The Body Moves

It’s supposed to. We’re not designed to be merely talking heads.  Tonight I saw this truth vividly.  I went to the annual recital of Dance London.  There had to be 150 kids and teens, strutting their stuff in 42 (!) performances.

Two years ago I worked with a girl who I’ll call “Jessica”, as a volunteer in her Grade 6 class.  I saw her a few months ago and she invited me to come to the recital.  I said yes right away.  It was a privilege to be there.

The evening started with a video.  A woman founded the studio in 1993, and she was sitting with the current owner.  She wanted to teach dance techniques to the young ones and she wanted them to be happy as they were learning.  No competition among the students.  Everyone treated equally, as I saw tonight.  When there was a group number, everyone had a chance to be at the front of the stage.

I loved the conversation.  Soon there was another one: two moms of young dancers reflected on 25 years ago, when they were the little kids onstage.  Sweet.  And then a third pair of human beings graced the chairs.  They were both under ten, and clearly loved to dance.

Jessica performed in four numbers, surrounded by a variety of colleagues.  I followed her every move, as proud of her grace and commitment as any grandpa would be.  She was in a ballet troupe that floated through a gorgeous piece featuring the rich tones of cello and violin.  The sound system was awesome.  During Jessica’s last dance, there was a moment when she and her partner were at the back of the stage.  Then they strode rhythmically to the front, oozing confidence.

The costumes were brilliant – shining this and flowing that.  My favourites were glittering green and silver dresses for a Roaring Twenties number.  I can’t remember what those dresses are called [now I remember – flapper dresses], but the kids were giving ‘er, and that’s all that mattered.  Oh, the smiles on those faces!

I watched arms extending full out to the side or up to the sky.  There’s something about the body at full stretch that inspires me.  And the choreography!  So seamless and graceful.  Combine that with a driving bass beat sometimes, and there was great joy on the stage, and in the seats.

Tiny kids had their turn too, often mentored by an adult at the end of the line.  Who cares if some of them were unsure of the steps?  They were out there, fully visible, moving and grooving.

So … this not young body needs to move as well.  A whole bunch of six- to eighteen-year-olds showed me the way.  Happily, we all teach each other.

Dancers

I was off to another local high school this morning, this time to see a dance extravaganza with the Grade 6 kids.  I like the teens but my heart beats most deeply with the 11-year-olds.  There’s an enthusiasm, spontaneity and innocence that captures me.

There must have been fifty dancers onstage at various times.  I loved to see that their heads were up, in contact with life.  I couldn’t tell if they were truly making eye contact with us or if they were focused on the back wall.  No matter … they were engaged.

The auditorium was pretty full when we arrived but there were seats off to the side.  Soon after we sat down, I realized that there were lots of developmentally delayed kids near us.  Excellent.  And they enjoyed the whole show, which had to be at least two hours.  What a great demonstration to our students that everyone needs to be included.

One young lady in the front row often stood up and did her own twirls in response to the performers.  Good for her.  And good for the staff member sitting beside who let her express.  Some teens made occasional spontaneous noises as the dancers danced, and one student seemed to be having breathing problems.  It was all a welcome part of our gathering.

Almost all of the dancers were girls.  There were maybe five boys.  That made me sad.  It was such a great performance that I’m hoping some male elementary students were inspired to join the fun once they show up at high school.  The boys who danced were very expressive.  I imagine it took some courage for them to be up there, given the possibility of razzing from some friends.  Congratulations, guys, for being willing to do what you want to do.

The dance troupe was a celebration of difference – racially, culturally, age, body type and cognitive ability.  None of those distinctions mattered.  I saw a heavier girl take centre stage and do various flips and swirls with grace and strength.  She was a star.

There were so many different costumes … even top hats were on proud display.  The music was all over the map, including Queen’s We Are The Champions.  Many of us in the audience sang along with that one.

What a mass of work it must have been to pull this performance off – the dancers, the stage crew, the lighting crew, the teachers.  I hope each participant left the stage knowing that they had contributed to something big, that they had enthralled many of the elementary kids, and that possibly they had recruited some future Grade 9 students.  They also touched this volunteer who still loves to dance.  Thank you.