Everything I Need to Know to Have a Happy Life

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Do you want to know the secrets to having a happy life? All you have to do is spend four days on a trip with five kids with special needs … they have all the answers.

It’s really simple to “live your best life,” as Oprah says, if you only follow the example my students showed me this weekend. Here are the 10 things I learned that, if implemented in our lives, will make us all happier:

1.  Never hurry – We tried to hurry Katie to our first rehearsal and the result was a complete and total come-apart. As all of us tried to calm her down, she said, “You shouldn’t have rushed me.” She’s right. There had been no reason for us to hurry her. We should plan our activities well enough that we don’t have to hurry and sometimes, we just might have to be late … the world won’t fall apart.

2.  Ask for help – Us “normal” folks are too prideful to ask for help. We think we have all the answers, we don’t want others to know we may not have it all together, we view asking for help as a weakness. My students know when to ask for help and they don’t mind accepting it. Whether it’s opening a ketchup packet, tying their shoes or getting their hair combed, if they need help, they ask for it.

3.  No is a complete sentence – There are many times when our students tell us “no” and sometimes we try to persuade them to say “yes.” Most of the time, when a child with special needs tells me “no,” they mean no…not maybe, not later…they mean no! They don’t overcommit themselves, promise things they can’t deliver, agree to do things they don’t really want to do. They just way “no” without justification, without explanation and without hesitation. Say “no” more often to those things you don’t really have your heart in and you’ll be amazed at how much lighter you feel.

4.  Know when you need a moment to yourself – After lunch on Saturday, Anna C told me that she needed a nap. As Katie was collecting herself after her meltdown, she said, “I just need a minute alone.” We go to hard, we push ourselves, we do too much, we don’t take naps. Sometimes, we need to recognize when we need a moment for ourselves.

Zack

Zack

5. Express your feelings and be excited about the small stuff – We play guessing games with each other. We don’t say what we really feel or feel what we say. When Anna G was gripped with stage fright right before “Change the World” was to go on, she didn’t hold it in. She wasn’t ashamed to say, “I scared.” She told everyone she was scared and told them why – there were way too many people in that audience for Anna G. Carolyn talked about how much she missed Zach several times. Due to his father’s emergency heart surgery, Zach wasn’t able to make the trip. Carolyn didn’t hold in her feelings or worry that it would be inappropriate to say how she felt – she missed Zach and she said so. Anna G didn’t think it was a sign of weakness to admit she was scared. If we all expressed our feelings – good or bad – more often, there would surely be fewer people on anti-depressants!

Another thing our students do is greet you with exuberant enthusiasm – even if its only been 15 minutes since they last saw you. Anna G told me she missed me when we’d only been away from each other for about 5 minutes and each time we met up with each other, all of our students acted like it was the reunion of the century – now that makes a person feel wonderful! And they were excited about everything…the burritos we had for lunch, the movie stars we met, the little tram that ran outside our hotel…it didn’t matter what it was, they were excited about it and expressed that excitement. It’s contagious – just like being around someone who complains all the time can make you feel negative, being around someone who is excited about life can make you feel excited too, even when you aren’t (I wasn’t too excited about the burritos at lunch but when everyone else was acting like we were in a five star restaurant, it made me enjoy them more).

6.  Hold hands with someone often – Hugs are great but they are more impermanent than holding hands. Our students reach for our hands all the time – for support, for help, for comfort and just for fun. I held hands at one time or another with all five of the kids who went to LA and sadly, I never held hands with any of the five typical kids who were in our dance piece. I plan to hold hands with them the next time I see them! Holding hands makes you feel connected to another person and it puts a spring in your step to know someone you care about is connected to you. I wish I had held hands with the Element dancers, with Hayley, with my kids, with Alan more while I was on the trip. From now on, I’m going to remember how very lovely it is to hold hands.

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7.  Support others when they are down – It’s easy to look the other way when someone is hurting. It’s simpler to not get involved when someone is having a problem. My students don’t take the easy way out. If someone is upset, or angry, or sad my students ask, “What’s wrong?” And they listen to your answer. They offer simple condolences, like, “It will be okay,” or “I love you” and more often than not, that’s all a person needs to hear when they are feeling bad. Nothing can make us feel better than helping someone else – no matter what bad things are going in your own life, supporting someone else usually puts your own problems into perspective.

8.  Accept compliments and believe them – We told all 10 dancers that they were stars, they rocked it out, they brought down the house, they are magnificent dancers. Do you know who believed us? The five kids with special needs. Four of the five typical dancers deflected compliments, said, “Thank you, but I messed up,” or “Thank you but I’m not as great as those other dancers” or some similar remark. Why are we programmed to ignore compliments? Because we don’t want to get big-headed and egotistic? My students don’t have one ounce of ego in them but they believe people who give them compliments. They believe they are beautiful, they believe they are stars, they believe they have done their best every time they dance. They don’t bog themselves down with self-doubt or envy or jealousy – they love themselves, just the way we all should love ourselves. Peyton was the only typical dancer who didn’t deflect my compliment – when I said to him, “You know that was your personal best…you’ve never danced that fantastic in your life,” he answered with a grin, “I felt it.” Good for Peyton that he recognized he was great Saturday night…he’s great all the time in my book!

9.  Believe in yourself – Would you have enough courage and belief in yourself to try to dance if you couldn’t walk? I know I wouldn’t. But I have students who do – kids who cannot walk but who believe in themselves enough to enroll in a dance class. I asked Elianna once, “What makes you love dancing so much?” She answered, “I love it because I never got to try it before…I just wanted the chance to try.” That takes a tremendous amount of belief in yourself. When I think of Anna G, Anna C, Katie, Connor and Carolyn taking the stage in front of 3,100 people, I’m blown away by their belief in themselves. At the first rehearsal, they took my hand, followed me into the theatre and believed in themselves enough to get on that huge stage and perform for Nigel Lythgoe, Adam Shankman and Jeff Thacker…at the next rehearsal, they performed in front of some of the most talented dancers in the world and at the show, they didn’t exhibit one ounce of self-doubt. If they can believe in themselves – kids who are told every day that they aren’t “normal,” aren’t “good enough,” aren’t “smart enough,” – then why can’t you and I believe in ourselves that way?

10. If you love someone, tell them often – Anna G, Anna C and Katie told me they loved me at least ten times every day. Connor and Carolyn may not have said, “I love you,” but they held my hand, hugged me, sat by me, smiled at me and thanked me constantly. I know those five kids love me because they tell me often. I tell my kids and my husband that I love them every day but even if I said it 50 times a day, it wouldn’t be enough.

The more time I spend with people who have special needs, the more I see that Alan’s right…they are the way God intended us all to be and we are the ones who are “different.”

I’d love to hear from you about what you’ve learned from people with special needs! Please leave a comment on this blog and let’s start a dialogue!

 

Reflections on our L.A. Trip

Now, for more reflections on our trip to LA!

Anna G wasn’t the star of the show…all 10 of our dancers won over hearts and minds. But Anna G was the only one of the Project UP dancers who attended the entire black tie dinner following our performance. Anna C went to the dinner too, but after the meal was served, she was exhausted and decided to go back to the hotel with her mom. Anna G, however, was up for a party. And party she did!

Anna G and Mary Murphy of "So You Think You Can Dance"

Anna G and Mary Murphy of “So You Think You Can Dance”

When all the stars of So You Think You Can Dance and Dancing With The Stars took the dance floor for a dance battle, we managed to get on the front row surrounding the dance floor. What a battle it was – ballroom dancers, ballerinas, tap dancers, hip hop dancers – every genre of professional dancer doing their thing, each one more incredible than the one before. When Christopher Scott pulled Anna out of the crowd to dance with him, everyone erupted in screams and claps, cheering Anna on as she pumped, shimmied, twerked and shagged with the biggest choreographer in the industry. Then she danced with Twitch to the same rousing response.

There were so many memorable moments – some captured in photos and some only in our minds. Ashley’s favorite memory was walking into the dinner with Layne, Anna C and Anna G. Ashley and Layne walked behind the girls as they entered the room. As soon as the girls walked in where everyone was already seated for dinner, people from one end of the room to the other noticed them. Ashley said they were greeted with smiles, waves and congratulations from everyone they walked past – in a room full of stars, people like Jane Lynch and Christina Applegate treated our girls like the stars they are.

Anna G and Chita Rivera

Anna G and Chita Rivera

Melissa’s favorite moment was being backstage, watching from the wings as our kids took the stage. She said she was trying to watch our kids but also look out into the audience to gauge their reaction. Jane Lynch was seated on the front row, as she was presenting an award during the show. Melissa had a straight line of site to her and said that as soon as the music started, Jane leaned forward, rested her arms on her thighs and watched with intense concentration. And soon, Melissa saw tears streaming down Jane Lynch’s face. Now that’s a moment!

My favorite moment was probably when we met up with the Project UP parents in the theatre lobby after the performance. They were all beaming with pride and more elated than they’ve probably ever been. These are parents of children who are routinely marginalized, overlooked and left out. Their children are denied the opportunity to participate in many things. Their children have challenges that could limit their life experiences and face barriers that prevent them from doing a lot of the things they would like to do.

Anna G and Christina Applegate

Anna G and Christina Applegate

Saturday night, their kids took the stage like professionals, wowed the crowd, received the longest of the 3 standing ovations of the night and remained on the stage with Nigel and Adam, grinning from ear to ear. How many people could actually take the stage and perform in front of 3,100 people? How many of us would be too scared or intimidated to share the bill with professional dancers of every genre? “Typical” people like me have way too many hang-ups, are way too self-absorbed and think way too much about themselves to rise to the sorts of challenges our students face every day. I am constantly amazed at the parents’ resilience and am reminded of words Coach Gene Stallings said when he visited Merrimack Hall in 2009. He said, “For years after Johnny was born, I prayed to God to change Johnny. And one day I realized that God hadn’t changed Johnny…God had changed me.” I’m sure our parents would agree that having a child with special needs has made each of them a better person.

We Did It!

Nigel backstage

I’d say the world was changed Saturday night – or at least the worlds of the 3,100 people who were in the audience. This picture pretty much sums up our experience:

Yep, that’s our Katie, Melissa and Hayley with Nigel Lythgoe, who called our dancers “angels” and was the man who told me I’m the only woman who’s ever made him cry. Nigel, who is the face of dance in America, Nigel who is the creator of American Idol and So You Think You Can Dance – yep, that guy.

Backstage with Neal

Backstage with Twitch & Allison

And here they are with So You Think You Can Dance All-Star Neal, and below, they are with our good friend Twitch, and his fiance, SYTYCD alum Allison!

Right after the show ended, complete with our kids taking a final bow with the entire cast and dancing to the closing of the curtain, we met up in the lobby – some of us headed to the Black Tie Ball, some of us headed back to the hotel. I’ve never seen so many happy faces in my life!

Of course, we didn’t take nearly enough pictures – and photos and videos are still being uploaded this morning, which will be shared, but I had to post this blog to tell you about the two highlights of the night for me.

We were the finale of Act I. When the kids were backstage and we were in the audience, enjoying a fantastic show in our VIP seats!!, everyone was doing great until…the kids were called backstage to take their places. When they got in the wings, Anna G began to get scared, which turned into outright panic. “I scared,” she told Hayley and Melissa.

Hayley and Melissa – along with the Element dancers – tried to convince her there was nothing to be scared of. “All these people out here are your fans,” someone told her. “How many?,” she asked. “About 3,000,” someone answered. “I scared,” she said again, as she began to back away from the group.

Hayley and Melissa tried to stay calm but they knew if they couldn’t talk Anna out of this fear, she would not take the stage. What could they say or do to make her comfortable, to give her the confidence she needed?

Nothing, it turns out. What she needed was for her best friend, Anna C, to walk up to her. Anna C put her arm around Anna G and said, “G, we got this.” Anna G took a deep breath, help up a peace sign and made her “stank face” and everyone knew she was ready to go! The right words of encouragement from her best friend and teammate and…she put on her game face, took the stage and rocked it out. Now that’s what it means to be a friend, to be a teammate and to put your fears aside and go for your dreams!

After Performance
The standing ovation was started by Jane Lynch (of GLEE) and Christina Applegate, who were seated on the front row. When they stood up, the rest of the 3,100 people weren’t far behind – within seconds the entire theatre was on their feet with a sustained and resounding ovation. Nigel and Adam walked on stage after letting the ovation last a few minutes, which was our kids’ cue to exit the stage. But Nigel told them to stay put – they remained on stage with Adam and Nigel while the men asked for donations to Dizzy Feet’s community fund, which was to be collected during intermission. For a good 5 minutes, our dancers stood on that stage, holding hands and grinning from ear to ear, while Nigel and Adam talked about them and about Dizzy Feet’s Community Program. Then, Nigel took Anna C’s hand and skipped offstage with them, while Adam held hands with the kid on the opposite end.

My second favorite moment of the night was at the Ball. After the dinner and live auction, the stars of SYTYCD and Dancing with the Stars took the dance floor for a dance battle, with the attendees circled around watching the most dazzling display of talent we had ever seen. We were lucky enough to be in the front row of onlookers, with Anna G grooving to the music, clapping and watching with a huge smile on her face. Christopher Scott – one of the hottest choreographers around right now, and quite a cutie to book – spotted Anna G. I saw him make eye contact with her and thought – oh no he isn’t – when he approached her, brought her onto the dance floor and amidst the cheers of the crowd, Anna G did her thing! She twerked, and pumped and danced her heart out. Christopher was amazed and stood back to let Anna G shine in all her glory! Once that was done, Christopher and Twitch engaged in a fantastic battle and wouldn’t you know it…Twitch broke away from Christopher Scott and also pulled Anna out center stage of the dance floor. She was absolutely the belle of the ball!

After the dance battled ended, we took over the dance floor and danced every song until the DJ threw us out! We were the last to leave but Anna wasn’t ready…she wanted to dance some more!!! The walk back to the hotel was a jubilant celebration – the kids from Project UP and Element did it…they changed the world Saturday night.

On a personal note, my daughter, Emma, was also brought into the dance battle by Cyrus, of Season 9, and again by Mark Ballas of Dancing with the Stars. Austin asked, “Why did those guys ask Emma to dance? You think they could just tell she had the moves?” I think it’s because she looked gorgeous and because she’s a helluva dancer – and I guess they could just tell that!

As more photos and videos are uploaded today, I will blog again. But my words will be inadequate to explain how incredible the night way, how the audience embraced our piece, how impressed the most impressive people in the entertainment industry were and how it all seems like the greatest dream ever in my life. I never thought, 6 years ago when we started our little program, that we would impact hundreds of people, create an entire community of families, volunteers and people with special needs and that they would give meaning to Alan and my  life in ways we cannot even describe. Sometimes, when you dream big, your dreams really do come true!

It’s Showtime!

Project UP with Twitch and Allison

Project UP with Twitch and Allison

In one hour, we are meeting in the lobby of the hotel to walk to The Music Center. We just finished having a beauty shop in my room – Alan stood by the window and watched the proceedings, as curling irons, straightening irons, hairspray and make-up was passed around, resulting in 4 girls from Project UP looking like angels!!! That’s what Nigel Lythgoe calls them – this morning at rehearsal, he called out, “Good morning to my angels from Merrimack Hall.” How cool is that?

The rehearsals were incredible…we saw Travis Wall set a piece on 3 dancers who won Dizzy Feet scholarships, saw the cast of the Step Up movies rehearse an incredible hip hop piece that will be the finale of the show, watched the youth world champion ballroom dance couple, saw the San Francisco Ballet and even Wayne Brady with his dance crew. Every time someone else took the stage to rehearse, it was more exciting than the last.
The Project UP and Element dancers conducted themselves like seasoned pros – politely waiting in the audience, taking their places when called, following their cues, improvising with a new bench the prop department got for us. All 10 of them acted like they had performed in a 3100 seat theatre before – Connor said, “It’s just like our theatre, only bigger!”
As we were leaving the venue to get lunch, we saw Twitch approaching – the man who made all this possible! It was Twitch who reported to the Dizzy Feet Board of Directors that our program was, “the most extraordinary thing I’ve ever seen” and it was Twitch who agreed to pitch the idea of our performing to the Board for me. Without his endorsement, this dream wouldn’t be happening.
As we were walking to lunch, Carolyn said, “I miss Zach…but Connor has the same swag that Zach does!” We all miss Zach and hope his father is continuing to improve. We will share the stories of our adventures with him when we get home and, good sport that he is, Zach will relish hearing about our adventures.
I don’t know who’s teared up more the last 24 hours – Alan, our daughter, Emma, or me. I took Emma with us to rehearsal today and every time she and I looked at each other, we started crying. We finally decided not to look at each other at all. Alan didn’t want to see rehearsal – he said he wants to be prepared to feel all the emotions fresh tonight – pride, amazement, joy – at our kids and what they’ve accomplished. We are thilled that Emma was able to get off work and meet us out here and our son, Austin, is with us too. Merrimack Hall has always been a family project – when we founded the organization, we said it was our family’s gift to the community. I am so grateful that all 4 of us are here together to share in this amazing moment.
Yesterday, Jeff Thacker (Executive Producer of So You Think You Can Dance and Director of tonight’s Gala) told Hayley Henderson that her choreography was “brilliant.” I couldn’t agree more. She has managed to use dance to depict some powerful emotions and a compelling message. I am so proud of her I could scream…actually, I did scream – at the top of my lungs while we were waiting for the light to change so we could cross the street! I was just so excited after rehearsal that I couldn’t hold back and Connor told me he thought I had gone nuts! Katie said I was crazy and was embarrassing her, so I’ll try to hold it in – at least until the end of the black tie dinner, but I’m not making any promises.
This trip is evidence that if you dream big, your dreams can come true. Alan and I have the philosophy that if you think about doing something, you should go big or go home and that you should, in the words of Nike, “Just do it.” If someone had told me back in 2007 when we opened the doors to Merrimack Hall that our kids with special needs would be dancing on the same stage with some of the world’s most famous and talented dancers, I would have politely ask you what you had been smoking! But we had a big dream and we just did it – with the help of our community, our donors, our ticket buyers, our incredible volunteers and of course, with the help of the wonderful children who are part of our program. They have changed our lives forever, they have touched our hearts profoundly, and tonight, they will take their message of acceptance to the largest audience ever. Our kids are going to change the world – as Anna C says – one dancer, one twirl at a time!

Arrival in Los Angeles

I have no words – or pictures – to describe what happened this evening. I will use a bullet list, because it’s 2 a.m. out here and Alan warned me not to blog at this late hour.

  • we were told to wait for a rehearsal call at 3 p.m.
  • at 4 p.m. we were told to wait longer.
  • at 4:40 p..m. we were told to be at the venue by 5:30 p.m.
  • at 5:32 Katie had a meltdown.
  • at 5:40, Anna G had a meltdown.
  • at 5:50, everyone was antsy, burning up from the heat of all the bulbs surrounding all the dressing tables in the fancy dressing room where they told us to wait and Hayley and I used all our ones to buy 15 bottles of water.
  • at 6:10 I said, “enough of this…we are going to wait in the theatre where it’s at least cool and something is happening that will divert the kids’ attention from the fact that they are tired, hot and hungry.”
  • at 6:15, our group was seated in the 3,100 seat venue.
  • at 6:20, Nigel Lithgoe and Adam Shankman introduced themselves to me, allowed our kids to introduce themselves to them and Nigel said to me, “You are the only woman who has ever made me cry…I sat in my bed and watched the video of your dance on my phone and cried like a baby.”
  • 6:30 – cast and Hayley took the stage to block and get cues from Jeff, the director of the show, and Nigel.
  • 6:35  Peyton and Erika called a dancer huddle – all 10 kids huddled up, amidst the chaos of lighting hangs, prop cues, sound engineers and stage managers – I don’t know what they said in their huddle, but I’m sure it was profound.
  • 6:40 – first run through of “Change the World” – a perfect performance from the cast.
  • 6:45 – Nigel sat behind me and asked questions for his script – how many kids are in your program? what made you start your program? Who are these typical kids? Do you think this is changing the typical dancers even more than its changing the dancers with special needs?
  • 6:50 – Anya and Dimitri rehearsed the sexiest cha-cha ever – to which Connor responded, “Awkward!”…it was very sexy.
  • 7:00 – union rep ordered the theatre closed and the stage manager told us to return at 11:15 Saturday.
  • The director told us to come to rehearsal as early as we want and to bring our cameras and autograph books.
  • The director told our kids that our dance piece is the definition of the word “Beautiful.”
  • Nigel said, “Can’t wait to see you tomorrow.”
I’d say, successful rehearsal!!

Final Rehearsal

DFF Thanks Photo

We got the news on July 11 that Project UP was invited to perform at the National Dance Day Gala in LA. 12 days later we’ve raised money to pay for most of the expenses, have nailed down air fare and booked hotel rooms, have arranged for ground transportation, have coordinated the details for 23 people to travel together. We have re-staged choreography and rehearsed for hours and hours. We have created new costumes, rented tuxedos and bought ball gowns. The big moment is almost here!

Everyone is very excited, to say the least! I’m still in a state of shock that on Saturday night, kids in the little program I founded five years ago will be dancing on the same bill as dancers from some of the most prestigious organizations in the country. To think that we started with 10 kids and 10 volunteers in October 2008 and here we are, July 2013 – dancing in one of the most illustrious venues in the world!

The final rehearsal this afternoon was wonderful and to top it off, the kids from Element made goodie bags for the kids from Project UP – little things to amuse them on the long plane ride out there. Just another example of how thoughtful – and selfless – the teens who volunteer with us are. And talented? These five kids from Element are incredible!

We are about to have our Bon Voyage Party – a final full dress rehearsal in front of a home crowd here at Merrimack Hall. We’re having lemonade and cookies and hope to be home by 8:30, since we have to be at the airport by 5:00 tomorrow morning!

So now, it’s time to sit back and enjoy the experience of a lifetime!

Hollywood, Here We Come!

Top to bottom: Peyton Davis, Connor Furber, Zach Hulgan, Shelby Pearsall, Katie Slaton, Erika Davis, Anna Chilton, Carolyn Snoddy, Haleigh Briggs, Anna Giardini, Sarah Katherine Parker

Top to bottom: Peyton Davis, Connor Furber, Zach Hulgan, Shelby Pearsall, Katie Slaton, Erika Davis, Anna Chilton, Carolyn Snoddy, Haleigh Briggs, Anna Giardini, Sarah Katherine Parker

These 10 dancers are about to have a once-in-a-lifetime experience. And us adults are in for quite a good time ourselves! In 48 hours, we will be in Los Angeles where these kids have been invited to perform at the Dizzy Feet Foundation’s annual National Dance Day Celebration Gala at The Music Center. These dancers from Project UP and Element Dance Company will share the bill with dancers from American Ballet Theatre, the stars of Dancing With The Stars and So You ThinkYou Can Dance, Complexions Contemporary Dance Company and professionals from every genre of dance.

In the audience will be a veritable who’s who in the entertainment and dance world – celebrities of every sort. I’m convinced that when the curtain falls Saturday night, July 27, the audience won’t be talking about the ballerinas or the professional ballroom dancers. They will be talking about the 10 kids in this picture and the dance piece, “Change the World.”

It was just about this time last year that I got the idea to stage this dance number and enlisted Hayley Henderson, Artistic Director of the Johnny Stallings Arts Program and owner of Element Dance Company to put it together. In the past year, this dance has been performed at Merrimack Hall’s Evening of Dance, at the NRG Dance Project in Atlanta, at the Alabama State Dance Championships (where it won First Place Overall and a platinum score) and at our annual spring recital. Each time it’s been performed, there has been a thunderous standing ovation and an audience with tears of joy in their eyes. What makes this piece so extraordinary and moving? It’s simple…”Change the World” uses dance to show that we are all more alike than we are different, that there’s no such thing as “different” and that people with special needs are only limited by the labels society chooses to assign them.

The kids are very excited – more like elated! Today, we sat in a circle and talked about what sorts of questions we might be asked while we are in LA and practiced what our answers to those questions should be. We want to be sure to thank the Dizzy Feet Foundation for this opportunity every time we can. We want to be sure to use people-first language. We want to be sure that we remember this opportunity is all about Project UP and kids with special needs, not about typical teenagers who are amazing dancers. Each teenager spoke from their heart when I posed questions to them like, “Why do you like to dance?,” “What does being in this dance mean to you?,” and “What do you hope people take away from your performance?”

Of course, Katie said she wants people to know she’s a star and Anna G. said she wants people to smile and be happy when they watch her dance. Claire said she hopes our performance will show people that kids with special needs can do anything they are given the chance to do and that she hopes our performance will inspire other organizations to include people with special needs in their programming. Melissa said she hopes our programs will jump to the national spotlight. Hayley said she hopes people will see that teaching dance to kids with special needs is no different than teaching dance to typical kids. Connor just said, “Bool-ya!”

While I want people to see how effective our program is and replicate it, what I also hope they see is that when you do something good for someone else, it comes back to you – in spades – every time. The five dancers from Element have donated their time – hours and hours of it – for years, helping kids with special needs participate in dance. They did this never expecting anything for themselves. And now, they are dancing in front of the most influential people in the dance business in one of the most storied and respected venues in the world – a dream come true for a young dancer! Who knows what opportunities this will bring to their careers as dancers and all because they were selfless enough to want to share their love of dance with kids who are routinely marginalized and left out?!

This is going to be a truly remarkable experience! I will be blogging daily so I hope you will follow along to read about our adventures!