~Dance it, Speak it, Poet~

By Jan Drake Bakke


"A History of a Gymnast Part 8" July 2018/"Oh Thoz Gymnastics Dayz"



"Oh Thoz Gymnastics Dayz--In Our Prime"


We whipped

We bounced

We flew

We pounced


We were gymnasts

On the grind

Appearing all over town

We didn't mind!


Alot of appearances

Alot of time

Oh thoz gymnastics dayz

We were in our prime!



"Hand Stand Rescue"


Sometimes it might be best

to just

do a handstand!

To settle one's nerves!!



"Valdez on the Rocks"


Would ya give me 

a double valdez on the rocks

I'm feelin pretty limber and lanky

I want to back walkover out of this joint

Come here baby

You're lookin pretty swanky!




"Tinsika Heaven"


Let's take off into Tinsika Heaven

Where the air breezes thru our limbs

As we glide in seconds of euphoria

As our spirits soar in delight

Our bodies never forget such whims!




"I Was A Gymnast"


I was a gymnast

I wasn't normal

And I wanted to be

I accept it now

At my age over 50


It was a miracle

To be so masterful

In all that we did

But I was still a just a girl

And just a kid!


Today I look back

And rejoice in my roots

It gave me a wonderful life later

I still love my boots


Being a gymnast 

taught me some of my life core valuez

I thank my family and friends then and today

I stil love my shoez


Pain and joy

was always the welcomed guest

It was my life

I was a gymnast!!






In the last column the 7th one I discussed the time in Geneva, Ohio and all of the neat things that went on there with my gymnastics career. I was 15 to 16 years old then. I was getting older for the career by then and slowing down actually. Although, there have been gymnasts who continued in their 20's for Olympics and competitions. I was getting taller by the minute though and it was going to be over very soon for me. I am going back now to my earlier years to share about the Las Vegas schools and the performances we did for them. For many years this took place.


I was seven years old when I started gymnastics and I very quickly progressed at a very rapid speed. It was lightning speed. I was perfoming at seven and a half and we were doing exhibitions for the public school system for Las Vegas. We performed in elementary schools, junior highs and high schools all over the city. There were not that many schools back then though so we got through quite a few of them. I was a state champion at eight years old for my first state championship. Along with the other team champs as well Coach Jan Van Tuyl had us going all over town doing exhibitions. For school classes, assemblies,  and after hour gymnastics school teams. It was awesome. I so enjoyed these. I had to be taken out of my school classes to do these. It was fine.  This really gave our city a nice look at some of us on our team and what girls gymnastics was all about. It also gave our Coach and our team alot of city and community notoriety. It was a very positive community thing to do. We were in the newspapers alot and we also were asked to give our autographs. People would come up to us in stores or wherever and ask.  Once they found out who we were. It was cool but it didn't last very long. That was so amazing to me to give those. I didn't even know how well known we were. We were though. It was a smaller city back then and we called it a town. The team was getting more well known as time went on. After Nationals we were famous. For a while with the first team called The Las Vegas Fittettes. The next team called the Las Vegas Comets also did these exhibitions for the schools in Las Vegas. I am glad Coach continued to do these for the next team as well. There were amazing gymnasts on that next team also. 


 My father did not want my head to swell at all and he made sure I kept myself very humble. He did the talking when it came to who I was and what I did. He controlled my life greatly. I didn't talk to my friends about it either much. They would not understand it. They weren't doing these moves(scary tricks) and getting outrageous injuries. LOL! I just wanted to have fun with my friends and not talk gym talk. Now with my gymnastics friends all we did was talk gym talk and we also worked out at the over night sleep overs too. We just naturally did that. We might do handstands for hours to see who could hold them the longest. I had both gymnasts friends and also non gymnasts friends growing up. I was very lucky.


When I was in junior high I was asked by the school to perform for my school. My father and I worked out there at 5am in the mornings in the gym before my school classes started. We also worked out on the weekends too. This was just my private work outs with him along with my regular work outs with my Coach and my team. We used the mats is all but still it took trust for them to let us in. I had a good reputation by then and they knew what we were doing. I was still considered an Olympic hopeful for the city and state. So they were into the dream as well. It was going to be six classes. I would do my floor x routine for the students and  staff.  It was so fun but very intense. Six times was alot but I was in great shape still. I was about 13 years old then. It was a nice way to give back to Orr Junior High for letting us use the facility to practice in. I was happy to do it too. My father picked out the music for my routine. It was "Georgy Girl" by the Seekers band. It is a great song. And it was fun to perform with. Although, I didn't feel it correctly described me but my father did. That hurt my feelings too. But he was the boss so I had to use it. I was not as lonely as he thought. I was not aloud to date because of his rules. I did date though still but he didn't know about it. I did not have time to have a boyfriend and with his very intense rule over me it was going to be very difficult to have one. I did go out or see boys when I was at friends houses or at school dances that he  aloud me to go to. I suppose 13 , 14 and 15 years old was young still to date. I however had a crush way younger on a gymnastics coach at ages 10 and 11 and 12. Nothing took place but may have if the situation had changed. Gymnasts were always working out and we gave up alot of social interactions and activities in our life. So we all wanted a boyfriend or girl friend for the male gymnasts.  Mostly. Some of the girls got married very young and had kids. At 15 years old. We had had a very strenuous and fast life. Just the way it was for alot of gymnasts. At least what I saw.


I also loved clothes. I had to have very particular clothes. I loved  dresses, dress pants and tops and jeans. Well, also shorts and just about everything. Also I was a shoe freak. I had so many. I still do.  I was into boots too. Still am! LOL! I spent alot of time shopping with my mother after meets and gym practices on the weekends. We loved doing this so much!! It was our escape! I still do it. Even if I don't buy anything. It's just part of me and what I am used to doing. I love to just walk in malls. In general. It is good exercise too. All of this was used later in my professional life. What we do in our early life will alot of times be done later. The trick is to use it wisely. 


One year when I was 14 years old and my last year in junior high school. I had saved up quite a bit of money from doing housework and yard work for my parents. They paid me to do this. It took a few years to save this much money. I flew to San Diego, CA. to visit my Grandmother Gavin (my mother's mother) and my Cousin Mary in LA. I went by myself and it was a grand time too! Very independent of me. As my Grandmother was very pleased with this. She was a very independent woman. She being the first School Nurse for the State of Indiana! She beleived women should be independent and able to make their own money and do everything. She did. So she was pleased to see me traveling and making my own money at my very young age. I was wearing very short shorts called "Hot Pants" back then and very high heeled sandals. With a half top showing my belly button. Oh it was a rave amongst some family.  In other words not so well received. On the plane it was well received. My Grandmother thought I was lovely though in it. It may of been too riscay but I came from Las Vegas and that is how we dressed and especially in the summers. My parents did not mind so much how I dressed as long as it looked well. I worked so hard at such a young age. They did not control so much of my fashion statements. They felt I had good taste and liked what I wore usually. I guess this outfit was a bit racey for some tastes. I would think twice for my daughter if I had one of wearing such an outift. So I do understand the sentiments of others. I was not normal though and my parents knew it so they aloud me to show off my body. Oh well. What can I say. I continued this trend later too and got paid for it being a Show dancer and a Showgirl. Anyway, it was summer time! I was going on a journey by myself and I was elated to the max!! I was paying for it too and I was going to wear what I wanted! My Grandmother knew just how I felt. She got it. We went shopping for hours at a very nice mall in San Diego. It was along the lines of the Fashion Show Mall here. It was a little spendy along with trendy and also very classy. We had lunch and I bought some very nice clothes. That was for my last year in that school to wear them. Clothes were kind of the thing at school. We were not rich people (although my Grandmother had a little money in her later years) and so it was fun for me to look really nice more than usual. I had the best time and those were good years for me. Some of the best.


That is enough for this column. There is so much to share on the history of my gymnastics experiences, team and career. I wish you a wonderful July and it being some of the hottest times of our year. Take a dip in cool water if you can!  Here are some more poems!  It's summer!!




"Clothes and Shoez--Part 1"


The moment I walk into my lovely shops

of delicious decadence

My pain stops


Not buying anything becuz of the cost

Or buying too much

and now I am crisscrossed!


I try on so many

and totally get lost!

I am delirious and I will spend a pretty penny!


It is pure enjoyment

this shopping addict admits

No need to stop

I'll just have fits!



"Clothes and Shoez--Part 2"


Clothes and shoez

Clothes and shoez!


How to curb shopping

Any cluez?


Wisking me away

oh stores of at least twenty


I am your devotee

Spending plenty


Delightful outfits

I so adore


With pairs of shoez

I just bought four!....

(not real life or is it?)




"I Open My Hands--Approval"


I open my hands

to freedom

Letting go of needing approval

Loving myself and others

My life is full!


I open my hands

to freedom

With or without rejection

Not living for acceptance

But with uncondional affection...



"Higher Ground--"Pink and Blue"


Take me to higher ground

This time around

I stick to you like glue

I am a little pink

And a littlle blue!



"With Duality of Naivity"


With duality

of decadence

and of naivity


With duality

of sensuality

and naivity!




"In thoz split seconds

of total freedom

we remember eternity"



"I'll Meet You There--Beleifs"


I'll meet you there

Becuz we agree to disagree

And not every opinion

or belief system

any of us chuz

will alwayz match with

otherz perfectly!




"In My Hair A Rose"


I stretch beyond my limits

And I find strength in my pose

Life's remarkable journey takes us

to unfathomable stances

As I wear in my hair

A rose!



"I look For the Light"


I look for the light

The lighted path

It steps into eternity

So easily

So fluidly

The lotus flowers

The blue

Bringing peace

For me and for you!


Love, Jan 







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