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Childhood Dance Dream Realized In Balboa Park

The San Diego Civic Dance Arts Adult Ensemble is pictured before the group's annual dance concert in the Casa del Prado Theater, 2014. Michele McDougal is the second from the left in the back row.
Courtesy of Michele McDougal
The San Diego Civic Dance Arts Adult Ensemble is pictured before the group's annual dance concert in the Casa del Prado Theater, 2014. Michele McDougal is the second from the left in the back row.

Michele McDougal is pictured in this undated photo.
Courtesy of Michele McDougal
Michele McDougal is pictured in this undated photo.

As a child, I longed to take tap dancing classes, but my family couldn't afford them.

When I was 46 years old, I met someone who encouraged me to try the city of San Diego Park & Recreation Department classes. A teacher named Dottie Jones, who was famous in her own right, was recommended to me. She taught beginning tap in the War Memorial Building at Balboa Park on Saturday mornings. I worked full time and was a single mom, so the weekends were the only time I could go — and the cost of the program was, and still is, the best deal in town.

I remember that first day — parking in the San Diego Zoo lot, walking into the room with my brand new tap shoes still in the box, and being so very nervous, afraid to fail and worried that I would be the only one who had no idea how to tap. It was as if a whole new world opened up to me that morning — one of the most profound experiences of my life. I knew dance was something I was meant to do — and I'm still at it and still in beautiful Balboa Park.

Now 71, I continue to study dance in addition to performing with San Diego Civic Dance Arts Adult Ensemble at a variety of shows in Balboa Park's Casa del Prado Theater, the Organ Pavilion and at December Nights on the Prado. My childhood dream was realized in Balboa Park, and it holds a very special place in my heart.

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