High school sophomore’s dance moves a gymnasium full of people
I will be the first to admit that I’m not a “dance expert” by any means, but I didn’t need to be on Saturday night.
Art is art, and when done right, it moves us.
And on Saturday evening, all of us in the New Hampton gymnasium were touched by a high school sophomore performing a solo dance dedicated to her mother.
When Madison Hoeck finished her dance, we stood as one and gave this plucky, young woman who has been through so much this school year a long, heartfelt ovation.
“I don’t know if anyone could tell, but I was crying before I went on,” Hoeck said. “I almost didn’t perform. It was hitting me really hard, but I decided to go out and do it.”
She paused for a moment, and when she spoke again, the voice was strong.
“I’m happy I did it. I think it helped me. I was doing the thing I loved most for the person I loved most.”
ON DEC. 19, Madison Hoeck performed with the New Hampton Dance Team at halftime of a boys basketball game between New Hampton and Charles City.
Her mother, Patti Slick-Hoeck, was front and center in the stands.
The following day, Madison’s life changed forever. Her mother died. Patti Slick-Hoeck was 38.
“Honestly, those days are all kind of a blur,” Madison said. “I was trying to block it out as much as possible. I just couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe she was gone. I couldn’t believe she had passed away.”
Her mother died on a Wednesday. The visitation was on Friday, and the funeral took place a day after.
The following week, she joined three of her teammates on what was supposed to be a trip of a lifetime to Florida, where Madison was going to perform with the All-American Halftime Team at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando.
“It was dance that helped get me through it,” Madison said Sunday afternoon. “After she passed away, I danced every single day. It was kind of therapy. … No, it wasn’t kind of, it was therapy for me.”
IN EARLY JANUARY, she returned home from Florida, and her team began planning for the Dance Showcase that was held this past Saturday night.
“We were having team discussions,” she said, “and we talked about who wanted to do solos. And I just knew I needed to do this for Mom. I needed to get working on it, and even though it was hard, I just had to do it.”
So she began working on her piece, one set to the song “Dancing in the Sky.”
The song was played at both her grandfather’s and her mother’s funeral, and as I write this, I’m listening to the song on my iPhone.
I hope you’re dancing in the sky,
I hope you’re singing in the angel’s choir,
I hope the angels know what they have,
I’ll bet it’s so nice up in heaven since you arrived.
And I sit here wondering how in the hell did this high school sophomore hold it together last night?
I lost my dad when I was 39. My mom passed away when I was 49. And both deaths crushed me.
But I wasn’t 15 when I lost either one of my parents, and when I think about that, my heart breaks for this girl.
WE HEAR IT all the time — life goes on — and in some ways, it has for Madison Hoeck.
“I think it’s gotten better,” she said. “It’s gotten less difficult to go through each day.”
Dance has helped. So have her teammates, who literally wrapped her in their arms and carried her through the most agonizing time of her life.
“They were definitely there for me,” she said. “I spent most of that day Mom passed away with my team, and they’ve been there for me ever since. If I need anything — with dance, school or just that emotional support — I know I can count on them. That’s a pretty neat gift.”
And on Saturday night, she gave all of us — and her mother — maybe the best gift of all.
She moved us with a dance.
And somewhere up there, I’m sure Patti Slick-Hoeck was “dancing in the sky.”