Inspiration of Gillian Lynne

I’ve seen several variations of this true story. This is the one I like the best. I was diagnosed with ADHD, my son had a learning disorder (and still managed to take AP classes and graduate with honors) and my daughter had bi-polar disorder and she was also a dancer.

“Gillian Lynne was a normal, bubbly, cute little 8-year-old growing up in the 1930s in England – except for one little problem. She was not doing good at school. She was usually restless, inattentive, staring out of the window, making noises, talking to others, and generally disturbing the class in multiple ways. She was not doing very good with her homework or her grades either. Her handwriting was bad and her submissions were almost illegible to the teachers.

Her teachers were fed up with Gillian’s behavior, and she was sent to the principal’s office. After reviewing her grades, the teacher’s evaluations, and her behavior, the principal came to the conclusion that Gillian probably had some learning disability. He wrote a letter to Gillian’s parents and recommended that Gillian should be sent to a school for special needs children, as she would not be able to cope up in a normal school.

When Gillian’s parents received the letter from the school principal, they were very concerned and decided to take her to a psychologist for an evaluation. On one hand, Gillian’s mother feared the worst outcome from the psychologist’s evaluation. On the other hand, she believed in her daughter and wanted to make the best impression she could. She dressed Gillian in one of her best dresses and tied her hair into two little ponytails.

Gillian was brought into the psychologist’s office along with her mother. Gillian was oblivious to the gravity of the situation and was acting normally as an 8-year-old child would. The two adults spoke for a while. Eventually, they left the room, leaving Gillian alone in the office. To keep Gillian occupied thethe psychologist turned on the radio before leaving the room. While they talked about Gillian in her absence there was some upbeat music playing on the radio.

As soon as the adults had left the room, Gillian sprang into action. She started moving her feet and body and went around the room dancing in graceful moves. The psychologist and Gillian’s mother watched her from a window and were mesmerized by the grace and poise in her impromptu dance movements. Although no one had ever formally taught her how to dance, she seemed natural and her expressions revealed how much she enjoyed dancing.

The psychologist told Gillian’s mother – “Mrs. Lynne – Gillian does not have a learning disability or a psychological problem. She happens to be a dancer. Please enroll her in a dance school.” 

The little girl Gillian, about to be labeled as “dumb” and banished to a special needs school, was transformed into Dame Gillian Lynne, a dancer, choreographer, actress, and theater director. She entertained millions around the world and changed the face of dancing and choreography from classical to modern high energy dance and movement. She choreographed two of the longest-running shows in the Broadway – Cats and The Phantom of the Opera – both musicals were directed by the legendary Andrew Lloyd Webber.

If it was not for the understanding and recognition by the psychologist, Gillian would have been labeled with one of the many learning disabilities – dyslexia, APD (auditory processing disorder), LPD (language processing disorder), ADHD. (or something else as some of these conditions was not identified at that time). She would be doomed to spend the rest of her life in special schools and probably taking some medications to treat her “condition”.

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