Gratitude By Anonymous

Impact Dance Productions has been gifted with a beautiful blog about pure gratitude from an anonymous writer. Taking the time out of our busy lives can really help change the lives of the young and the old. After reading this blog you will see how taking the time to nurture someone can ease all pain big or small.

Please enjoy!

Gratitude for Great Dance Teachers

By a Winnipeg Dance Mom*

Last year my nine year old daughter was excited about enrolling in a hip hop workshop at her dance studio, but as we entered the building she was overcome by a tidal wave of panic:  what if she wasn’t good enough? What if the guest teacher didn’t like her?  What if he embarrassed her?  What if she started to cry?  What if? She dragged me to the washroom and collapsed on the floor, sobbing and completely overwhelmed, and the workshop started without her.  It was a low point in our battle with child anxiety, a formidable foe which affects roughly one child in ten.

Last week, now ten years old, the same sweet girl emerged triumphant from her first big dance competition.  Six dances brought five high gold awards, a first place in hip hop, and second place in rookie small groups.  She was smiling from ear to ear.  I was, quite possibly, the proudest Dance Mom ever. This wasn’t just a regular dance victory; for us this accomplishment was doubly important.

So how did we get from there to here?  It has been a long road, and we certainly aren’t finished yet.  Keys to her improvement have included sage advice from a psychologist, great resource materials, fantastic classroom teachers, and especially her own hard work learning and practicing coping strategies; I am so proud of her efforts.  What I didn’t anticipate though was the role that dance would play in her progress.  What I wasn’t quite expecting was the tremendous influence of a few great dance teachers.

The culture of a dance studio clearly starts at the top.  Our director, Rheesa Schacter, was the first person with whom I discussed the anxiety.  She encouraged me not to push too hard because dance should be fun.  She suggested some strategic changes to the weekly schedule.  And during that hip hop workshop it was Rheesa who successfully coaxed my girl into the studio, stopping the class mid-way to personally introduce her to the teacher, and staying in the room until she was settled and having fun. Despite a million competing demands Rheesa finds time to pull my child aside and praise her strengths, or grab her for a quick hug in the hallway.  As a result, my little one knows she is important and safe in this studio.

Brittany Silverstein, a talented second year university student, introduced us to competition.  Her face lights up when she’s with her dancers; she laughs easily and treats them with such respect.  Confident in a recreational dance she choreographed last spring, Brittany entered it in two local competitions with Rheesa’s blessing.  I’ll admit that I was nervous.  The opportunity to dip our toes into competitive dance with Brittany was a good test.  Her contagious confidence and enthusiasm fueled my daughter to succeed – and a new competitive dancer was born.

It is hard to find words to sufficiently thank Jessica Smith, the 19 year old jazz teacher.  When I first spoke to her about the situation, she gave me her full attention and said “Thank you for telling me.  Please tell me exactly how I can help.”  Her kindness, patience, and encouragement have exceeded my wildest expectations.  When my daughter is too overwhelmed to step into the classroom, Jessica warmly welcomes her to join whenever she is ready.  Her corrections are firm but kind so that all the dancers leave with their self-esteem intact.  She has a natural talent for dealing with anxiety; she doesn’t just say that “everything will be okay”, but reviews the evidence with my daughter (“you’ve shown me that you know your dance, you’ve incorporated your corrections, your last rehearsal was great”) so that she is able to conclude for herself that it really will be okay.

Everyone knows about Mama Bear Syndrome.  If you threaten her cubs you put your life in danger.  But the converse is surely true:  adults whose hearts are open to helping vulnerable children will likely find themselves showered with gratitude and love usually reserved for family members.  There is nothing I would not do to thank these gifted teachers and kind souls.

Researchers have found that the very act of dance can have a positive influence on anxiety; this makes sense, particularly in a girl like mine who pirouettes across the kitchen and chassés down her school hallways.  Paired with amazing faculty like ours, we have learned that dance is truly a healing force.

*Identities withheld, at the request of the dancer

 Blog made possible by Danielle Gardner Founder & CEO Of Impact Dance Productions

Twitter – @IMPACTDancePro

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