January 2004–Looking at it from the outside, the last thing you would think when looking at it was that it is a dance school. It is a very small and humble building that actually used to be someone’s home. I might as well call it a house rather than a building because that’s what it really is. The house looks pretty run down from the outside. The wooden walls on the outside are painted a pale pink and its obvious that someone has given them a couple of coats of paint throughout the years but it hasn’t helped anything; the paint is still chipping and just makes the house look even older. The dark, charcoal gray shingles on the roof are scattered around and some are even missing. Just by looking at it I would think the house was completely vacant if I didn’t know any better. It sits in the middle of a side street across from McWhirter elementary school in a poor and run down neighborhood right off Nasa Road 1, one of the busiest roads in the old city of Webster. Webster is smack-dab in the middle of the Clear Lake area, where I moved to in 1990; I was five years old then. To get to Clear Lake, it will take you about a good 30-minute drive going south from downtown Houston.
The inside as well does not resemble a dance studio. There are only two fully mirrored rooms used for dancing and they are both very small, about as big as two small bedrooms put together, which is not very big for a room to dance in.
The ballet bars against the walls are very old, they don’t ever get replaced, just repaired; and this has to happen often because of the amount of use and abuse done to them from all of the many dancers. Inside the dance school there is also a small office for the teachers, a waiting room and two small dressing rooms, as well as two bathrooms, minus the showers. The floorboards in the two dance rooms are uneven, loose, and always have to be repaired, they are just cheap tile so this can be expected. It also does not help that the property next door was built on ground so high up that when it rains really hard (which is experienced often in that area), all the water rushes down to the dance school grounds.
You can’t see the damage to well, but you can sure feel it. In one of the dance rooms the upper right side of the floor is raised because the rainwater rushed in, pushed the floor up, and then drained out, leaving big humps in the floor. The plumbing isn’t any better here. In one of the bathrooms when you sit on the toilet it feels like you are going to fall off because the floor is not level and leans to one side. The parking lot is hardly that; it’s basically a half circle of cement barely big enough for parents to drive on to drop off their kids. There are about three parking spaces next to that and three above it, all equally as small as the driveway. There is also a dirt and gravel area behind the studio where the teachers parked, but when I got old enough to drive I never parked there. People living in the apartments directly behind the studio were constantly breaking into the vehicles.
This place might sound like complete junk, but it’s just worn down and old. You might be thinking that this dance school doesn’t get much business because of how old and trashy it might sound, but this just isn’t the case. Actually this dance school is pretty well known around town, mainly because of the way its run. In fact, its so popular that every year when its time to register many people end up getting turned away because all the classes get filled so quickly. This dance school is obviously about more than making a buck for the owners, because they could afford to fix it up real nice if they wanted to. A big fancy building and huge rooms aren’t necessary when dancing though. All a person really needs in order to express themselves through dance is a little space and some imagination. Music is important but a person can even dance without music. You just have to feel the movements, and get into it; dance comes from the heart.
I grew up at that dance school. From the age of four to the age of eighteen I was able to call that place my home away from home. It was that way for everyone. Most of the women that teach there now used to attend class as students themselves; its such a family environment. Jill Rauscher, who is 52 years of age but looks as though she is in her early 40’s, is the owner. She grew up as a dancer herself, starting at a very young age, and instead of going to college she decided to runaway to Broadway, in hopes of becoming a star. Jill soon changed her mind when she fell in love with her husband and they moved to Texas, where she decided to open up her very own dance studio. She has two daughters: Leslie and Julie; both girls are married and have children. Leslie is 25 years old and I would describe her as Jill’s lifesaver. Leslie is young and hip so she can relate to all of the dancers, she always knows all of the latest moves, which helps a lot when we need a jazz or fast passed dance; whereas Jill didn’t grow up with that stuff, she’s better with the ballet and tap. At Jill Rauscher School of Dance, my teachers became second moms that I could talk to about anything, at anytime. If I ever had a problem, there was always someone there to listen. Stephanie was one of my favorite teachers, she was in her early 30’s and we could talk about anything, whether it be about the problems I was having with friends at school, or about getting my nails done, she was there to talk to me. Not only was going to dance a comforting experience but also a learning one. At dance I learned that I didn’t have to be the best or look the best, that I was just as good as anyone else by being me. I learned that life was about having fun and challenging yourself, setting goals to be reached later on in life. I was taught to reach for the stars because anything was in my reach if I stretched my arms long enough. I made lifelong friends that I will never forget. I grew up with these girls and I know that I will stay in contact with a few of them for years to come. This was the one place I could go, when I felt like it had to be the worst day of my life, and I would just dance away my problems. That’s exactly what dance was to me, a release. Dance for me was just a way to let go. Rather than turning to things such as drugs, sex, and alcohol like a lot of my peers do at their teens, dance helped me stay grounded. I didn’t need any of those things; I was addicted to dance. Here I was truly free, and nothing else mattered.
I have danced all my life. I have been able to dance almost since I could walk. I can even remember shaking around in my diapers, okay maybe not in my diapers but I was dancing at a very young age. I was already dancing around the tile on the kitchen floor before my mother got me started in ballet and tap lessons. My mom had signed me up to give me something to do because she didn’t want me just sitting around the house bored. I was new in the neighborhood, so it was hard to make friends, being in a class full of girls my age was a great way to meet people. Then as I got older I really got into dancing and started to truly love it, now dance is a part of my everyday life. I sleep, drink and eat dance; I live it.
View Larger Map