The man who passed to me this advice passed away Tuesday morning after battling Alzheimer's Disease for several long years. Mr. Carl Crosby was an Aiken dance legend who had been dancing and teaching for what seemed like all 88 years of his life. This man had an unequivocal passion for dance and for teaching dance. To him, every student was precious and unique in their own special way. Mr. Crosby loved all of his students and respected our life choices whether we were truly passionate about our art or just enjoying it for fun. He joked with all of us and even gave us little nicknames or pet names. (Mine was "Miss America" and "Kenny"). He taught me ten years of tap, eight years of ballet, and several years of life lessons that I'll carry with me for the rest of my life.
Almost every day after school, my mom would take me to dancing school where I'd be ready to dance around in my pink tights, black leotard, and blue (or black) skirt. Always, I had my hair neatly pulled back into a ponytail, even after I had donated eleven inches of my stick-straight Asian hair in eighth grade. At the beginning of almost every class, we'd start off at barre and later work our way to adagio combinations in the middle of the dance floor...and then maybe we'd even do a few combinations that involved leaping across the rosined coated dance floor. A few years ago, I revisited my old dance studio; instantly, I was flooded by all of the memories that were made there. So many hours I had spent at the studio practicing, rehearsing, hanging out in the dressing room during ballet company board meetings, and even painting large canvases and sets for upcoming performances. As soon as I walked through the familiar threshold, I felt my dancer's posture kick in. Chin up, shoulders back, pull up, and tuck under.
It had been years since I had last attended pointe class, but I remembered everything all too well. Arabesque...échappé...demi-plié, demi-plié, then grand plié...dégagé--all these technical French ballet terms were engrained in our minds, and at Crosby School of Dance, technique was everything.
At Crosby School of Dance, I was first introduced to classical music where I danced to LPs of Gershwin, Mozart, and Strauss. I've performed in annual recitals on stage at the Etherredge Center since age four and have been a snowflake (twice), a fairy, a mouse, and a Korean fan dancer in spring and winter productions put on by the Aiken Civic Ballet. I've been performing for what seems like my all my life, but I know that dance was where I found that passion for the performing arts.
"You never know who might be in your audience." Mr. Crosby knew I loved music and he respected me greatly for that even after I chose music over ballet. He, too, loved classical music even though he didn't play any instruments. At one of my last spring concerts where I was soloing on flute, I glanced up from my music to find my former dance teacher sitting quietly among the other listeners. He quietly and gently smiled at me just like he did those years when I still danced in his studio. Even now, I remember his grandfather-like smile and I doubt I'll ever forget it.
May Carl Crosby's legacy live on and his passion for dance continue to run through the blood of all the dancers he has ever impacted. He will be missed, but certainly not forgotten.
Rest in peace, Mr. Crosby.