Wriggle-Bottom: An Origin Story
Meet Gillian Lynne, Famed Choreographer—and a Medley of Other Stuff
As I am unexpectedly traveling this week, it’s a bit of a medley today instead of a single profile. First, a request. Second, some sentimental CreatorCraft . Third, a reader poll. Fourth, a short HistoryCraft profile from the great photographer Lewis Hine.
1. A REQUEST
I want to hear your workcraft stories for a potential profile. Please email me a bit about yours at firstname.lastname@example.org. For those I explore and feature, I’ll send a signed copy of a Bascomb book of your choice for free!
This is a community, and as I’ve said many times, we all have interesting stories to tell of our workcraft, whether in.the past or present. It’d be wonderful if I could feature one of these a month in the newsletter. Just a few weeks ago, “WorkCrafter” Joellen sent me a short note about her job as a pipefitter in a trade that is 98% men. I can’t wait to publish her profile. If you know of someone to suggest, that’s great too.
The process is simple—and relatively pain-free! I’ll send you a few questions by email. Then interview you on Zoom or the like. I’ll write up the piece. Send to you for review & changes. Ask for photographs. And boom: profile. Typically, it shouldn’t take more than 2 hours of your time.
Here’s a note from Tammy Grubb, the junior high English teacher who was my first reader profile: “I thoroughly enjoyed the chance to talk about my teaching experiences and how amazing and rewarding and painful it all can be. The profile gave my friends, family, and, I hope, other readers a brief insight into what my career was like, leading to a better understanding of how teaching is so much more in so many ways than most people think it is.”
In 1933, seven-year-old Gillian Pyrke from Bromley, England was nicknamed, “wriggle-bottom.” She simply could not sit still, not at the breakfast table, not during the long days at school, not at night when her parents wanted her to read what she was supposed to read.
Gillian describes what came next, “My parents, at the end of their tether, took me to see our family doctor. He observed me very closely as Mummy launched into a long speech about how frustrating she found my annoying symptoms.”
The doctor eyed Gillian and then walked over to his radio and put on some music. He then drew Gillian’s mother out of the examination room.
“Out they went, and the minute they had gone I started to dance to the music, even going up on his desk because it seemed a wonderful vantage point for jumping off from. What I hadn’t noticed was that his door was one of those beautiful old glass ones with etched designs, through which the doctor and my mother were watching.”
“There is no trouble with this child, Mrs. Pyrke,” the doctor said. “She is a natural dancer—you must take her immediately to dance class.”
After the visit, that is exactly what happened. Gillian Lynne (her stage name) rose to become one of the most beloved ballerinas in England and founded her own dance academy.
In 1981, at 55 years old, she was asked by Andrew Lloyd Webber to choreograph his new musical, “Cats.” Lynne seized the opportunity. “I was a strong dancer,” she later said, “So I created it all on my own body initially.” Many credit the musical’s soaring success to the audacious, beautiful, prowling, and often manic moves that Gillian crafted.
One is reminded of the Friedrich Nietzsche quote, "And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who couldn't hear the music."
In her autobiography, Gillian speculates, "Nowadays I dare say I would have been labeled hyperactive and my diet would be scrutinized and a pill given."
Thankfully her parents let Gillian dance and the world is a brighter place for it.
3. READER POLL
Four months ago, I launched this newsletter, and our community has grown to over 4,000 subscribers! I’d love to know your thoughts on what you like best—and what I could do better. If you could respond to these two brief polls, that would help shape what is to come. Also, feel free to include suggestions in the comments section or send me a direct email. Thank you so much in advance!
"Mrs. Dora Stainers, 562 1/2 Decatur St. 39 years old. Began spinning in an Atlanta mill at 7 years, and is in this millwork for 32 years. Only 4 days of schooling in her life. Began at 20 cents a day. The most she ever made was $1.75 a day & now she is earning $1 a day when she works. She is looking for a job. Her little girl Lilie is the same age she was when she started work, but the mother says, "I ain't goin to put her to work if I can help it. I'm goin' to give her as much education as I can so she can do better than I did." Mrs. Stainers is a woman of exceptional ability considering her training." --Lewis Hine, March 1915
Thank you again for subscribing to Work/Craft/Life and supporting me in making it even better.
We’ll talk again in a week. As always. Same time, same band, same place.
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