March-April 2012 | On My Mind

These days, when I turn on the TV, I get frustrated. I’ve had it with the national television shows that, in my opinion, shine an unjust and negative light on the dance-teaching profession. Dance is such a positive experience for so many students, families, teachers, and studio owners, but what’s stealing the limelight is all the negativity. So I’m going to take this opportunity to shine a light on the positive aspects of dance that I see every day.

Let’s start with Dancing Wheels Company and School in Cleveland, Ohio. The school offers in-studio and outreach programs using, as it says on its website, “movement and performance in a unique approach to education and therapy. Individuals who previously found limited access to the arts due to physical, sensory, or developmental disabilities will enjoy inclusive dance and participatory learning with their disabled and non-disabled peers.”

For a story of triumph, we can travel to Joplin, Missouri, to meet Nicole Drouin, the owner of Karen’s Dance Studio. In January 2011 her mom (who had founded the school in 1971) lost her battle with cancer. Drouin took over and kept the school going until it was destroyed in the deadly tornadoes that hit the state that May. She could have called it quits, but instead she found support in the national dance community, which gave her the financial and emotional encouragement to rebuild. As a result, she is carrying on her mom’s legacy and upholding the tradition of dance in a community that needs it now more than ever.

YouTube sensation Evan Ruggiero, a 21-year-old bone cancer survivor who had his leg amputated, filmed himself tap dancing using an artificial leg—a peg leg. Before the amputation he had looked for others who had continued to dance with disabilities. He found Clayton “Peg Leg” Bates, a tap dancer who danced on the vaudeville circuit despite losing a leg in a cotton mill accident as a boy. Inspired by that story, Ruggiero continues to tap dance and inspire others who might have given up on dance.

If you wonder, as I do, why we don’t see a national television show that shines a spotlight on inspiring dance people like these, the answer is that in our world right now, controversy, fighting, and irrational people behaving badly are what sell, at least in a producer’s mind. But I wonder what would happen if you gave people a choice. Would they tune in to witness the miracles that dance brings to the human spirit?

I sure would.