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Legacy Oral History Online Collection

Pinola Audio Clip and Transcript

Pinola Clip

Interviewer: Patricia Bulitt

LP: When I first began as a counselor for the Santa Rosa school district, I got a call to work with a young boy who was four years old at the time and came from a broken home, really having some difficulties, was never in school.  And so my job as a counselor, or an outreach person, was to find out why this particular young man wasn't in school. So, then, my assignment was to work with that young boy, build his self-esteem about himself and get him to come to school.  So, my idea was, “What am I going to do for this young boy?  What am I going to do for him?  How am I going to change his attitude about himself?”  So, one day, a friend called.  He wanted me to help him with a dance class.  So I included this young boy in that particular dance class.  And it was a Native American dance class.  [My friend] sang, I taught. (chuckles) And so, I included him, teaching him this dancing. And I guess you've heard the cliche of two left feet, as a dancer?

PB:      Um hmm. (laughs)

LP: This young boy had three.

PB: Uh-huh.

LP: No rhythm, no nothing.  And this time I was, I guess considered, I was an adult. And starting at the age of four years old, I'd perfect my movements, I'd perfect my dancing.  I was the, one of the top dancers, you know, that could be found.  And I was known in the community as one of the best, one of the good dancers.  There were some probably better than me, but I didn't see any.   So, as a person who perfected the movement of my body, I expected this young boy to do the same thing.  He was so stiff, he was so uncoordinated that he frustrated me and I quit him. I just said, "Get out of my way, you're not going to make it." Then—

PB: Was he Native American?

LP: Yes.  And somewhere down the road it finally hit me, "Hey," you know, "This young man is not you."  So I backed off.  I backed off with my regimented way of teaching.  And so I started just working with basic steps, basic movements with him, till he started to feel it.  And now he is one of the top dancers in the area. He's a teenager now—well, he's in his twenties now.  And one day a person came up to me and said, "Do you know that this young man is a better dancer than you?"

PB: (laughs)

LP: So, I don't know what this person meant by saying that, whether it was—

PB: (still laughing) What was your answer?

LP: I said, "Thank you. That means I'm a good teacher."

PB: Oh, beautiful.

LP: So I took it, you know, I made it into a compliment.

PB: It is a compliment.

LP: Regardless of what it was intended to mean to me.  I said, "Thank you."  I said, "That means, that also means that I'm a good teacher, then."  So.  But what I finally learned to do was to just teach him the basics and let him learn to motivate his body the way he felt comfortable.  The way it was natural to him.

PB: And in some sense, it sounds like that's what your grandmother and grandfather were nurturing, in the dance, for you.

LP: Um hmm. But I didn't realize that at the age of four—until I became a teacher myself.

©Museum of Performance + Design

Lanny Pinola
Pinola Audio Clip and Transcript