Dance is a performing art. Dance is creative expression. Dance is freedom gained through discipline as strength increases, as flexibility improves, as individual artistry emerges.
Dance lives inside you and emerges with beauty. As you breathe more deeply and challenge yourself beyond your normal range of movement, you begin to glisten. Every cell in your body responds.
It takes practice, balance, commitment. It takes patience, humility and courage—qualities that rise above the dance into other areas of your life.
Dance happens in community with others.
This is why dance works. This is why we share it with others at our studio and on stage. This is why we take it into the community in programs like Danceworks Mad Hot Ballroom and Tap (MHBT).
I walked into the gym of a school just as Danceworks’ MHBT teacher began warming up the students. The sixth grade classroom teacher shook my hand and introduced himself, then motioned me to step outside the door with him.
I listened as the teacher told me about a student who never spoke up or raised her hand in class. When MHBT started, she stood on the sidelines and was absent for many classes. Then one day, she showed up and started participating.
“I saw that she was a natural dancer,” he said. “She picked up the steps quickly. I noticed that she began helping other students. Without being asked, she would take time to show steps to those who were struggling. She was recognized as a leader by her classmates.
“The best part for me was when she began to raise her hand in class and join into our discussions,” he continued. “It was amazing to witness.
“I have a class of 27 students who are struggling with their math and reading scores. This school is tough; it may not look like it, but it is. This program [Danceworks MHBT] has turned my kids around. Everyone is doing better—it’s been great for our school.”
This teacher then told me about the tragedy that had recently taken place in the young girl’s life, where she lost some family members. He told me that her classmates had made a card for her and how glad they were when she returned to school just days after the incident. “We didn’t make a big deal out of it,” he paused. “We just wanted her to know she had our support.”
I learned that her relatives’ visitation would be taking place the next day, so I went and waited in line with many others who were there to share the grief and pay their condolences.
“I hear you are a beautiful dancer,” I said, as her eyes widened and a smile spread across her face. I told her how proud her teachers and classmates were of her. “I hope you will keep dancing. I hope you will dance with your class on the 16th [our Mad Hot Ballroom and Tap Competition]. We will all be there supporting you.” I hoped that my smile distracted her from my emotion and moved on.
I moved on to the hope that dance would heal.
We don’t know what lives behind the eyes of another. We do know that dance is a process that moves us from one place to another—physically, emotionally, intellectually, spiritually.
I found out this week that this young lady is one of three girls selected to represent her school in the semi-finals and will be dancing on May 16 at the Danceworks MHBT Competition. She is special to us, but she is one of thousands with incredible stories of transformation. They will all come together on this day—to take the hand of another, to laugh, to dance.
Their confidence has unfolded as they connected and moved in step together. They have learned how to forgive others for their missteps and mistakes. They are learning how to work together, how to want the best for others, not just for themselves. They are learning how not to be too hard on themselves. They are learning to dance.
And though there is the risk of forgetting, of losing their balance, they are learning poise and grace—and this will carry them through.
They are all winners. They are learning to be joy spreaders. And it’s through the confidence of a joy spreader that a spirit is mended, a family healed, a city restored.
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.