Congratulations, Erin Andrews!
As I post this entry, I am still watching the grand finale of "Dancing with the Stars," and therefore do not know who will win the coveted mirror-ball trophy. But I do know that Erin Andrews, who has had my sympathy vote all season -- and who deserved to do well on the merits, too, because from week to week she improved so dramatically as a dancer -- has finished third. In my book, that is enough to make her the true winner of this season, even though she will not go home with the trophy. Last year, through absolutely no fault of her own, she underwent what surely has to rank among the most cruel and outrageous of public humiliations; and, in her own words, being a contestant on the show made her smile again and gave her back her life. It was clearly a healing experience for her, and evidently proved to be exactly what she needed, although I rather doubt she fully realized that the first time she appeared on the program with her professional partner, Maksim Chmerkovsky.
I know that much of my empathy for her stems from my own experience with dance, which has easily proven to be the most therapeutic activity I have ever engaged in. I can relate to Erin because, even though my own valley of humiliation was very different in nature from hers, I likewise discovered the joy of dance during a season when I desperately needed something to cheer about, something that would make me laugh and smile and enable me to be my better self once again. Prone almost since childhood to depression, brooding, and cynicism, I have become much more so in recent years, owing to a succession of personal tragedies and misfortunes; but in a word, I discovered very quickly that dancing makes me happy and acts as a natural counterbalance to my deeply-rooted propensity for gloom. I honestly believe it has been instrumental in saving me from having a breakdown. Someday, given the opportunity, I would love to dance with Erin myself; and if, as a prelude to the dance, I were to have occasion to swap stories with her, I think she and I would understand each other, at least insofar as this particular aspect of our lives is concerned.
Just this past weekend, I shared some observations about my dance experience in an e-mail message to a friend. I continue to marvel at the enduring impact Angie Hines has had on my life, even though I have not seen her in well over a year; but, as I recognize and mentioned to my friend, she didn't do that all by herself, and her principal assistants in the effort were Amber Barnes and Gergana (Gery) Slavova. With ample justification, they can each claim me as one of their true success stories, and I hope they will all remember that during the times when life is unkind to them, as it surely will be from time to time. All three of these unforgettable young women have left the Fred Astaire studio, the scene of so many happy and exhilarating moments for me over the past 3-1/2 years; and needless to say, I miss them, as they did so much to make my experience there what it has been. But I'm also immeasurably grateful that they stayed with the studio long enough to give me what was surely the greatest gift I could have received from anyone during that uniquely difficult season of my life, and to ensure, as well, that their gift would be permanent. I hope that will always hold true in Erin's case as well. Brava to you, Erin Andrews!