How does dance inspire a 4 year old?


StageChicago is a world-class city with world-class dance and since there is nothing as inspiring and spiritually uplifting as watching a dance performance, I went to the Chicago Dancing Festival’s finale which culminated a full week of FREE performances.

I have to say I got much more out of the evening than simply watching and enjoying an inspiring performance on a beautiful night under the stars at the Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park. I got to experience it through the eyes of a 4-year-old boy I never met who just happened to be sitting next to me with his mom.

Chicago Dancing Festival is the ONLY free festival of its kind in the nation. The Festival’s mission is to present a variety of excellent dance, enrich the lives of the people of Chicago and provide increased accessibility to the art form, thereby helping create a new audience.  Its vision is to raise the national and international profile of dance in the city, furthering Chicago as a dance destination.

I do believe Chicago Dancing Festival enriched the lives of many during their week of performances but I’d like to share a story of how the finale, “Celebration of Dance”, enriched and inspired the life of a 4-year-old whose mom could not otherwise afford to take her child to a performance.

It was a gorgeous Saturday evening and my friend Jackie and I walked over to Millennium Park where we knew we’d have to wait in line to secure seats in the pavilion. We were prepared with sandwiches, water and amusement. Yes,  you must have your amusement while waiting in line for a free performance when it seems that all of Chicago wants to see it with you! They started letting people in at 6 so we found what we considered to be perfect seats and settled in. We still had about an hour or so before the show when a woman with her little boy sat next to us.

He was absolutely adorable so me being me, I said hello to the mom first and then the little boy. I asked him his name and with a brilliant smile and sparkly eyes he replied “Gabriel.” As a clairvoyant I can recognize a crystal child and there was no coincidence he and his mom sat next to us. After looking into those big brown, gold flecked eyes I thought, of course his name is Gabriel, and asked him if he was an angel. He giggled and proudly announced “I want to be a policeman!” I guess if you don’t want to be an angel when you grow up a policeman or fireman might be next in the mind of a 4-year-old. 🙂

We talked about policemen and what they do then I asked him if he was excited to watch the dance show. He nodded an emphatic yes. His mom said that she once took him to see a hip hop performance and months later found him doing the steps he saw. She added that she wants to expose him as early as possible to music and dance but can’t afford to take him so she really appreciates being able to bring him to a free professional performance.

Lower lights, que music, turn off all thought and be ready to enter the experience of world-class dance! The performance began with Chicago Human Rhythm Project’s premier of “In the Beginning”. About half way through the performance I looked over at Gabriel who was literally mesmerized. His gleaming eyes were as big as saucers as he (and all of us) watched this stunning, rhythmic, tap piece. For two hours Gabriel watched and listened intently. He didn’t take his eyes off the stage and his face really did look like that of a peaceful angel.

At the end of the show I turned to Gabriel and asked him if he liked the show. He smiled from ear to ear and said yes! His favorites were the tap and Ensemble Espanol’s gorgeous and colorful Bolero. He then proclaimed with enthusiasm “I WANT TO BE A DANCER!” I laughed and asked ‘I thought you wanted to be a policeman?’  To that he replied “nope a dancer”. (To all involved in the arts world who make performances like this possible, I hope you’re reading this!) Now I know this little boy will change his mind several times about what he wants to be when he grows up but in two short hours his spirit was touched. He will forever be touched by the vibration and joy of that performance.

It is so important we inspire our youth and expose them to the arts. Our youth are our future and those same youth are very the future of the arts! The arts are the physical manifestation of our spirits as well as an integral and fundamental part of our growth and expansion as a society. We must expose our youth to inspire them, enliven their spirits, encourage creativity and expand their minds by including music, dance, theater (or for that matter art in all its forms) so they pass along their experiences and do the same for generations to come.

To the Chicago Dancing Festival coordinators, dancers, choreographers, producers, directors and anyone and everyone involved I will say: Thank you! Well done! MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!

To Gabriel that little angel boy sitting next to me; Become a dancer, policeman or whatever else you want to be and when you grow up, remember how the dance made you feel. Bring your children and grandchildren and share the beauty of music, movement and dance so they too can support and grow the arts for their children. ~Shine Your Light Debbie

©Debra Taitel 2013 All Rights Reserved

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