I Love My Dancing School
This past weekend, I participated in my dance school, The Dance Inn’s 30th annual recital, “S’wonderful.” 30 years is no small feat for anything, never mind successfully owning and operating a local dance school, and I could not have been prouder to participate as both an alumnus, special guest and faculty member.
One of the classic numbers in the show, a favorite at the studio, was “I Love My Dancing School,” a sweet little ditty that many young dancers over the year have performed. I decided to reflect on the weekend and write down a few thoughts about why I love my dancing school:
I love my dancing school because it is non-competitive. The director, my longtime teacher and mentor Thelma Goldberg, has always been adamant that the goal is to be the best dancer you can be; that dance should be affordable and accessible to anyone and everyone; and that every dancer, whether they come once a week or four times a week, should feel special. Rather than spend our time and money on competitions, company dancers get to study with some of the best master teachers in the country, from Jimmy Locust to Barbara Duffy, Jump Rhythm Jazz Project to Static Noyze, and perform almost every month at different venues in the community, from the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk and Special Olympics opening ceremonies in Boston to Lexington’s own Patriot’s Day Parade and Discovery Day – not to mention trips to Disney World and the New York City Tap Festival.
I love my dancing school because my teachers always made me feel special. I was not born with the grace or physique or flexibility of a dancer. I struggled in styles outside of tap and never listened when they told me to stretch every day and work on my splits. But they didn’t give up. They gave me special solo parts and character roles, which I loved, even if I looked awkward doing them. They always encouraged me and featured me in certain dances and told me that they believed in me. What most young people need when they are pursuing a passion of theirs is just someone to tell them that they believe in them. I always had that at The Dance Inn.
I love my dancing school because I believe so firmly in what it stands for: “Share the joy of dance with others.” “Keep dance alive in the community.” “Be the best dancer that you can be.” I believe in a rhythm-based dance pedagogy – not just in tap class. I believe that you should always start dancing when the music comes on. I believe in upbeat performances with fun costumes and great music recitals that don’t drag on for four hours. I believe in giving everyone, including those with special needs, the chance to shine onstage. I believe in making dance classes affordable for whoever wants to take them. I believe in demanding excellence.
I love my dancing school because it has connected me with some of my best friends. Some of the kids I used to dance with in the company are my closest companions. My teachers are my most treasured mentors. My students are like my sisters. My 13 years at The Dance Inn launched my career and planted the seeds for some of my most valuable relationships. I have always felt it was kismet that I happened to live down the street from what I believe to be one of the best dance schools in New England, if not in the country. I may be an ashamedly voracious viewer of "Dance Moms," but I know what real studio life is like. Real, loving, productive, inspiring studio life with one of the best youth tap companies in America.
Pretty s'wonderful, if you ask me.
Ryan Casey & Thelma Goldberg. [Photo credit: Liza Voll]
Ryan's article on Thelma and The Dance Inn's 30th anniversary will be featured in an upcoming issue of DANCE STUDIO LIFE Magazine this summer!
Labels: Ryan Casey