I’ve been an educator for over twenty years and I’ve had the pleasure to work with people whose passion and talent helped children grow and learn. There is one man who I worked with for over five years and I’ve been friends with for over ten years. We worked together at an inner-city middle school in Albany, NY and I was always amazed with his communications and interactions with students.
He taught tap, jazz, and History of Dance classes and I taught theatre, drama, and playwriting classes. Students who had a hard time staying in class and out of trouble often enjoyed the dance classes and would try their best to remain in school just so they could participate in his lessons.
During the History of Dance classes there would always be at least one student who would notice the name of a Broadway star from the 1970s and 1980s. “Mr. Weeks, is that you?” they would ask. He would smile and then there would be a discussion about being a Broadway actor. I loved watching him talk to a group of students. His voice would be bellowing and his body animated as he taught classes full of students staring up at him with interest and respect.
There were three performances a year where students with little or no experience would tap dance to a routine they had been learning. He even let me join one of his beginner classes and learn the basics of step-shuffle-step. After leaving the middle school setting he worked with elementary students and taught them rhythm, movement, dance, and how to have fun during a performance.
He did three shows a year; one at each of the three different elementary schools. At these schools he worked with students from first to fifth grade and he helped them put on a full performance in ten weeks. I’d watch him with this giant smile on his face and groups of students surrounding him with high fives and hugs when he tells them what a great job they did.
He was always there to give me advice and to try to keep me out of trouble. When we’d be sitting at a meeting and I’d start to say the wrong thing to the wrong person, he would kick me from under the table. He taught me how to bite my lip and keep my mouth shut. I don’t always take this advice, but I know I should. His other piece of advice, “keep it simple, keep it movin'”. I find myself saying this whenever I try to complicate things.
He retired last year and finally got the chance to keep it simple. I received a phone call last Monday and was told that he passed away over the weekend. He was my friend, he was my family, and I still find it hard to say that Alan Weeks has passed away. He will be missed, but he will not be forgotten.
make a little moonshine
before you’re gone
shine your light
shine it bright
that light just might
go shining on…”
Tap , tap
The Tap Dance Kid