Monday, December 9, 2013
Keith Dinsmore is serious about school. So is his brother, Ryan Jordan.
“The Two Brothers,” Keith Dinsmore and Ryan Jordan, take part in a modern dance class at Southern Maine Community College, taught by Jessamyn Schmidt, below.
Photos by John Ewing/Staff Photographer
Keith, 31, is a few courses away from an associate degree in automotive technology, with a focus on electronics, at Southern Maine Community College in South Portland.
Ryan, 29, just began his first semester at SMCC after years of prodding from his older brother. Before he chooses a major, he said Friday, "I just want to get used to the swing of things."
He's not kidding.
Welcome to Jessamyn Schmidt's modern dance class, where stereotypes go up in sweat.
Where two guys who once staged professional wrestling shows in Keith's backyard now find themselves bending, stretching and sidestepping their way across the smooth wooden dance floor to the rhythm of Emmylou Harris' "Bang the Drums Slowly."
Where "community college" means more than simply learning a trade and getting on with your life.
"I knew I wouldn't be getting a room full of people who had been studying dance for years," said Schmidt, 31, a dancer since the age of 6 who this fall persuaded school officials to add a little wiggle room to SMCC's curriculum.
Now, eight weeks into the three-credit course, even Schmidt finds herself in awe of what can happen when 15 students -- including Keith, Ryan and two other brave men -- check their inhibitions at the door and, for close to three hours every Friday afternoon, sashay their way toward their ever-expanding horizons.
"There was a moment a couple of weeks ago when they were doing something and I looked around and thought, 'Wow! They look like dancers!'" recalled Schmidt over the sound of bodies rolling and sliding across the floor. "It was a great, great moment."
It's also, for the guys the rest of the class call "The Two Brothers," a point of no return.
"Ten or 12 years ago, education was more or less a hindrance to me working and trying to support myself," said Keith. "And now education is the only way I'm going to be able to support myself."
"Same for me," he said. "Education then -- and education now."
Keith is the single father of an 8-year-old son. He works three jobs -- dishwashing, maintenance and fixing cabs for a Portland taxi company -- in addition to carrying a full load at SMCC, where he'll graduate this spring.
Ryan, who lives in the same Portland apartment building as his brother, works full time behind the cash register of a convenience store. He, too, attends school full time.
Keith dropped out of high school in his junior year. Then three years ago, just after his father died, he decided it was time to get serious and earn his General Educational Development diploma through Portland Adult Education. (He passed the test on his first try.)
Ryan, Portland High School Class of 2001, was the first member of his immediate family to get a high school diploma.
But after that, he said, "it was just jobs, trying to make a living, things like that," before he finally took a deep breath and filled out a college application.
"I've been working on him for four semesters now to get him to come over here," said Keith, tapping his kid brother on the shoulder.
So here they both are, in modern dance class?
"I tell people I'm in dance and there's a whole lot of reactions," Ryan conceded. "Usually they say, 'Are you serious? That's for girls! What are you going to do with dance? That's not going to get you anything!'"
Truth be told, it's not as crazy as it sounds. For starters, these guys both have moves.
(Continued on page 2)
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SMCC modern dance classmates including Jordan, center, and Dinsmore focus on a lesson Friday.
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Jordan concentrates on a move.