africankids.jpgDancing is a universal language. It can bring happiness even to the most burdened in life. Throughout my career I have had the opportunity to work with the most amazing people – kids. Nothing can beat the feeling of sharing dance with a boisterous crowd of energised ‘foot-tappers’.

One of my most favourite experiences was being a warm-up coach for a youth dance group from an asylum community here in Norway. They were performing for a large stage show in the city that celebrated cultural diversity.

At the beginning of the first warm-up session the little ones ran to me with open arms but the older ones wanted me to prove myself first. After the initial greetings I asked ‘What do you guys like to do for warm-ups?’ Well, what a response. Being valued for their opinions was all that was needed for me to instantly gain new friends. This ‘freedom to contribute’ brought about teamwork and great camaraderie. Not only were our sessions warm-ups, but they became an environment for true collaboration and a celebration of ideas.

At the start of each session, I would teach everyone some basic ‘shine’ steps from my dance tradition (ballroom) and then we’d work together in ‘jazzing’ them up with some African dance grooves. It was fantastic. By the end of the week the kids were waiting by the rehearsal door eager to show me some new moves they had been working on.

Dance opened us up to great friendships. While we danced we told stories, we shared dreams and we laughed so hard. But sometimes I had to hide my tears because some of their personal experiences were heartbreaking. My class helper was always joking about his new glass eye. It took me a couple of days before I was brave enough to ask him why he had a glass eye. “The local militia took it out because I didn’t want to join them.” He must have seen my face because he then said “Don’t be sad, I have a new one now.” It was hard to start that warm-up session – all these bright-eyed kids waiting for me to play the music so they could just dance. But you know what, that warm-up was the best session I ever had. Dance melted away my sadness and I could just be happy with my kids.