I snuck in through the front door and found my vantage point in the back of the class in the visitors area. To the rhythmic piano music youngsters’ feet tip and thrum an ambient pitter patter.
The music stops, there is shouting, I hear “fight for it”. The instructor says to a young girl “fight for it, why wouldn’t you”? This got my attention; the young girl was feeling out of sorts and glum. Her instructor chimed in again “you got your hands your arms, why wouldn’t you fight for it and have it all”?
This class took place in my small home town, in Northern California, a town that once “upon a time” was quaint and sustained its community with employment from the forestry industry, dozens of local business and a small prison. Currently this town has closed it’s wood mill, most of the small businesses are gone and there are now a total of three prisons in town.
This is the one option for a non-team sport activity, locally, dance represents nearly the last option for children of this community, many kids here need support outside the home, something with structure. The bulk of this population are families of inmates or former inmates.
I spoke with the girls in between sets, I asked them why show up for class, why are they here. They told me the dance gave them “somewhere to be.” One seventeen-year-old girl Megan McKay, who has studied dance since the age of five said “Dance it is my dream, it is what I want.” Megan’s mother said “dance was the answer to my prayer” it has kept my daughter safe.
I spoke with some more of the parents during the class, I asked why their children were enrolled, “to keep them safe” and “to give them something to keep them busy.” I then asked the parents, if they did not have these classes available would their kids have stayed out of trouble. Every parent said they were unable to keep their kids out of trouble and safe with out the classes.
I learned to have a new respect for programs like this, for these people to participate is to not give up. These children are being infused with pride and purpose If they don’t become professionals in dance they will have an improved sense of being in whatever path they choose.