This afternoon I went to see the Springboard to Learning International Dance Festival at the Botanical Gardens. I have wanted to go for years, but the lunchtime show was always an issue with work. I cut out of class a little early today and made it just in time for a packed house. There were 10 dances from 8 countries, and 10 schools were represented. It was fantastic, so much so that there were a few points that I was overwhelmed.
3rd through 8th graders performed in the hour-long show and it was truly stunning, even more so considering that eight of the ten groups had no formal dance training and had learned these fantastic routines in one hour each week during this semester. Many of the dances had students who acted as percussionists, blowing my mind with what they had learned. The highlights for me were the Colombian Dance, which will luckily be performed again at the end of the year at Bunch Middle School. The dancers were elegant, poised, and the movement (especially its sophistication and articulation) was amazing. the costumes were gorgeous. The African dance and music presented by Mark Twain Elem. School had everyone in the house clapping and moving, as the students beat their drums wearing shirts with Africa emblazened on them and the slogan "Born Again". The finale was a swing dance in the purest style. The talent of some of those kids was obvious, evident, and astounding... and I just kept looking at their faces. Some of them were living in those dances and just embodied the movement so naturally. There was such pride, and for many, a true passion.
As I watched kids of all races perform dances from countries that they likely had never heard of before this September, I kept thinking, "This is what it's all about." It was education at its finest: learning, passion, excitement, engagement, understanding, as if borders no longer existed. Those kids didn't care if they were the only African Americans to ever do an Irish jig, or if they would never see Guadalupe for themselves. They just danced, and it made me see proof that giving kids new experiences literally gives them the world.
Sadly, this performance only happens once a year, and likely, you have missed it. But watching it today, I was kept thinking if there is truly to be a renaissance in this city, it will be them to make it happen. It will be them to dissolve the divisions and bring everything together. And sometimes, as you watch things, there is a moment of grace, where you see what can happen. Today, I saw those kids from all over the city understand the world in a new way. Hopefully they will take with them some understanding of another culture, but if nothing else, they learned that people will watch them and listen to them and that each of them has a talent. It seems a lesson we can all learn; the possibilities are as big as we allow them to be.
Maybe I'm a sucker fo the symbolism, but there is nothing like watching people dance.