“The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.” – Ernest Hemingway
Day 2 of Dance Camp: The “Littles” learn demi plie at the barre.
Our attendance grew by 10, making a total of 13 dancers. They came in smiling and ready to go. Some of them couldn’t take their shoes off fast enough as their bodies darted ahead to find a place on the floor.
I was feeling tired (I had just returned from reviewing a ballet in a different city for a newspaper as well as morning rehearsals), so I had an extra cup of coffee and pulled on bright blue yoga pants in an effort to up my energy. But as soon as these bundles of energy bounced into the room, my energy flew through the roof. They were ready, and now – thanks to their hopeful smiles – I was ready too.
One boy in the class came in frustrated from the day. He told me he hadn’t wanted to come because everything was going wrong that day and he was “over it.” I told him I have days like that, and dancing always helps me. He said he finally came to the conclusion that he “had some things he wanted to get off his chest” and he felt like dance camp was the place to dance those things out. I didn’t inquire about “the things,” and he didn’t press to tell me, he simply found a place in the room and danced.
We started with introductions and a follow-the-leader warm-up. In jazz, I taught them fundamental dance technique and worked on rhythm exercises, pattern memorization and shifting weight. I use the French terminology with them, which they pick up quickly.
I motioned for them all to come close and they tip-toed into me. We created a “secret code move” which only they understand (and the secret code move shall not be revealed here).
My goal for today’s camp was to establish trust.
I wanted them to know:
… this is a safe place.
… this is a non-judgmental, fun space of learning.
… this is a place where acceptance, friendship and growth are encouraged.
… this is a place where we work hard but we aren’t hard on each other.
I placed many trust exercises throughout the class. The first was our “secret code move.” Every time I did the move, they did the follow-up action. The second way which I established trust was to show them that I trust them. I didn’t want to tell them I trust them, because that’s just words. I wanted to show them.
We learned about grand jete by jumping over a small mat (which I called the “ocean full of sharks”). They had a few practices jumping over the mat until they felt comfortable. I noticed each time they jumped their jumps got higher and higher as their comfort level increased. Finally, I said, “I trust you guys so much and you’re doing so well, I’m going to let you jump over me!”
Their jaws dropped to the floor and their little hands covered their mouths. Some of them were ready for the challenge immediately, their hands shot into the air with a “Me! Me! Me!” chant. Others weren’t so sure about this…
I lied down on the floor on my tummy and said, “Ready? Go!”
One by one little feet ran up to me and jumped. This was followed by a moment of sheer surprise and shock and then a huge smile.
As I was standing up and putting the mat away, a little girl came over to me and tapped my shoulder. She said:
“I just now realized… I can do that!”
Yes, yes, you can. You can do that and so much more.
Read about how Dance Camp got started and how you can get involved here.