It was the artist Marc Chagall who said, “If I create from the heart, nearly everything works; if from the head, almost nothing.”
I came across this quote on the Wisconsin Arts Board website just as we are nearing the culmination of our eighth year of Mad Hot. I realized this is exactly what I see in our Mad Hot faculty at work.
People often ask what’s behind the success of our program—growing from serving three to 50 schools. There are many great people and contributing factors involved–and there’s just something magical about dancing with another person.
But if there’s one thing that stands out to me, it’s that our faculty’s hearts lead their teaching. This makes often overwhelming circumstances become manageable.
We’ve discovered that a little can go a long way—a little affirmation, humor, patience.
I recently visited Westside Academy II on North 36th Street.
The school’s principal Mrs. Walker was at her desk piled high with work. I could tell she was in the middle of a lot but she took time to talk with me. What follows is some of what she shared…..
Everybody has an important role to play, and each person is important. I don’t care if you’re an engineer, a cook, or a dance teacher. You can be the one to make a difference in a child’s life. It only takes one.
Years ago when I was an MPS student, we felt okay going to the playground after school. We had Capitol Court to go to. We could ride our bikes to the swimming pool. I remember riding my brother on the seat and my sister on the handlebars. Many kids today don’t have that.
Milwaukee was an industrial town when I was growing up—Allis Chalmers, Harley Davidson, Briggs and Stratton, to name a few of the industries. My mom worked at GE. I wanted to work in a factory after high school, but my parents told me ‘No’. They didn’t give me a choice; I had to go to college. So I went and I had to work my way through.
I see students every day that don’t have all the supports and opportunities
I had. I feel like I’m Air Traffic Control controlling all the planes to help find ways for safe landings.
But with many parents working second and third shifts, and many students dealing with so many issues outside of school, schools cannot do it alone. Children desperately need adult affirmation. Families often need help with completing GEDs, developing parenting skills and with nutrition education. Many need healthcare, food, clothing and mental health support.
Partners – whether they are volunteers or organizations such as Danceworks—are critical to providing students with the support and opportunities that all children deserve.
It is my hope that the work we are doing at the school level, in combination with support from partners, we can strengthen the school’s place as a source of pride and the center of a neighborhood.
I thanked Mrs. Walker for her time and walked away thinking, once again, how important partnerships are—how important they’ve been to Danceworks and programs like Mad Hot Ballroom and Tap.
On my visits, I see how each school’s needs are unique. No two are alike. Partnerships with outside organizations, supporting the needs of that school’s families could help it once again become the focal point of its neighborhood. Children deserve a neighborhood that’s safe. And as Mrs. Walker said—schools can’t do it alone.
I headed to the Tap class being led by Danceworks faculty Kate Krause and assisted by Jeanne Kollmeyer. Walking into the gym, I witnessed over forty students following directions, quietly. In tap shoes!
I commended the classroom teacher, Ms. Sarah Carpenter—who had been dancing along with her students—on her students’ good behavior. I asked what her secret was. “There will be consequences if they don’t follow directions, I tell my students. And we follow through.”
If the arts can do anything, they can help a child discover their inherent uniqueness and value. That’s the starting point for turning negative thinking into positive.
We can help provide a child with a venue for success if they’re faltering in academics. This can bring a sense of self-esteem into their academics and relationships. That’s what my art and music classes did for me years ago when I was an MPS student.
I’m not silly enough to think a dance program can change a school system but it can help change a life and that’s worth investing time and resources in.
As Leo Buscaglia said, “Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.”
Our Mad Hot faculty understands that. The results will be seen on May 17th at BMO Harris Bradley Center when 2,557 students share their accomplishments. They will shine in front of an audience of over 8,000–including family and friends, teachers and principals who understand that too.
Come and be a part of this joyous event…just don’t forget to bring your Kleenex. (Tap begins at 9:30 am; Ballroom begins at 1:30 pm.)
Danceworks 2013-14 Mad Hot Ballroom and Tap faculty:
Rachel Payden, Outreach Director; ballroom and tap teacher
Amy Brinkman-Sustache, Education Director; lead tap teacher
Jacqui Lefebvre, lead ballroom teacher
Kyra Boprie, ballroom and tap
Julie Borouchoff, tap assistant
Emily Bowlin, ballroom and tap assistant
Ryan Cappleman, ballroom and tap
Cindy Collins, ballroom and tap
Jolie Collins, ballroom assistant
Aaron James Davies, ballroom assistant
Amanda Derus, ballroom and tap
Sarah DiMaggio, ballroom
Kelly Drake, tap
Tzeitel Dutmer, ballroom and tap
Jessica Fastabend, ballroom and tap
Alisa Ferrante, tap
Jennifer Gantzer, ballroom and tap
Annette Grefig, tap
Kathleen Grusenski, ballroom and tap
Betsy Guerrero, ballroom
Crystal Herron, ballroom and tap assistant
Darlene Jones, ballroom assistant
Emma Koi, ballroom
Jeanne Kollmeyer, tap assistant
Katie Krause, ballroom and tap
Ellyse Kummer, ballroom and tap
Gina Laurenzi, ballroom
Hannah Marquardt, ballroom
Yesenia Martin, ballroom
Peleg Minash, ballroom
Marlis Moldenhauer, ballroom and tap assistant
Jessica Olynick, ballroom and tap assistant
Jenni Reinke, ballroom assistant
Emily Rhodes, ballroom and tap
Ali Rice, ballroom and tap
Catey Rice, ballroom and tap assistant
Julia Richter, ballroom and tap
Joanne Smith, tap
Claudia Sol Morgan, ballroom and tap
Mary Stephan, tap assistant
Christal Wagner, ballroom and tap
Ryan Wehr, ballroom
Matt Woida, ballroom
Joelle Worm, ballroom and tap
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.