In the late 70s and early 80s I
was a full professor and Dean of The Dance Department at The State University of New York.
At the same time, I was also doing NDI programs in Westchester and New York City while
still performing and choreographing with the New York City Ballet. Hundreds of hours a
week - in three different jobs!
Several of my former SUNY students
keep in touch and many have gone on to wonderful careers in the arts. Ellen Weinstein,
Artistic Director of National Dance Institute was one of my students then.
Recently Williams College hosted
us at an extraordinary Teaching Event, organized by Sandra Burton from their wonderful
dance program. Tanya Nicholson, my assistant, is a proud graduate of this esteemed
college. Early on a lovely Saturday morning, there were more than 150 people from the
community dancing The Trail Dance and a special surprise for me - Judy Westin - loyal NDI
supporter - right in the front row! BRAVO!
During the improvisational
section, I noticed a young man - he had come in late, was way in the back and was AMAZING!
He was so terrific I asked him to come forward and lead the dance. I said, "You look
familiar." He smiled and said that he and his girlfriend had been in my dance
department at SUNY. "We are married now and teach dance here in the Williamstown
area." He said his name, "Paquette" and it came back to me
and hard working he was then and is now!
For the next two days Chuck and
his wife Janice took care of George and me - driving us to the Appalachian Trail and
picking us up after our day of hiking. As we got to know each other, Chuck told me about
Chuck was one of 8 children and
probably among the youngest. His father died while in his thirties when his oldest child
was just 16 and the youngest probably 2 or 3. They were poor, they weren't rich. Chuck's
mother brought up those children -alone - and put them through college - all 8 of them.
Now this incredible woman is suffering from cancer and she was coming to visit Chuck and
Janice after George and I got back on the Trail.
So we said goodbye to Chuck and
Janice and started hiking the Trail - it was a hard hike that day. And I kept thinking -
this is a really hard trip - 7 months of hiking and teaching - and I thought, oh no, this
is not bad, compared with bringing up 8 children, putting them through college and helping
make fabulous young people for our society. What a fantastic accomplishment! What a heroic
labor! And she is not the only one. Such wonderful accomplishments are repeated over and
over again in every community of this country.
When people say, "Oh,
Jacques, what a heroic thing you are doing hiking the Trail" - I think of Chuck's
mom. People like her are the real heroes, the fabric of our society and what makes us a