It was a hot summer’s Saturday morning; we’d all just piled into a dance studio in Midtown for our first dance therapy session when our ballet instructor from the Ballet for All Kids program began, “Let’s all go around and say our names and our favorite thing to do in the summ-”
“Me? ICE CREAM!”
“Swimming pool!! SWIMMING!”
The kids were so excited to be here that they couldn’t even wait their turn! I couldn’t help smiling…while simultaneously trying to direct their focus back to the icebreaker. This is going to be a wild ride, I remember thinking to myself. And boy, was I right.
Ballet for All Kids is a non-profit dance studio that provides dance classes to kids using The Schlachte Method, which accommodates all body types, abilities, and learning styles. Our six students come in every week, playfully toggle through positions one to five with the help of our amazing volunteers, they plie, they tendu, and conclude it all with a short dance party. Once or twice a year, the American Autism Association sponsors a class for ten students to learn these techniques. Being a dancer of 15 years myself, there is nothing more rewarding than watching these kids get joy and gain knowledge from an art form that means so much to me.
Of course, every class isn’t a breeze. Often, one child will get distracted and cause the rest to lose attention; one kid will be especially disruptive because of their frustrating transit to the studio; one will refuse to learn the dance movement and lie down instead. But it wouldn’t be rewarding if it wasn’t sometimes demanding. These kids with very different abilities and different backgrounds teach us so much more than we can teach them.
They teach us that perfection isn’t important, it’s the learning journey that matters. They show us that everyone learns at their own pace, hence the importance of a program like Ballet for All Kids. And they embody that courage to try at all after overcoming all the adversity it took to even get here is the most important. The truest form of courage and patience taught here can be seen best in the the kids’ parents, who tirelessly advocate for their children because they understand their children’s full potential.
These parents and children inspire me. They have motivated me to create a video documenting this program and what it means to the kids and their families. They have influenced me to study dance therapy for year after college before applying to medical school. As this program comes to an end next week, I can only hope that I’m able to take my experience here and grow into a person with half the resilience and strength as the families I’ve worked with. So all I can say is thank you, Ballet for All Kids, for inspiring me, giving me direction, and letting me learn from some amazing humans along the way.