Below, a group of fierce 2nd graders waiting anxiously for their big performance at the city wide Showcase, May 2011.

While we understand that costumes for young girls don’t have to come in the form of tutus and glitter, there’s something transformative about the sparkle & glitter, wouldn’t you say? But don’t let the tutus fool you. These girls are fierce. Sure, they can show you a pirouette or two…and then what? The amazing part is watching the skirts dance through the air. Making shapes and patterns all over the stage as the dancers fly, leap, kick legs up and cartwheel all over the place! Choreography is a mix of what the teachers have set on them as well as what the dancers have created during the year.

With their sparkle and shine they bring joy to the stage. More importantly, I am happy knowing that they feel the freedom in doing so. Some dancers are shy at first, some are fearless throughout. In the end, they carry each other through the process and come out knowing that they’ve shared a beautiful experience together. And I don’t just mean the performance. We go through a lot over the year. We discuss friendships, comfort, guidance, change and we address all kinds of emotions that come up through movement. So this is really a celebration of spending a whole year together and showing up for each other.

Dance classes also include reminders about inner beauty. It sounds so last decade, I know. Unfortunately we know that self-criticism can start young for women. And by 2nd grade they’ve absorbed so much from pop culture, media and their personal lives. Its 2011 and this burden of ‘beauty/perfection’ is still around.  Dance can be scary in that way, putting your body and your truth out there. So until that chapter can be closed permanently, we use each class as an opportunity to stop feeding that voice.  I realize that we can’t change every advertisement out there or beauty magazine, but we let our young people know that they are amazing just the way they are.

Our classes are an opportunity to remind our students as well as ourselves that the beauty of strength, individuality and power is present within each one of us. And the ability to communicate that through dance is truly magical!

Annelize Machado
Program Director, Leap of Joy

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