Sometimes, you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone. That’s what happened on June 24, 2016. A treasured icon of Huntsville, Texas passed away at 90 years old, leaving a legacy of young ladies and “old” ladies (like me) who were inspired by her life, love, and work. She was salt and light in a bland and dim world because of her kindness, integrity, and passion. Most likely, I’m not the only one who has been contemplating Faye Burns’ impact on my life since hearing the sad news.
So, I’m a pretty forgetful 55-year-old woman, but precious memories of Mrs. Burns began to flood my mind (her scrumptious Martha Washington Fudge, for example) while I was praying for her daughter, Terri, and the rest of the family grieving their loss. I realized that God had placed her in my life at the perfect time by allowing me to take dance and life lessons from her for 7 years. Until now, I had never pondered how different it would have been without Mrs. Burns taking me under her wings. Honestly, what I learned from her prepared me for all of my future accomplishments.
Although I don’t remember how it happened, I started taking dance lessons at Faye Burns Dance Studio in 3rd grade. I’m sure my Mom made some pretty significant sacrifices to afford my lessons and all that goes with them, and I’m so grateful. Mrs. Burns’ dance studio was in her garage at that time. I loved my weekly dance lessons, and she allowed me to come observe the other, more advanced classes on the days my class met. Because dance was so exciting to me, I was able to memorize all the dances by just watching them practice. How many dance teachers would allow that?
Mrs. Burns saw my enthusiasm and moved me up from the beginning classes to intermediate to advanced with her daughter, Terri and the others who were my age had been dancing since they were three. She rewarded my hard work and encouraged me by giving me more opportunities to grow. My last year in dance, I had my first teaching job with her 3-year-old class. Success gave me more confidence, and I finally found myself in a world where I could excel. Whether she realized it or not, her belief in me was just exactly what I needed.
Basically taking me on to raise from the time I got out of school until Mom got off work, Mrs. Burns treated me like a daughter. I was from a broken home and it was the late 1960s, but I never felt out of place in her home or studio. There was no judgment, only love and acceptance. Most of my best friends came through relationships developed through dance. Of course, there were weekend and summer sleepovers, weekend trips, and going to church with the family. With her as a mentor, I was lifted up from my helplessness and given the chance to soar above my circumstances.
Because Mrs. Burns loved taking her students to dance conventions, I was able to travel to Houston, Dallas, New Orleans, and Denver, stay at the best hotels, and learn routines from some of the best professional dancers. We didn’t have much money to spare, but she somehow worked it out with my Mom to allow me to go on all the trips. And it wasn’t all business when we went new places, either. She always made sure we did some sight seeing, too. I never go to Colorado or New Orleans without remembering that my first time to see both places was with Mrs. Burns.
My story of dance lifting me up is one of many that could be told about Faye Burns. She had a ministry to children that used her fabulous dancing, teaching, and choreography skills to train girls (and a few guys) to move with grace and confidence for the rest of their lives. I just wish I had realized all of this while she was still alive and had a chance to thank her. What I can do is allow God to use me to be salt and light to those in my sphere of influence, like Mrs. Burns did for me and so many others.