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I am a dancer and I work at a nonprofit called Danceworks. I usually write about my work on our Danceworks blog instead of here. This is my personal blog but since this post ventures a little into the personal, I thought it might be better served here.

Our mission at Danceworks is to enhance the joy, health and creativity of our community. We are a professional dance organization yet I view our work as community building. And though we train dancers and teach dance, I see it as a way of connecting to others. Like teaching ballroom and tap to 4th, 5th and 6th graders in 50 of our city schools.

With thanks to great community partners, Milwaukee students in this program have been able to come together for a city-wide event called Danceworks Mad Hot Competition at our Stadium, the BMO Harris Bradley Center, at the culmination of the program. Since Mad Hot began 12 years ago, we have often heard the students say, “It was the best day of my life!”. They get to perform in the same arena as their basketball heroes. We also hear them say, “It changed my life!”.

I realize that it has changed my life too. It has changed all of us.

Our goal with the program is to increase physical activity during the school day, grow confidence and respect for self and others. Some students keep dancing and others have become choreographers and now teach in the program, like Gabi Sustache.

And Wanyah Frazier.

Many wonderful friendships have developed over the years.

We have also grown a little older and a little wiser. This is program founder and board member Mario Costantini with his mom and lovely Mad Hot supporter wife Cathy.

Some dear friends, like our school superintendent Dr. Darienne Driver, are moving on to make a difference elsewhere.

Others have joined the dance, like new President and CEO of the Wisconsin Center District Marty Brooks (holding his new pair of tap shoes).

But there is something that never changes.

Where there is dance, there is no divide. Barriers are broken.

You offer your hand,

and ready or not,

before you know it,

you are dancing!

Regardless of size,

religion,

gender,

age,

or race.

We have a lot to learn by watching our students dance together in Milwaukee.

We have a lot to learn from their grace, acceptance and courage.

Because the JOY of the Dance changes everything.

How has it changed me? As I count back 12 years to the start of this program, I remember I was ready to begin a new “dance”. I remember I was ready to serve in a deeper, more meaningful way. I prayed for transformation. I prayed for a surrendered heart. I see now how that prayer is being answered.

The training of a heart is like the training of a dancer: with daily discipline. As a dancer is molded through patience, with courage and by grace, so character is crafted into beauty–one step at a time.

Would you like to dance?

My photos from Danceworks Mad Hot Ballroom Competition on May 19, 2018 at the BMO Harris Bradley Center, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. You can learn more about Danceworks, at danceworksmke.org.

Photo of Superintendent Darienne Driver by Jeff Zmania.

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