Dance It All Away

The next time you’re thinking about giving up, think instead of Yvonne Puckett.

A few years back, Yvonne, a dancer, wanted to perform in the Los Angeles Civic Light Opera’s production of The King and I.

At the time, her father-in-law was Louis Adrian, conductor of LACLO’s orchestra. When she told him she planned to audition, he looked appalled. “You?” he said. “In the King and I? No way.”

Of course, she signed up anyway. Then, she really went to work.

First, she dyed her blond hair black.

Next, she asked her friend Terry, who danced in the movie version of the show, to teach her some of the choreography. Terry agreed, and taught Yvonne the steps for “The Song of the King.” Yvonne practiced it every day for weeks.

The day of the audition, Yvonne arrived early to an auditorium packed with dancers. She knew, the later your turn on stage, the worse your chances of impressing bleary-eyed, cranky director and choreographer. So she pushed and elbowed her 5’ foot frame through the throng until she reached the front.

Finally—a lucky break: the combination they asked the dancers to perform was the same one Terry showed her.

In the end, Yvonne landed the part of “Little Eva”—a lead dancer role who plays a bit part in the show’s play-within-a-play of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Yvonne went on to dance in several more LACLO productions, and she even wrung some respect from her father-in-law.

“The obstacles that come at me make me more determined,” Yvonne said. “You just have to dance it all away.”

But look at what that meant for her:

  • Defying her father-in-law;
  • Changing her appearance;
  • Asking a friend for help;
  • Rehearsing like crazy; and
  • Shoving her way to the front of the line.

“Dance it all away,” like “write through it,” doesn’t mean merely put on your toe shoes and move. It means ignore your critics. Be resourceful. Work your butt off when there’s no guarantee of success.

Yvonne has been dancing it away for more than 60 years—in theater and nightclubs and USO shows, and even two Elvis Presley movies. (Roustabout and Kissin’ Cousins.) Recently, she and her husband started a dance and fitness program called Groove Young at Heart, for people over 65.

Dancing it all away is the only way to be teaching 15 dance classes a week and filming a fitness DVD on your 80thbirthday, as Yvonne recently did.

Dancing it all away is the only way to see what comes next.

“That’s the thing about the creative life,” Yvonne says. “If you keep dancing, you never know where it will take you.”

Kelly Caldwell
Dean of Faculty

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