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Like a lot of Americans, I’m thinking about this Friday, which is the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination. For me, that fateful day ended up affirming my commitment to dance.
While in high school, I was taking the Advanced Teenage Class every Friday at the Martha Graham Center for Contemporary Dance. I lived in New Jersey, so, right after school I would hop on the bus to Port Authority, get on the subway, and be at the Graham studio in time for the 4:30 class.
Wendy Perron at 17
Photo by Jerry Bauer, Courtesy Perron
That Friday, earlier in the day, our whole high school heard, over the P.A. system, that Kennedy had been shot. And a little later, that he was dead. I don’t remember the immediate reaction in the classroom, but when I went into the girls’ room, everyone in there was crying. We really let it out. Ridgewood was a heavily Republican town, but plenty of us admired Kennedy.
Whatever disaster was happening in the world, it was a Friday and that was my day to go the Graham school. (My after-school schedule included Mondays and Tuesdays at the Joffrey school, and Wednesdays and Thursdays at Irine Fokine School of Ballet right there in Ridgewood.) I wondered if class would be held considering the national pandemonium. But I didn’t know what else to do with myself, so I took the bus as usual. When I got to class, there were only about six of us there. Would David Wood, our teacher, show up? David entered the studio, we stood up for the teacher like we always did, then sat down on the floor to begin. In his strong, deep, kind voice, David said, “I know this is difficult, that a great tragedy has occurred. But we are dancers, and what we do is dance.” And with that, we began the bounces on the count of One.
(At left) David Wood in Graham's Acrobats of God, Courtesy Ellis Wood
(At right) With Marni Wood, who continues to teach at the Graham School today. Courtesy Marni Wood and Nancy Stevens