Thursday, July 30, 2009

Instructor Helps Woman Dance Again

From (Phoenix, AZ)

By Jeff Butera

With flat feet and a couple knee surgeries behind her, Jeanmarie Elkins was convinced if she was going to get around, it would be in a motorized cart.

“I had pretty well resigned myself to the fact that I was going to be living the last 30 years of my life in the cart,” Elkins said.

Elkins was in that cart about one year ago, when she took her 4-year-old granddaughter to a dance lesson with instructor Joshua Ramirez at a Fred Astaire Dance Studio. Elkins was 68 years old at the time.

“Joshua happened to hear me mutter, ‘Gee, I wish I could do that again,’” Elkins recalls.

Ramirez, who was 24 years old, asked why she couldn’t. Elkins told him she had flat feet. He responded that he had flat feet, too.

“She was using that as an excuse, so I pulled off my shoe and showed her,” Ramirez said. “I’m a firm believer that if you want to do something, do it.”
So Ramirez helped Elkins find knee braces and arthritic shoes. Then he told her to stand up.

“I convinced her to get out of her cart and dance,” Ramirez said.

And she was able to. Elkins said Ramirez “pushed, pulled and cajoled” her and, over time, turned her into an accomplished dancer.

It wasn’t easy, though. Ramirez jokes that Elkins is “incorrigible,” and Elkins sarcastically retorts that she’s also “stubborn, independent and won’t give an inch.”

Still, with Ramirez’s help, Elkins became such a strong dancer that she entered dance competitions, often placing first. The woman who thought she would be confined for life to a motorized cart was now pursuing her passion.

“It has changed my life – literally,” Elkins said.

That’s why she asked to ‘pay it forward’ to Ramirez. CBS 5 News gave her $500 this week, and she gave it to Ramirez.

When we asked Ramirez what it was like to see Elkins change from a woman stuck in a cart to a dancer winner competitions, he said, “That feeling is why I do this job.”

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