It’s a busy Saturday morning in my 3-year-old daughter’s favorite place — The Dance Junction in Saugus. Girls and boys of all abilities are waiting excitedly for their classes — some stimming with excitement, some eagerly talking to their peers, and others quietly changing their shoes. The zero-step entry into the dance studio is busier than normal today. If you listen carefully, you can hear several different languages being spoken among parents and children. But, undoubtedly, we’re all saying similar things: “Do your best.” “Use good listening ears.” “Wait your turn.” “Be a good friend.” It’s a beautiful, albeit rare example of diversity, inclusion, and integration.
Nobody bats an eye at my daughter’s leg braces or the sneakers she wears instead of ballet shoes. There are several of us talking openly about the things going on during the week — girl scouts, ABA therapy, storytimes offered at the local libraries, physical or occupational therapy, preschool and kindergarten triumphs or struggles. The discussion is seamless, non-judgemental, and surprisingly open.
As a mom, these are my people.
When I initially signed my daughter up for a dance class last year, I worried we would feel out of place. I wasn’t looking to turn her into a competitive dancer at the age of 3 and did not shuttle her to complementary singing and acting classes in hopes that she would become a child star. She simply loves music, and we hoped that signing her up for “creative movement” would be fun.
What we got back, however, was nothing short of magical.
My daughter learned how to stretch her body and wait patiently for her turn. Her teachers encouraged her to look in the mirror and be proud of who she saw looking back at her. She sang songs while she danced, practiced walking on her tiptoes like a princess, was encouraged to use good manners, and, above all, learned to be kind to her classmates.
She watched carefully as everyone — regardless of ability — was included at the level they were comfortable with and treated with compassion as they learned at their own pace.
The supportive environment energized her. She found strength in it. She looked up to her teaching assistant with admiring eyes and felt proud when she tried so hard to make her tiny little steps look just like those of a seasoned dancer.
And finally, she learned the magic of working together to make something beautiful.
At the end of the year, I watched my toddler gallop across the stage like a sparkly unicorn (in the wrong direction), smiling her proudest smile, knowing that what she accomplished went far beyond our wildest expectations in every way.
Funny, though, the things she learned that we’re the most thankful for were not part of the curriculum listed on the studio website.
Most importantly, through her dance class she experienced…
What did we expect?
A 45-minute dance class.
What did we receive?
More than we could have ever dreamed of.