Sunday, January 21, 2007

Day 13: Clarkston and Fowlerville, MI

I noticed for the first time when I sat down to write this that yesterday was the 13th day of our journey. This may explain a few things about our luck this morning.

Roxanna's Dance Expressions is located in Clarkston, Michigan. (According to Wikipedia, Clarkston's offical name is "City of the Village of Clarkston," which appeals to me in an "unnecessary redundancy" sort of way) We have never been to this studio before and so I planned our route using the studio address listed in the yellow pages and my handy tool- Mapquest. Recently, we've come to realize that Mapquest has some serious limitations. The biggest is that it sometimes doesn't know its right from its left. It spat out directions to the address and had us turning south when Clarkston was clearly to the north. Fortunately, I caught this one. Yea, me!

Unfortunately, I failed to catch one little thing. As we pulled onto the street that should have hosted a dance studio (which I'd been told was in a strip mall) something was clearly very wrong. We were on a small road in a residential neighborhood surrounded by two-story white houses. The address in the yellow pages for the business was for the studio owner's home. I drove with one hand on the wheel and one on my cell phone as the studio owner directed me, turn by turn to the proper location. My apologies to the wonderfully patient students at Roxanna's for our late arrival.

After this inauspicious start, the classes were a great success. Valery taught the older students first, and then the younger ladies. Valery was impressed by all the students and especially by one or two of the young ones who have a real instinct for ballet. Thanks to Roxanna Chambers for getting us to her studio.

Fortunately, our late start didn't prevent us from getting to our next class in Fowlerville, Michigan on time. There was a great energy at Maria's School of Dance. The studio is located on an old-fashioned main street near a real estate agents, a tax office and a saloon. Valery pulled out all the stops and even took requests after class. He answered questions, demonstrated grand pirouettes and chatted away to Maria Usher and her husband. Mr. Usher had a serious-looking camera and so I left the photography to him. We're looking forward to seeing the results.

As Valery changed back into his street clothes, I spoke with the studio's teachers. They asked how Valery and I communicate. The answer is "very well." The first time he came to teach, I was a bit concerned that spending hours at a time in a metal box with someone who doesn't speak English might be painful. But we each speak Russlich very well and we have almost no problem communicating with each other. Valery's English, which he has assimilated entirely from tours in the U.S. and England, continues to improve. I understand a decent amount of Russian, although we converse almost entirely in my language.

The Russian helps, though, because Valery tends to use his English vocabulary with Russian-styale grammar. My attempts at learning Russian help me to recognize this structure. I speak a simple stripped-down form of English that he is tuned into and somehow it just magically works. It is only when we leave the car or the class ends (Valery has very good dance English) that I become aware of the language barrier.

Looking forward we are heading into Ohio. Our next class is at the River Raisin Center in Monroe, Michigan followed by the Bedford Academy in Temperance, Michigan (near Toldeo, Ohio) both schools we visited last summer. Then onto a new studio, Richland Academy in Mansfield, Ohio and two old favorites Turning Pointe in Canal Fulton, Ohio and the Mary Kay Manning Studio in Brunswick, Ohio. From there we'll go to the Columbus, Ohio area and on to West Virginia, Virginia, and North Carolina.