Earlier this month, I danced in Joanne Langione Dance Center’s (JLDC) end of year performance. The purpose of the performance is to showcase the hard work from the 1000+ students who commit hours of their lives to dance. As I look forward to my last year at JLDC, the dance studio that has become my second home, I have begun to reflect on my years as a dancer and how dance has changed my life.
I started dancing at JLDC in Newton, MA five years ago. I had taken ballet classes at a few other studios throughout my life but I never connected with the traditional and typically slow tempo of this dance style. When I started at JLDC I took an hour long tap class once a week and I fell in love with the loud, high tempo, and fun class. Each week I was excited to go to class, bang metal against wood to the sounds of modern music, and forget about my hectic week at school. Dance became a therapeutic ritual in my life that let me express myself in a completely different way and briefly escape my busy life. Each week as class ended I felt rejuvenated; I quickly wanted to learn more and improve my skills as a dancer. So, after my first year, I signed up for a jazz class in addition to my tap class.
Each year thereafter, I added a class or two—this year I will be spending four days a week at JLDC, taking six classes with a total of seven hours of dance! Dance has become such an important part of my life; it gives me the opportunity to express myself, forget about academics, and be a part of something meaningful and beautiful, which is often hard to do in the midst of school work, college prep, and other commitments. On the Dance for the Soul webpage it says dance increases “self awareness, self esteem and personal autonomy” and allows dancers to experience “links between thought, feeling, and action.” I have experienced these feelings of self-awareness and an increase in my self-esteem; and, every time I put on my dance shoes, I profoundly connect with my feelings, actions, and others.
CHEETA (Children Helping Empower Each other Through Art) was inspired by my experience with dance. My goal for CHEETA is to give children with disabilities the opportunity to experience the therapeutic benefits of dance and other arts. I want them to be able to learn about self-expression and self-awareness in a way that is different from the typical classroom setting. I hope for a successful kick off to CHEETA this summer at Camp Ramah New England and continue with the program in Boston in the Fall.
Dance, move, and empower,