Write of Way by Mary Lou Sanelli

Monday, July 11, 2016 4:00 PM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)


It would seem odd to write about something other than dance, since June is pretty much considered recital month all over the country. And not only because I dance. Dance studios provide something everyone wants: confidence. That’s all a studio is, really. A place to practice confidence. 

And I thought I knew what I was going to say about dance before I sat down. It was only once I began that I could see who lies at the heart of my story: Lisa. 

Lisa always did know how to get me talking.

I remember the day Lisa found her way to my beginning class in Belltown. When it was over, she looked at me and said, You don’t recognize me do you?” 

I looked at her more closely, studied her eyes, and there she was: the Lisa I knew in high school! 

“I figure I can talk about losing weight all I want, but maybe it’s time to actually do something about it. But I was afraid to come to a dance class. Because, well, look at me.”

“You just need to get back in shape, it won’t take long.”

“I don’t know,” she rolled her eyes. “You have the quintessential dancer body. I hate you.” 

That’s when I knew we’d be friends again. My next thought was how no one had ever called me a quintessential anything before. And that I must be doing a pretty good job at hiding all of my insecurities.

I did sneak a sidelong glance of her body. Something I hadn’t seen in class came into focus, a dancer’s body, rusty, yes, but visible…underneath the Lycra. I imagined her concentration narrowing before absolutely killing a pirouette. 

I wanted to say as much. But I decided to wait a few classes, see if she stuck it out. 

Wait! My insides protested. Why hold back? My mother was skimpy with compliments. If someone gave me one she’d say something like “it’s going to swell her head to the size of a watermelon.” 

But one sincere compliment can do wonders for a student’s confidence. 

Lisa looked down at her legs. “I don’t think wearing black hides the pounds as much as people think.”

“Do you mind if I ask you something? Did you ever study ballet?”

“How can you tell? I mean, by the looks of me now.”

“I can see it, it’s there. Beautifully so.”

She scooted a little closer, I took ballet for nine years before I became a veterinarian.”

“I knew it!”

“But I’ve gained, like, a hundred pounds since then. It’s going to be an upward battle.”

“It’s a battle you can win.”

She stood up, stretched her arms over her head, and I noticed that she’d appeared taller to me than she really was. Maybe because she is one of those people who make you feel like only your best self will do. 

I thought how her work had become helping animals and mine helping people to dance, and how we both must have learned at a young age how much easier getting through life would be if we tried to make things better for others along the way.

She didn’t say anything for a moment. I didn’t either. But we were both clearly, openly there. 

Marylou Sanelli

Marylou Sanelli works as a writer, speaker, and dance teacher. Her newest book is 

A Woman Writing. For more information visit www.marylousanelli.com.

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