Will you support joy with a gift to Danceworks?



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From the Diary of Deborah Farris


The wind was blowing especially hard that day. It pressed into me as if it were trying to hold me back. I grabbed at my flimsy jacket, holding the front panels of cotton closed.

My ears ached and it was only October. “Wear your hat!” my mother would always say as I walked out the door to the school bus during the cold months.
I pushed back against the wind, making my way to three different doors before I found the entrance with the buzzer. The inside warmth hit me like heaven, along with the smile from the woman seated at the desk. “Good morning!”


“Good morning!” I shivered, leaving the bitter cold at the door and introduced myself. “I’m Deb Farris, Danceworks CEO. I am here to observe your Mad Hot Tap students,” I said and was directed to the basement cafeteria, where lines of children (and the smell of broccoli) caught my attention, waiting for class to begin.

Dance class.

If anyone wonders why so many individuals are investing their lives in our city’s schools, you need only to look into the face of one child—any child within the four walls of the tall brick buildings throughout Milwaukee.


On the day I visited this school, two 4th grade classrooms were being combined into one. A teaching veteran of 20 years, Mr. B explained that he had just spent six weeks getting his students in line. “Now,” he said, “I will have to start all over.”


As if on cue, the second 4th grade class entered and with Mr. B’s help, began to fill in spaces across the floor. Our Danceworks teaching artist skillfully maneuvered around two thick columns, giving instructions to both sets of students. Before long, I couldn’t tell where one class ended and the other began.


“What better way to start the students off than by dancing together?” I said to Mr. B, not intending to minimize his challenge. The question was more intended for me, to remind myself on that windy day the compelling story of why we do what we do.


I realize dance won’t provide the answers to the tough questions that went through my head as I walked up to the school. How many children won’t have warm coats this winter? How many children didn’t have a parent home when they walked out the door this morning for school?

Dance is so much more than meets the eye.

Dance is blind to tragedy, to suffering. Dance is forgiving of misfortune and chaos. Dance is joy. And Mr. B’s 4th grade class, even after doubling in size, danced with joy!

So now I ask you, when the cold wind blows, pushing against us and trying to hold us back, will we turn back or forge on and say, “Let the children dance”? Why can’t joy be enough of a compelling story of why we do what we do? Will you support joy, with a gift to Danceworks?

What more can I say but – Let the children dance!


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