The Transformative Nature Of Dance – The Impact We Make

Nov 11, 2021

This is more of a personal reflection, than a properly curated blog post designed to inform and/or sell.  So please forgive the following emotional outburst, but please indulge me.

This year I celebrated 10 years of owning The Dance Workshop.  My second home, and also the second home to many students and teachers.  To commemorate the milestone, we held out annual concert at the stunning Heath Ledger Theatre at the State Theatre Centre here in Perth.  We hold a concert in a beautifully appointed theatre every year (except for last year where for the first time we didn’t perform due to Covid Restrictions), but there was something special about our concert this year.

A special electricity and chemistry between us all.

Perhaps it was the preceding 20 or so months surviving a global pandemic.  Perhaps it was the lockdowns peppered through the last 2 years preventing us from dancing together and performing in theatres that made it special – or perhaps it was celebrating 10 years of togetherness?  Or perhaps it was all of those things, and more.

There are just a few moments I would like to share that made this year’s Soiree Performance particularly emotionally charged for me personally;

The day preceding the show our State Leader held a press conference advising of positive covid case of a truck driver that had entered our state.  The imminent fear of a lockdown being called hung over my head throughout the whole process, the cloud became darker thicker when this press conference aired.  You know that feeling you get in your throat when something bad is about to happen, well it came and it stayed.

We were in throws of teching our show, and had already bumped into the theatre. The thought of it all coming to a crashing end was too close.  But our dress rehearsal came and went, and at about 3pm the day of our show it was set, our show would go ahead – no lockdowns! I could finally let this tension go and let the dark cloud float away.  It was a release and relief I had been waiting for, and then in due course broke down into a blubbering mess in front of the whole cast at the end of the dress rehearsal. Sorry team!   But I think everyone was feeling the same way.

When the five-minute call echoed through the dressing rooms, and the opening item was called to the stage the dressing room erupted in cheers and applause.  There was a literal energy buzzing through the air as everyone cheered the opening dancers on.   It was as if we all knew we could all now celebrate.

Following the show, I received so many comments from audience members about how happy the performers looked on stage. That you could literally feel the joy emanating from the stage. I am tearing up as I write this because knowing that I am part of something so much bigger that creates and brings joy to so many in my community makes me realise and appreciate just how important The Dance Workshop is in the lives of so many individuals.

Many also commented on how they appreciated and loved seeing so many dancers on stage breaking gender, age and body stereotypes on what dancers typically look like.  They enjoyed seeing so many dancers of different body types, and genders; male, female and non-binary dancing together and expressing themselves equally, and how seeing that confidence on stage gave them their own self confidence in their own bodies and identifies.  When you’re in the throws of putting together a show, and choreographing numbers sometimes you never have the opportunity to stop and think about the impact you make through your art.

When you hear this feedback you stop and realise how important art is, not just to yourself and your students but also to your audience.  Sometimes in the throws of it all it’s so easy to forget the transformative ability of watching and performing dance.

A student took a moment to pull me aside and say how dancing on stage in front of people was her biggest fear, and that participating in the show was her way of trying to combat that fear.  They couldn’t articulate the feelings and emotions they felt following their performance other than to say it was a combination of the adrenaline rush, the happiness, the shock, and then the pride.

This made me stop for a moment to appreciate that we all feel these emotions every time we perform.  Even when you grow up dancing and performing in front of audiences from childhood you feel these emotions. You get used to them, and they become part of your process in a way.  But to feel this for the first time as a “middle aged” adult, conquering a fear must be magnified. And, everyone of us that were involved in this performance, in whatever way, were some how part of this extraordinary moment in this person’s life.

Finally, the moment I was able to share the stage tap dancing with my 75-year-old dad, Sam, and my 4-year-old daughter, Amaya.  They’re living proof that dance can be enjoyed by all generations. That you are never too old or too young to start dancing, and that dance is something that can be shared.  Thinking back to the days of dad sitting in the car park for hours waiting for me to finish my dancing lessons, to now dancing on stage with his daughter and granddaughter to Natalie Cole’s rendition of “Everlasting Love” definitely tested my ability to hold back my tears while performing on stage. 

The Dance Workshop really is a unique a special place occupying our little corner of the planet. Our little adults only dance studio is one of a kind here in Perth.  What makes it special are the people.  The staff and teachers particularly.  So many of the teachers have been with me for the full ten years, if not very close to the full ten years.  I’m so grateful to have had you by my side.  Even to my new team members that have onboarded in the last year or two, it really feels like we’ve been working together for years, and years.  Without doubt, that’s when you know you’re amongst family.

Here’s to ten more hey?

Ashanti.

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