Lori began dance when she was 2.5 years old (and has the attendance certificate buried somewhere that proves it). Her studies focused mostly on tap, jazz, and ballet. Hip-hop was just coming to this side of the continent when she was in her teens, and she also learned a little Irish dancing. She competed in North America for almost 15 years, and twice landed on the international stage at the World Tap Championships. (Lori was a member of the Canadian Tap Team in its first two years of existence: 1996 and 1997.) She’s also a former dance teacher.
Alongside all those years of dance, Lori spent a lot of time with her grandparents, who had immigrated here from Eastern Europe. Unfortunately, when they tried to tell her about her family history, she also often ignored them, especially if the TV was on. So, she would hear something like “Your oma [grandmother] was educated in secret because Germans weren’t allowed to go to school” and think “Why would you go to school if you didn’t have to?” Or she would hear “Well, it depended on where the borders were at the time: they kept changing” and think, “But borders don’t change. What are they talking about?” (She never placed her family history into the historical contexts she was learning about at school.)
Lori didn’t start to take these stories seriously until she had reached her early 20s. Her subsequent inquiries over the years led to this conclusion: The history behind each and every person on this planet starts generations and generations back. From changing borders to war to labour camps to ethnic divisions…from church rituals to marriage customs to community celebrations…from gender roles to dreams to immigration…we are a culmination of the stories that proceed us. However, it’s our decisions that propel these stories forward, changing them, hopefully for the better.
Lori Wolf-Heffner has her Hons BA in German with a second general major in Psychology, her MA in German, and is working towards her PhD in German at the University of Waterloo. She has written for the Globe & Mail, The Dance Current, and just dance! magazine (under Lori Straus).
Lori’s grateful for the support of her three “boys”–her husband and two sons–and her mom, dad, and sister. Lori lives in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada.