I was always the last kid picked to play on any team in gym class, and that was completely understandable. I could not catch. I could not throw. I did not see the joy in running (to this day, I only run from purse snatchers and bees) and gym class amounted to nothing more than 45 minutes of trying to avoid fatal injury by classmates who were much bigger than me.
Because I lacked, shall we say, “traditional” athleticism, I could have easily developed a complex about this shortcoming had it not been for a discovery of three things that would become my fitness trifecta: roller skates, jump ropes and the almighty hula hoop. I may have been useless to my school’s softball team, but I was the limbo champion at Skateaway (remember the red and blue mushroom chairs in there?) and I practically defied gravity on the playground when it came to jumping rope (OK, maybe that’s an exaggeration, but I was pretty good). And until I met Susan Anderson and Jenny Hill (our cover models this week) in 2010, my hooping accomplishments were all but forgotten.
Founders of the area’s hoop troupe, the Whirligig Hoopers, I like to think of Hill and Anderson as our local pioneers in the art of hoop dancing — introducing it to people who never tried it before, and reintroducing it to so many of us who loved to hula hoop as children. We’re lucky to have people like them as neighbors because not only did they find an activity they enjoy, they keep striving to perfect it and then share their knowledge with others. I hope their story inspires you to pick up a hoop and give it a whirl, or to revisit an activity you once cherished as a youngster that somehow just got lost in the shuffle of being an adult.
You’ll be surprised at how great you feel when you do.
Speaking of inspiring stories, we came across some interesting information about Joan Harris, founder of the Joan Harris Centre in Luzerne, for whom the studio is named. As the center prepares for its 30th annual recital, The Best of the Best, on June 15 and 16 at the F.M. Kirby Centre for the Performing Arts in Wilkes-Barre, we thought it might be nice to share some highlights about this talented artist. We’ve all heard of the Joan Harris Centre, but many of us may not be familiar with the woman behind it, and hers is truly an impressive story.
Harris began performing professionally when she was just nine years old, and she danced daily in a review featuring comedians Bud Abott and Lou Costello. She moved to New York City when she was 17, and performed with the American Ballet Company under the direction of George Ballanchine. Other highlights of her career included roles in Broadway shows including Jerome Robbin’s Kiss Me Kate Bob Fosse’s High Buttoned Shoes. She was also a dancer at the famous Copa Cabana Nightclub, and in the 1950s she owned and operated seven dance schools in New York City. She also had a weekly television show that ran for seven years on WWOR Channel 9 in New York.
She returned to the Wyoming Valley in 1960, and the rest, as they say, is local history. The Joan Harris Centre for the Gifted/Talented opened in 1982 on Public Square. Today, the studio is located in the Harris Conservatory for the Arts in Luzerne.
If you’d like to join in the centre’s 30th anniversary celebration, think of the artist for whom the studio is named, and enjoy. Tickets are $16 in advance and $20 at the door. For tickets and information about the show, and the history of the school, visit www.joanharrisdancers.com.
That’s the scoop! Thanks for reading, and I’ll meet you here again next week.
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