Sunday, April 3, 2011

Conversations with a dancer

There are a few people I meet in life that can enter conversation from the first greeting like old friends. They  remain on my mind and in my heart. Judith Adams is one of those.

I met Judith years ago as a I worked on a story about this woman whose talent took her to the big stage and city lights. Her life led her to Mobile and eventually to Atmore where she taught ballet. But as sure as life hands out quick and drastic turns, a car crash altered Judith's future.

A spinal cord injury left the exacting teacher a quadriplegic--but that challenge was no match for Judith. It would have been easy to be bitter and defeated, and Judith readily admits she has her moments of those emotions. The difference is she doesn't remain in that mindset. She once escaped being the victim of a purse-snatcher by running him over with her chair. Judith Adams is still a force to be reckoned with, her heavy chair notwithstanding.

 She still holds herself like a dancer, angular cheekbones harkening to endless hours spent on hardwood floors before the truth reflected in a wall of mirrors. She travels along now by motorized wheelchair, usually with a blanket draped across her lap to keep her warm.

Likely the most striking things about talking with Judith are her intense passion for the arts, her dedication to her students and her lack of patience for those who don't share her belief in the value of dance. She teaches with the help of her daughter Reed Adams Bartlett and has led classes privately, in public schools and now is leading a new program for the Poarch Band of Creeks.

She looks at her situation realistically, but the obstacles that would crush a lesser person serve only as additional motivators for Judith. She tells me she is lonely at times to speak with someone else who loves the arts, and sometimes she becomes an absolute hermit. But her whole demeanor shifts when children come into the room eager to learn. Her focus hasn't waivered over the years. She could feel self-pity, but she doesn't.  At least not beyond a well-timed joke at her own expense. Even so, her attention is never far from her young students.

I was fortunate to get to spend a little time with Judith and Reed recently, and as usual left in awe of these women, humbled by all they do and the energy they bring to their mission. Just a few minutes with Judith and I am seeing potential in every difficult situation, and learning to dismiss adversity that visits from time to time. She is a treasure.

 I'll be writing more soon about them and their new program among a people familiar with tribal dancing and eager to expand their horizons in a classic art form.

1 comment:

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