But I'm Not Dead Yet

Shelf Life

The 50 year evolution of a dancer.

Evolution: A gradual process in which something changes into a different and usually more complex or better form.

Tomorrow at approximately 2:35 p.m. I will most likely dance for the last time on a stage.

At four-years-old, just barely out of leg braces, I stepped into Charlotte Crowleys Dancette Studio. Immediately, Miss Charlotte took off my corrective saddle shoes and slipped my feet into soft pink ballet slippers. I looked just like every other little girl there, my first moment of normal.

At 53-years-old, there is a different leg brace and equally as ugly, pair of corrective shoes gathering dust in a back corner of my closet. I’m still clinging to that first moment of normal, or vanity.

The gradual process of turning a clumsy, yet enthusiastic, four-year-old child into a strong, yet still insecure dancer has taken 50 years.

I certainly can dance way better than I could at four, but not as well as most of the years in-between. There is a shelf life to dancing (unlike Twinkies). Dancing is still just as much fun as ever, even with the age limits.

It’s just time.(I hate time.) But it is time to embrace that I have become just like Charlotte Crowley, the wise old teacher in the corner giving little dancers their first moment of normal and pushing them toward a lifelong evolution toward strength. I’m trying to keep the insecurity to myself.

Charlotte Crowley, here I come. Well, not until the day after tomorrow.

Thank you to the Theatre Artists Studio for creating a space without age limits. On your stage I’m a Twinkie.


  1. Marti

    Oh my God. I had no idea this would be your last dance performance. I have a tear in my eye as I write this, but I guess you have to look at this change in life as an opportunity that will open new doors. Your talent and passion for dance will always inspire others. This is your gift.

  2. Ellen Wolff

    You are not nearly done Mrs. Burns…you will move to Palm Beach and dance with the beautiful octogenarians. You are far more graceful and elegant and passionate than young'uns half your age…I <3 you Karen!!!

  3. David Brown

    Wait—I was cast in a featured dance role in a musical, and also danced several numbers in a ensemble of kids less than half my age, just last year. Never say “never”…unless it's “You never know what life has in store.” 🙂

  4. Karen Burns

    I think you “never” do!!!! (know what life has in store) I love that philosophy. I'm just going to take it as my own from here on out. Thank you.

    And thank you for reading and commenting and dancing with kids less than half your age. I do understand how that feels – I just did a charleston duet with a 20 year old. I'm still waddling around and it was three weeks ago.

  5. Karen Burns

    This comment has been removed by the author.

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