them fight and I spent a lot of time in their house as I was dating their son. Both treated me like a daughter. I can remember Mr. Gale telling Malcolm not to hurt me. “She’s too sensitive,” he said. Years later, when I dropped in for a visit, he whispered in my ear that he loved me. I adored him too. And his wife.

Thinking about her, her beauty, her dancer’s body, her generosity of spirit, I realize I know little about her background. I met her two brothers and her dancing teacher and yet I never asked questions. I know only that she and Albert came to Canada from Scotland. Why did they immigrate, I wonder. (I think perhaps because her older brother was here.)

I would have liked to have spent more time with her. I would have liked to have been at her service today…

I would like the impossible. I remind myself that I am lucky to have known her. She and, in turn, her son were the first to teach me about beauty and dance. She played an important role in my life.

“How can we know the dancer from the dance?” ~ William Butler Yeat


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