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Danceworks Blog

A Quiet Student and a Listening Teacher

Posted on by 10Web Support

Kathleen Grusenski had waited the duration of our March board of directors meeting to have her chance to say a little about what she does at Danceworks. The agenda was full and the meeting ran long after a lengthy discussion about our new case statement. I was sure that even within a few minutes, Kathleen would make a great case for Danceworks, giving a solid example of why we do what we do.


Kathleen arriving at the board meeting


Her title wouldn’t give you a sense of her responsibilities; Kathleen is Danceworks’ Studio Manager. This means she oversees our Summer Creative Arts Camps, School Day Off Workshops, the annual studio showcases and our work study program.


In addition, Kathleen is a teacher in Danceworks Mad Hot Ballroom and Tap (MHBT), Danceworks Intergenerational Multi-Arts Program (IMAP), and in studio classes—where she teaches jazz, tap, theatre dance and pre-ballet. She also performs with Danceworks on Tap. Kathleen is a Danceworker. She’s not much different than anyone else at Danceworks who has an equally long list of job responsibilities (this is a non-profit, after all). It’s her passion that carries her along.


After a brief introduction—and with just four minutes left in the board meeting—I said, “So, Kathleen, you were a Marquette student studying math and engineering, and then you met Amy!”  Amy Brinkman-Sustache, Danceworks’ Education Director, teaches Tap at Marquette. She was Kathleen’s teacher.


“Yes, I was in Pre-Med,” Kathleen said, “and it was actually my last class. Amy was the first person I had ever met who was making a living as a dancer, and I wanted to know how she did it. She invited me to be a work study student at Danceworks over the summer, and I jumped at it.”


Kathleen grew up dancing, and work study allowed her to take classes in exchange for helping out around the Studio. Many work study students move on to more involvement in Danceworks.


“You have a long list of responsibilities at Danceworks. What inspires you?” I asked.


“I was thinking about that on my way here,” Kathleen began. “In one of my MHBT classes I have a young gentleman who was incredibly shy—he didn’t talk at all—and I could tell by his body language the tremendous discomfort he felt in ballroom class.  He never said his name out loud or answered questions during group activities. When it would be his turn to share, he never once answered a question in front of the group.


“Last week, when we were all in a circle, I asked the class to share something that was easy for them. When it was his turn, he said, ‘My name is Arnoldo* and it’s easy for me to be quiet.’ I could hardly contain my excitement! Later in class, he raised his hand to volunteer to demonstrate a corte (a Tango dance step) with me—I couldn’t believe my eyes. Then after class was over, he asked me if I thought he did okay in class that day. I had to do all I could not to hug him. I realized, once again, that this program is working even when we’re not sure it is.”


Kathleen finished her remarks to the Board: “It’s nothing I do; I have the honor of working for this great program, of working with Danceworks.”


After Kathleen shared her story, everyone in the room was quiet.


“Thanks for making us all cry,” a board member finally said.


They say that still waters run deep. Later that evening, after the board meeting, I thought about this boy, who was too shy to say his name or answer a question, and wondered what was going on beneath the surface.


But the story of the quiet student who spoke up is as much about the teacher as it is the student.


Kathleen patiently observed her class, setting an example for Arnoldo and the others. She was there to teach. She knew that she was developing trust in her students, and that takes time. If she became frustrated, she didn’t show it. When things went well—or when they didn’t—she stayed humble. Kathleen simply followed through with what she said she would, one step at a time.


At that board meeting, Kathleen expressed what I see in our entire faculty, our board members and all our staff—the ability to simply allow joy, health and creativity flow through them in order to enhance another person’s life.


If you want to see Arnoldo and more than 2,200 other students from 40 MPS schools and five additional Milwaukee schools, please mark our Danceworks MHBT Competition on your calendar: May 16, 2015. Join us at the BMO Harris Bradley Center and witness the joy and excitement as Milwaukee students forget about their fears and dance!


Students at the BMO Harris Bradley Center. 2014 Danceworks Mad Hot Ballroom and Tap Competion


 More information on Danceworks Mad Hot Ballroom and Tap, the competition, and volunteer opportunities at the competition, are available here:


*Not the student’s real name.



Photos: Students from past MHBT Competitions at the BMO Harris Bradley Center

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.