You probably don't know Jimmie Manners, though if karma has anything to say about it, you will. He's a dancer and a choreographer. If you watched last night's BET Awards, you saw him when he performed with Usher. You may have also caught his silver screen debut in 'Step Up 2: The Streets'.
Our family knows him best, though, as my oldest daughter's favorite dance teacher. Until he left the DMV last September to seek his big break in Los Angeles, he taught kids to break it down like this:
My daughter isn't the most technically accomplished dancer. Her father's genes doomed her to a short, compact build, and denied her the long, graceful limbs that characterize elites on stage. She was blessed, however, with exceptional rhythm, and a stage presence that routinely elicits praise from even the most jaded observers. (I'll take credit for the rhythm, too - I rock mad internal beats.) She is, from this unbiased perspective, a born performer.
While she performs in jazz, tap, and lyrical routines, ever since she first learned to dance hip hop, it's been her favorite. In part because it suits her talents really well, and in even larger part because of Jimmie. From the first, she lit up when she talked about him, while he seemed to genuinely enjoy teaching her, and got a kick out of watching this tiny little white girl get after it.
On his last night in the DC area before moving to California, Jimmie came way out to the boonies to meet my daughter for frozen yogurt so she could say goodbye to him. That gesture alone touched us, and spoke volumes about his character and commitment, and his words that evening and belief in her for the two years prior continue to have deep meaning for my little one.
The two of them took a picture that evening - a bit of a study in contrasts, you might say. Just two days ago, he posted that image on Instagram, with an unsolicited shoutout to my kid. She's tried to play it cool, but it's fair to say that she's over the moon. He keeps motivating her, even now.
As for me, I'll be rooting hard for Jimmie. In addition to being an incredibly talented performer, he's a genuinely kind soul and one of the best role models my daughter's ever had. She's found something she loves to do, and Jimmie Manners is one of the people who opened that world to her.
The ninja thing, though, is something I need to wrap my head around.