This is Part 3 of Dancing Grandma, the accounting of her dance life my mother, Nancy Robb Amerson, wrote for my daughter Victoria Anne; Dancing on the Mississippi to Fats Domino and The Macalester College Dancer are Parts 1 and 2.
Mom could not know that her year of teaching dance at Macalester College would prepare her for an international life, or that her future spouse was already a fan of the country south of the border……
Did I really enjoy that year of teaching? It’s hard to say. There were moments of fun and others of frustration, as the heads of both the drama and phys-ed departments claimed modern dance belonged to them! Many of the kids in the class had been classmates of mine, voting me the most popular girl of the senior class, so it was slightly weird to turn into an authority figure. In addition to the classes at Mac, I taught classes at Sydney Pratt grade school, where the kids were tougher than any I’d known in Winona, and Ramsey grade school, where at least they paid attention. I continued to dance for Nancy Hauser, now at the St. Paul Art Gallery: I must admit that my real dance talent was not teaching or choreography, but performing!
We continued to do recitals, including a major show called Mi Tierra with a Mexican theme. It was a very big deal with a 220-voice chorus, a professional 20-piece orchestra, and a group of Mexican musicians from St. Paul. I was responsible for choreographing the dances, which had to be based on the Mexican steps. This was all new territory for me!”
The program notes begin: “Between two oceans lies the middle land of Mexico…land of volcanoes…restless soil that rumbles and upheaves in violence, stormy and full of drama as its history…aboriginal cities of patterned beauty….when all else in this New World was but wilderness, Mexico City had the first hospital, printing press, university … Now Mexico takes an honored place in councils of a world perplexed, playing a part in world affairs, speaking as fee men should, knowing that Freedom is no empty word.” Royal Moore
“In the 1940s and 1950s President Charles J. Turck gave new emphasis to the College’s internationalism by recruiting foreign students, creating overseas study opportunities, and hiring faculty from diverse backgrounds. As a symbol of commitment to international harmony, he raised the United Nations flag on campus in 1950, and it has flown every day since then, just below the United States flag. Under his leadership, the College also broadened its base of community service and intensified its continuing interest in civic and national affairs. President Turck wrote a regular column in the student newspaper, often discussing social justice at home and abroad.” Macalester College Mission
(Mi Tierra was a product of Macalester’s world view, as were the summer trips to Mexico that Dad made while at Mac. Had it not been for Dr. Turck, perhaps Mom and Dad would not have encountered the international service life, but this was not yet their path. She spent the summer back at Colorado College studying with Broadway choreographer and dance icon Hanya Holm and prized teacher Alwin Nikolais. Nik had first invited Mom to join his company in NYC the year before, and had been willing to wait until she completed her teaching year at Mac. Now, he announced that Nancy Robb would be joining the company in the fall.)
“It was time for me to head back to Winona to prepare myself for the beckoning uncertainties of the future. I needed to say goodbye to that boy named Bob; it would be a tearful moment. Then I would be ready for the dance world in New York. For how long? And what would I find there?”