Ladies and Gentleman, I’d like to introduce you to my (new) kiddos…
Tonight these 8 teenagers and I embarked on a journey that I think is going to be pretty darn awesome. I know they were quite sad for the first class without the teacher who has been with them for years, some since they were just little kids. I certainly know I was wicked nervous about just how rusty my teaching and dancing would be. But despite our apprehensions about each other and this new experience we did it, and together we engaged in some amazing moments.
The dance teacher and the school teacher in me were a bit at odds before class, and luckily tonight the school teacher won. Instead of awkwardly jumping right in with warm-up we sat on the floor in a circle with sticky notes and pens. Nothing fancy, just me asking questions and them writing answers in between post-winter break chit-chat and giggles. I want to get to know these kids, to build a community that takes risks, supports one another, and has fun together. That starts with relationships, and while they’ve been dancing together for years I am the new kid who has a lot of catching up to do in a short amount of time.
So I did what I felt comfortable with – I asked them questions and tried to establish an environment of sharing and investment in others.
“Write your name, your age, and 3 things about yourself that have nothing to do with dance.”
Guys I found my tribe. They love Harry Potter, Doctor Who, Starbucks, theatre, music, traveling, Netflix, and math. Granted I am making a few strategic omissions (One Direction, shopping, makeup & fashion..not exactly in my court – but that’s definitely ok.) Above all, these kids love tap. They aren’t obligated to be there, they come because tap is in their hearts – each one of them made that very clear. As we went around the circle these kids’ words went above and beyond anything I could have expected.
- “Tap is a stress reliever for me – I can come here and tap and forget everything”
- “When I was younger I watched the older kids tap, fascinated by how their feet made all those sounds, and I wanted to know how. I guess I am curious.”
- “In other dance forms there is a lot of structure…and things like ballet, it just seems closed in. Tap has technique but the style is open, and in tap you can have all kinds of different genres and types and styles.”
- “It’s uplifting. It makes me and other people happy..it’s like, you just can’t even be depressed.”
- “Tap is like a different language, and it connects people. Like people across the world can tap and that is how they connect and share something.”
- “I can just try new things and make weird sounds and not be judged. It is ok if I mess up.”
- “The community is great, like a family. Not like other dance forms and competition where everyone is against each other. In tap we are just together.”
They get it. It is in their blood and they have captured something very special that not many dancers, especially at their age, have come to understand. They completely embrace the unique culture of the tap community that has been fostered for generations to be built on mutual respect and sharing. Tonight these 13, 16, 17 year olds put into words something I may not have fully been able to name until, well, a couple hours ago.
They wrote what they’re most nervous about and most excited about. They asked me thoughtful questions like, “Why tap? Why did you agree to take on these classes right now? Who have you studied with?” Of course we danced a bit, despite our stereo difficulties, but the night was made when they so openly shared their immense joy and love for the often called dying art form. I am inspired and excited to see what Wednesday brings and to see how the next few months unfold – to learn more about these kids and teach them some of the technique and history I’ve been fortunate to acquire over the years. This is going to be a really great thing for me in so many ways. I hope it is good for them, too. I think it will be.