ABC may have “Dancing With the Stars,” but Meredith College has its own ballroom dancing champion in Professor of Human Environmental Sciences Deborah Tippett.
On August 14, 2011, Tippett participated in the South American Open Ballroom Dancing Championship in Buenos Aires, Argentina. While this was her first competition, Tippett won first place in 16 of the 19 dances, and took second in the other three. She greatly exceeded her goal, which was “to make it through the dances without falling or knocking someone down.”
Tippett began ballroom dancing during the 10-year period she served as the primary caregiver for her mother, Ann Tunstall.
“During this time, I began ballroom dancing to find a way to have one hour a week of pure fun and joy,” Tippett said. “After my mother passed away in March of 2011, I decided to do something outrageous to honor her and to improve my own state of health, by entering the competition.”
Getting ready for the competition took commitment.
“It meant changing my lifestyle; losing weight so the dresses would fit, exercising everyday and taking lots of dance lessons with my talented teacher, David Therrell,” Tippett said. “I also had a tough coach, Shari Huggett, who really made me step up my game.”
Tippett danced at the Silver level, which is for intermediate dancers. She believes she may have been the only first-time entrant at this level.
“On the day of the competition, a peace came over me through the dances and I actually enjoyed the day,” Tippett said. “I had a feeling that my mother was smiling down on me. I learned a great deal about trusting my teacher and listening to hard critiques from my coach.”
While in Argentina, Tippett was also able to do some sightseeing.
“After the competition, I took Argentine tango lessons with the professionals, toured the beautiful city, enjoyed lots of beef and wine, saw Tango shows, and learned to appreciate the warm loving kindness of the Portenos (native Argentines),” she said.
She also took part in a powerful event, a march by the Madres de Plaza de Mayo.
“On my last day in Buenos Aires, my friend and fellow dancer, Prinny Anderson, and I marched with mothers who were protesting the disappearance of their children in the 1970s and 1980s.
The Madres de Plaza de Mayo have marched every Thursday afternoon since 1977 to protest the disappearance of their children during the dirty war of Argentina and to demand information of what had happened to their children,” Tippett said. “It was both moving and sad to see these women, the age of my mother, still risking their lives through their perseverance and courage to honor their children and to demand justice.”
Tippett is happy to talk about her experiences in Argentina with Meredith colleagues.
“If you come to my office, I will show you my beautiful Tango Trophy Ball that was made by Kathy Palmieri and Gail Carnagua to welcome me back to Meredith,” Tippett said. “I will share photos and even a video of the march for the mothers. And if you like, we can talk about our mothers and how much they mean to our lives.”
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