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Danceworks Blog

A Chance to Dance

Posted on by 10Web Support


From the Desk of

Kim Johnson-Rockafellow,

Senior Director of Programs



I can still remember so vividly the day my mom called to register me for my first dance class. It was years in the making. Growing up, I was a competitive swimmer and on the way to swim practice, I’d walk down the hallway of the community center and pass the windows that looked into the dance studio. It was the summer before 6th grade and I asked my mom if I could take a ballet class. In preparation, I would put the classical music channel on the radio (it was the ’80s) and try to move around like the dancers I had peered at for so long. The day she called to register me I once again had the classical channel on and can still hear her starting to give my information. A wave of absolute fear came over me – I can still sense the feeling. I screamed, “Wait, I don’t want to do this. I’m not going to know what to do!” She finished registering me and said, “Kimberly, I know you’re scared, but give it a chance.” Well, here I am 35 years later and I’ve never left the dance studio.


January is a big month for Danceworks both in and out of the studio. It starts with a new session of classes for both youth and adult students. As a teacher, I can sense that same kind of apprehension I experienced so many years ago when a new student walks into class, especially an adult. They look around and quietly figure out where to put their jacket and bag, and most of the time before I get across the studio to introduce myself, there is a knowing student introducing themself and showing the new Danceworker the ropes. The class starts and everyone is called “dancer.” Weeks go by and the community that already existed gets a little bigger; the newbie is now walking in with confidence, talking with others, and owning the movement that just weeks ago was so foreign.


Next up, the Danceworks Mad Hot Tap Competition will take place on January 24th at the Panther Arena. This year, I was the newbie assisting for the first time in one of our 38 classrooms. I’ve always worked behind the scenes at the Competitions, seeing the final product of the program. What a gift it has been to see the process of getting there. Not every moment of each class goes perfectly. Classmates have cooties and dancing makes one’s feet hurt. Oh, but when those moments of understanding the movement, being proud of oneself, and showing respect for one’s teammate happen, it’s simply beautiful – anyone can see that dance is truly making a difference in children’s lives. Who knows what this chance to dance will inspire?


Years ago, I was talking with a friend about the dance scene in Milwaukee and how different it was from her years in NYC. She recalled that there was always a venue to show work at, which meant there was a reason and more importantly, an inspiration to keep dance-making. How could Danceworks give choreographers and other performing artists a chance to make and show their work? Fast forward… we are now in our 6th season of Get It Out There, which is a concert series that showcases works by both established and emerging performance artists. The first concert was about 50 minutes long and had seven pieces made by five choreographers. The concert this January consists of 24 choreographers presented in three separate shows!  It all started with a simple idea – giving artists a chance to make work.


Take a chance this January! Try a new class, join us at the Competition in the stands or as a volunteer, come see the newest choreography in Milwaukee. Who knows what it will lead to? Maybe – almost certainly – a feeling of joy, accomplishment, community, or inspiration. What a great way to start 2019!

About Our Blog

Welcome to the Danceworks blog, where we're hoping to share a little bit more about the heart and soul behind Danceworks… what made us join the dance and keeps us dancing, what keeps us inspired, and where we can share some of the stories worth telling.