by Sandi Duncan
In these challenging times, it’s refreshing to witness the good-hearted people of the dance community performing so many acts of kindness.
In the past year alone, I’ve seen dancers, studio owners, teachers, and dance families raising funds for those affected by floods, hurricanes, and tornadoes, and banding together to run clothing and toy drives. Our community steps up to help when friends and strangers are in need.
The stories are endless. After a New Jersey studio suffered a horrific fire, teachers came together online to help get the studio back on its feet. Here in New England, the dance community frequently raises money for cancer research through performances, master classes, and conventions. For example, dance educator (and my dear friend) JR Linden has raised well over $100,000 for Boston Children’s Hospital by running the Boston Marathon. Back in 2012, when Superstorm Sandy hit the New York area, dance studio owners around the country organized blanket-making parties, and within a few months delivered more than 500 handmade blankets to children and adults devastated by the hurricane.
“A warm smile is the universal language of kindness.” —William Arthur Ward
If you feel inclined to reach out and help, but don’t know how, start simply by asking local nursing homes, hospitals, and community centers if they’re in need of entertainment or would welcome your students as visitors. Or consider creating a performance that raises funds for a nonprofit or charity.
Last year the studio where I teach, Melissa Hoffman Dance Center, made kindness a yearlong theme. Parents spearheaded monthly studio events to help those in need, including a studio carnival fundraiser and toy, food, and mitten drives. In class, we encouraged students to perform one act of kindness every week for their families. Our recital theme was “Kindness Through Dance,” with songs focused on love, support, helping hands, kindness, or generosity. During the last week of classes, our oldest company dancers made cards with inspirational quotes about hopes and dreams. The cards were then handed out to the audience during the recital’s closing number, set to the Glen Campbell song “Try a Little Kindness.” All in all, a yearlong theme of kindness was a wonderful way to involve our students and encourage them to treat others with love and respect.
Yet acts of kindness don’t have to be massive, planned-in-advance undertakings. As Princess Diana said, “Carry out a random act of kindness, with no expectation of reward, safe in the knowledge that one day someone might do the same for you.” Carry a neighbor’s groceries to the car. Pay for a stranger’s coffee. Cook a meal for a friend. Hold the door. Be generous with hugs. Smile. These are all acts of kindness.
Once, at competition, my studio’s dancers were stunned when students from Jessica Giasullo Durante’s Dance Expressions handed them cards of admiration. My students’ reaction to that kindness has stuck with me.
“Wherever there is a human being, there is an opportunity for kindness,” the Roman philosopher Lucius Annaeus Seneca wrote. I believe random acts of kindness are on the rise. If we can all be gentle, caring, and helpful to those around us, we just might encourage our dancers to become kindness sharers themselves.
Sandi Duncan is a senior staffer at Melissa Hoffman Dance Center. A certified life coach, she conducts team-building seminars and workshops for studios nationwide.