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!
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.
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.
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.