We are getting ready for our Second Annual Evening of Dance, which will be held January 9 and 10, 2009, at 7:30 p.m. I am excited about all of the wonderful dance pieces we will present at these shows, but I have to say I am most excited about the debut of our Dance Your Dreams! students. They will be performing to "Singing in the Rain," wearing adorable rain slickers and galoshes - umbrellas too! I can only imagine how inspirational and moving their performance will be.
Our 10 students have a wide range of special needs, from Down's Syndrome to Cerebral Palsy. Two of our students have diagnoses that are so rare, they are research patients at world renowned medical centers; two wear hearing aids, one has cochlear implants; one has leukemia; one is wheelchair bound all the time, several rely on walkers and leg braces to allow them any mobility at all. But when they come to Merrimack Hall, they are all dancers - and I believe their progress at this point is no different that the progress you would find in any pre-school creative movement class. They can chasse, plie, tendu and even pirouette - they do barre work, center work, across the floor work and play all sorts of creative movement games. They wear tutus and tights, ballet shoes and leotards, and their faces light up when they enter the dance studio.
Our students are paired with volunteers - teenagers who enjoy dancing themselves and have agreed to devote Wednesdays to attending our classes and providing assistance to our students. They lift them, hold them - help them execute the movements that they might not be able to do on their own. These special teenagers have thrown themselves into the class 110% and have developed a special bond with each of our students.
When Wednesdays roll around, I can't wait for 5:00 - the children usually arrive between 5 and 5:15 and the look of excitement on their faces is just thrilling. Sometimes they come to dance straight from a treatment at Children's Hospital - many times they arrive with hospital bands on their tiny wrists. Sometimes it is obvious that one child may not feel totally great that day, or seems abnormally tired. But once they take their place at the barre, with their helper standing behind them, they grin from ear to ear....and then they dance!
This weekend, we will have a theatre full of proud parents who will be watching their kids dance. But I'm sure there will none prouder that the parents of our Dance Your Dreams! students. I hope I can keep my emotions under control, but I doubt I'll be able to!