In My Humble Opinion | I Just See Her

by Cathy Roe

Many years ago, I joined hundreds of other educators seeking inspiration and class ideas at a dance teacher conference. In this huge convention center/hotel setting, the air was artificial, the lights were glaring, and all sorts of personalities were on display.

During a break, I sat in the hallway on one of those hard benches where strangers never willingly sit together. A clearly exhausted woman sat down and looked right at me, making eye contact.

“Are you OK?” I asked. She said she had been unable to work since her daughter died three years ago, but had attended the convention trying to get back to her life and to her dance studio business.

She explained that she wanted to sit beside me because she felt she knew me. At the time I ran a dance instruction video business, and the woman told me she had purchased many of my instructional videos to help in her return to teaching. I imagined her sitting in her living room, watching me on a TV screen saying things like “It’s so important to point your foot on that kick ball change.” I’m sure I audibly gulped as I thought of her grieving for her daughter while contemplating the importance of a pointed foot.

It’s a special moment when I just see her. That’s what keeps me tilting at windmills. That’s the battle that cannot be lost.

She went on to tell me that her daughter had “visited” her many times during the last few years. The two apparently had conversations in which the daughter said she wanted her mother to go on living and be happy.

Mystified, I asked, “When your daughter visits you, what does she look like? Is she a child again? Or is she the age she was when you last saw her? Are you seeing the invisible?”

The woman looked confused for a second, and then said: “I don’t see that. I just see her.”

I gulped again.

Fast forward to many years later when, as owner of a competition company, I’d spend many weekends standing in theater wings watching dancers onstage. It was my job to watch them dance and pass out awards. I’d try to convince the dancers that their goal should be more than a trophy, but it was a losing battle. I felt like Don Quixote.

In those theaters, the air is not right, the lights glare, and personalities are totally on display. So I decided to stop watching the dancer. I stopped seeing the dancer’s age, and stopped caring about the trophy she wanted to win. Instead, I looked at the dancer and tried to “just see her.

It’s a special moment when I just see her. That’s what keeps me tilting at windmills. That’s the battle that cannot be lost.

Our world benefits from these young dancers, filled with all the beautiful spirit and expression that God gave them. That is real, while competing for a trophy is just a game. I want them to be their own unique selves. I want them to dance for a truly important reason.

For my entire career, dance has been my platform. It could have been tennis or golf or chess. But dance was the fertile ground where I planted ideas, hoping my students would see all the possibilities of what could grow there.

Today, what I really hope is that all those children who passed through my doors will tether their souls to something worthy. The impossible dream isn’t impossible if you can see the invisible.


Cathy Roe produced more than 150 dance education videos/DVDs and founded Cathy Roe’s Ultimate Dance Competition.