Depressing news calls for reminders of all the light and love that surrounds us. These dancers never fail to lift my spirits with their ability to rise above, work hard, be good and inspire kindness. Springfield, the town where a majority of my teaching is based and where these Varsity athletes rock out in fierce dance team style, suffered from a shooting death this weekend so close to the high school these kids spend their days in. The community lost a man, children lost a dad, and questions of why and where this violence is coming from are all around.
This photo was taken by Kelly Burton of the Springfield Reporter at one of our later practices in the season and includes most of the dancers on the 2014/15 team. Although she took a more serious team photo as well, this is the photo she chose to run with the article on dance team and we couldn't have been happier. I share this photo today because when I think of Springfield and its future, I see these fantastically fun, silly, heart-filled ladies and gent dancing and throwing their open arms out to catch what's coming to them. This is a group that knows the reality of growing up and trying to make all the pieces come together to show up, be okay, and support others. They chose to do just that for me and for each other this winter. I set high expectations for this group and they need each other to meet them. The support structures for them to succeed are multi-tiered, fragile, and dependent on many of us coming together for the sake of something more important than individual success.
And yet we must pay attention to the individuals. My season is over with these dancers and although I am blessed to see a few of them throughout the school year in studio classes, my almost daily contact with most of these kids is significantly less. During the season we talk grades at school, taking care of themselves at home and outside of school, managing rides and schedules in order to follow through on commitments, and reaching out when we need extra help. My dancers know that they need to follow through for me and for each other by staying on top of their work, being safe, and being present. Our ability to check in with each other while doing something we love is so important. My dance team season is over but I'm grateful for their desire to keep that spirit of community alive in their school days.
Moments like these though, when something tragic happens that reminds us all that some of the problems we face as a community and as individuals in that community are serious, keep me from getting comfortable in my role. The beauty of my job is that it allows me to create spaces where I can encourage personal growth in a creative way that I truly believe can be replicated in other aspects of life. Warming up, building physical strength, learning choreography, and making dance require perseverance and self-discipline that these students beautifully demonstrate in their work with me. However, is it just as important that I take advantage of this sacred time to encourage, explore and expand upon our efforts together. Any work that we choose to engage in with each other in a meaningful way holds power to steer all of us in more positive and affirming directions in our lives. This work demands celebration.
So I celebrate you, my Cosmo dancers. And I thank you for your abilities in helping me grow as a coach, teacher, and person. Don't doubt your efforts for they are awesome and there are so many of us here cheering you on.