Written by Linda Mills Wofford
Ballet was such an important part of my early years. I absolutely loved it and looked forward to my weekly ballet classes after my school day at Sam Houston Elementary.
I loved everything about it – the discipline, the routines, the practices and working toward our yearly ballet recitals each May. What a fun, glamorous thing for a young girl to experience with the beautiful costumes, makeup, sophisticated hair do’s and much anticipated performances.
Most importantly, I adored and always wanted to please my ballet teacher, Mrs. Georgia Goss Harsten. Mrs. Harsten, as I always called her, came to Midland and introduced ballet to Midland in the Hotel Scharbauer Crystal Ballroom in the 1930s. She was a superb dancer and teacher and one who earned the utmost respect and admiration throughout Midland, including the arts community.
I was fortunate enough to be one of her ballet students in the 1950’s. She was tough and demanded the most out of each of her students. I can still see and hear her pounding the ballet stick onto the hardwood floor while counting 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 and again 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8! We did this over and over until we perfected the exercise.
At the end of my first year in ballet, Mrs. Harsten chose me to perform a solo in our recital. I was Mary in the nursery rhyme “Mary Mary quite contrary how does your garden grow?” I was beyond elated and practiced my routine over and over so as not to disappoint Mrs. Harsten or myself. Of course, making my parents proud was tantamount to my 6 year old self.
My goal as a young ballerina was to graduate to toe dance or “en pointe”, as it is known in the ballet world. This took much more foot, ankle, leg and core strength. After 3 years in ballet, I graduated to “en pointe” – truly one of my happiest memories. I remember my mother taking me to buy my first pair of toe shoes, along with the bunny pads and lambs wool you wrapped your toes in as a most necessary cushion to protect your feet. Then, through practice, your toe shoes had to be broken in to achieve the perfect, desired arch.
I loved dancing in The Nutcracker and Swan Lake, but my most memorable experience was when my class was chosen to dance “en pointe” with the Midland Symphony Orchestra. Our costumes were beautiful – all white with puffed sleeves and a full, ballerina length skirt. It was an evening I will never forget.
So much has been written already about what’s in the water in Midland, Texas. My ballet teacher, Georgia Goss Harsten, certainly brought her love of ballet and the arts to the very core of what made Midland special. And, I will always thank her for that.