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THE HOWARD-DIAS FAMILY:  On July 22, 2011, The Howard-Dias family suddenly left our world, leaving behind broken hearts of so many whose lives they touched.  Personally, I taught Sam hip-hop my first teaching year at El Carmelo, and her shiny, smiley face has permanently marked my heart.  I choose to honor these beautiful souls by channeling them, in all the amazement of who they were, what they did, and how they shared, to inspire me every day.  I want to share their inspiration with you all, and with the students who enter my life each year.  Because of you, Robert, Ana-Maria, Sam and Nica, I will hug harder, laugh harder, and smile more.  I will have more spring in my step, love in my heart, purpose in my actions, fire for my ideas, and determination to treasure every precious moment.  Thank you for being angels for us all.

MISS DOLORES WERNER:  On January 2, 2014, Dolores Werner graced heaven with her spirit, and is no doubt is dazzling it up with rhinestones and happy feet.  Words cannot express the profound impact my "Miss Dolores" had upon me and my decision to live my dream.  She was, is and always will be my hero.  The exceptional  guru…she trained me and constantly pushed me to "go for it, Sangini!"  A beautiful human being who inspired so many to dare to live out loud.  I will never forget you, Miss Dolores.  I love you. And I will forever use your motto:  "May all your days be dancing ones."  

SISTER ALICE MARIE QUINN:  Heaven became more blessed on June 23, 2017, when Sister Alice Marie Quinn entered its gates.  A piece of writing which poured out of me upon hearing of her death:


I write this with tears flooding my vision, as my dear sweet Sister Alice Marie has just passed away.  Friday, June 23, 2017, just days after turning 82, she went to heaven.  She was such a beautiful human being, devoting her life to God and to helping others, thoughtfully creating and fiercely running the Meals on Wheels program in Los Angeles.  She came to me some 15 years ago, revealing her secret of always wanting to tap dance.  She was in her late sixties at the time, and had various health considerations, including being quite overweight.  I took one look at her youthful spirit, sparkling eyes radiating out from her habit and told her, “Let’s do this.”

So I created a special tap class, which met every Friday afternoon, and those afternoons became so much more than tap.  It was therapy for my soul.  Sister and her friends, lovely high society women tapping in their pearls, became my standing date each week.  We would tap, we would laugh and we would love.  And in these meetings Sister would remind me of her wicked sense of humor.  When I asked her if she always wanted to be a nun, she stated quite bluntly, “Well, I never found a man that was good enough for me.  God was the only one!”

And her ever adorable scowl when I played one of my rap songs for us to tap.  
“Turn that garbage off!” she would bark.  
“Aw, come on Sister, give it a chance, it has a really good beat!”  
To which she would grumble back something incoherent but God bless her, she went for it and did what she could to the selected Lil’ Wayne song (Lord help me but I believe it was “Stuntin’ Like My Daddy).
That was Sister.
So then, to appease her a bit, I would switch to her favorite song, “Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch,” and off we went, executing the tap square exercise.
I will never forget looking at her happy face reflected in the studio mirror, just bouncing away to that timeless tune.  

We took those lessons quite seriously and every year we put on a performance.  We had recitals that drew in crowds like you wouldn’t believe and resulted with not too many dry eyes in the house.  While all my students were awesome, Sister never failed to steal the show.  How can you top an elderly nun, passionately tapping in her habit?

During our time together, she was the recipient of a huge award, praising her service to Meals on Wheels, and presented to her at a very swanky LA gala.  As this was a celebration especially for her, she agreed to give an acceptance speech, but also added, “Only if I can tap dance as well.”  
And then she came to me in a panic, “What did I just say I would do?  I can’t tap in front of all those people!  What was I thinking!!!”  
And I gave her a stern hug and said, “Sister, don’t be silly.  You can and you will.  I will help get you ready.”  
So we prepared and as the big day approached she frantically grabbed me the day before and said, “I can’t do this.”  
“Of course you can, Sister.”  
“No, you don’t understand it isn’t just me that is nervous.  God is nervous too, he told me this morning in my prayer!”  
“Okay then, Sister, let’s remind God that you’ve got this.  And I will be right off stage cheering for you.”  
“I need to see you!”  
“You will.  You will.”  
And that SAM.  She rocked it!  The crowd erupted into wild applause.  And for that moment, everyone lucky enough to be at this event experienced her magic and saw what I was so privileged to enjoy every week.  An unafraid, young at heart, firecracker, dancing away, draped in nun attire.  

When I met the love of my life Ilja Bedner, all my Friday ladies took immediate alert.  I had never been smitten like that and at my ripe age of 32, they all knew this person might be the one.  One problem.  Ilja lived in Palo Alto and I lived in LA.  But for an entire year he flew down every weekend and no doubt I would float in to the Friday class, needing an anchor, or for someone to slap the smile off my face, as I always left to pick him up at the airport after our Friday tap session.  Pretty soon into our relationship, Sister demanded to meet him.  Upon doing so, she gave her unwitting approval; I recall her mumbling something first and when I asked for clarification and she offered, “Well.  He seems pretty fine.  I tried to find something wrong with him and I couldn’t.”   

Toward the end of that year it became pretty clear that I would be leaving my life in LA to move to Palo Alto with Ilja.  And that was a tough time for all of us.  Many conversations and tender goodbyes were carved into those last months.  Sister expressed her sadness quite clearly.  
“Why can’t he move down here?  Why do you have to go up there?  We don’t want to lose you,” she truthfully told me.  
And I promised to visit and to create guest tap classes and made sure she knew that no distance would erase our bond.  Nor replace our memories.  There was just one thing.  I was not yet engaged.  This fact did not sit well with Sister.  At all.

So when Ilja came to visit our class a couple of months before my planned move, she asked to speak to him privately.  He returned from that chat with his face beet red, and his ears on fire.  This is how Ilja reacts to some type of confrontation.  I immediately knew something was up.  Sister, on the other hand, was smiling and dare I say giddy.  
“Goodbye, Sangini, see you next Friday,” as she sashayed out the door.
“What did she talk to you about?” I couldn’t wait to ask Ilja after she left.
“Oh, she wanted to make sure I understood something.”
“She told me, which felt like the voice of God speaking, “You cannot take Sangini with you without putting a ring on her finger!”
Ilja proposed to me shortly after, on June 23, 2006.
Oh how I love that Sister.

She and my Friday ladies attended my Goodbye LA party that July and Ilja and I took off the week after.  And after my move I called her from time to time, as promised.  I came back once or twice a year to tap with that dear group.  As life is life, my guest classes and our chats lessened over the years thereafter, but when my first son Indra was 10 months old, I once again taught a guest tap class during one of our LA visits.  Sister couldn’t participate in that class because her body couldn’t quite handle it any longer. But she made the trip to the studio to give me a hug and to bless my Indra.  And that was the last time I saw her. 

I look back on my time with Sister and I allow myself this travel down the emotional road of what was.  And what is.  And what will be.  The years I had with my Friday group will be with me forever. Whenever I am in a tough situation, I just think of Sister Alice Marie, in her habit, tapping her heart out. 

I have not put my tap shoes on for six years.  That last encounter with Sister was the last time I treated myself to their wonder.  I am changing that now.  I hope we all do.  Whatever your tap shoes are, whatever fills your heart with unadulterated joy, you must put those shoes on and relish dancing to the music of your heart.  Sister Alice Marie Quinn most certainly did.  The reflection of her tapping away will always remind me of how life should be lived.  Put on your tap shoes.  It’s only your life.




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