This is my first official blog post for AWAP, but my Facebook and Instagram pages have been bursting with love every Tuesday since joining the team in November. What an honor it is to work with these kids and witness their progress and growth each week! I really don’t even know where to start because there are already easily a hundred and five magical moments I could share with you…
I guess it makes the most sense to start by telling you about yesterday.
Yesterday six of our kids got up in front of a HUGE crowd at Denney and performed an 80 second dance routine they’ve been learning and practicing on Tuesdays for the last few months. That in itself is AMAZING, but let me list three of the (many) factors that made this performance so important and impactful:
1) Four of those youth have been involved in the semi-private Thursday classes for the past month and have been practicing some truly impressive lifts! I’m a huge believer in the power of partnering. It is of course visually interesting, but it’s also a way to build trust (relationships matter!), experience safe touch (when you truly are not allowed to have any contact whatsoever in juvie) , and show strength, grace, and beauty to others, especially when every waking moment of your daily life reminds you of your violent history. In the middle of the dance, just as the music was about to change, Maya* ran behind Kenny and did a handstand against his back. Kenny caught her feet and flipped her over in front of him with James standing to the side in case he needed to spot her. Half a second later, Dylan grabbed hands with Kenny and James to do a front flip, and half a second after that, Maya followed. And of course…
2) …The crowd LOVED it. Attorneys, judges, officers, guards, teachers, counselors, funders, volunteers, peers… every person in that room was enthusiastically cheering them on. Kenny, who has been there nearly a year and is particularly close to my heart, had several surprise visitors there– it was impossible to miss the joy on his face when they yelled for him. After the show, two of his visitors came over to introduce themselves and teared up while talking about how much they adore him. He’s made such an impact on me (and clearly so many people) over the past few months, becoming just a tad bit more courageous every class. He’s been there long enough that I’ve really been able to watch him transform from being soooo shy and reserved to being the glue that holds the group together. Today I saw him at semi-privates, and he said “I was the hardest working one out there!” I told him his fan club was obviously proud and impressed, and he took his eyes to the floor while he smiled. My heart broke wide open in the best way. Remember this little tidbit about the leader’s shyness, and then take in this fact…
3) …THE DANCERS PERFORMED INDEPENDENTLY FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER 😀
I didn’t go out front with them, and I didn’t review the steps first. They knew the music, heard the cues, watched each other, and ROCKED IT. The dancers who entered the piece halfway through remembered when and where to run, which direction to face, how fast the ripple traveled, where to stand in their ending pose….
*enthusiastically jumping at the memory of this brilliance*
Oh man, oh man. I am such a lucky lady to witness this.
SO MUCH BRAVERY. So much grace. So much pride.
I can’t wait to share more with you next week!
*all names have been changed to protect the identities of the youth we serve