When people hear that I want to teach dance in inner cities, often times their response is, “Oh! Well, how interesting. That’s cool.” Sometimes I wonder what these people mean when they say ‘interesting’. Are they using that word to describe my desire to teach inner city youth, or are they altogether ignoring the inner city context, and referring to my desire to teach dance as ‘interesting’? Something in me believes that it is the former rather than the later that makes that phrase pass their lips.
Students who were raised in the studio – most likely from middle/upper class families – tend to see dance as a hobby; something that they choose to do out of a list of many other potential possibilities. However, in the inner city, the list of opportunities is not as extensive. This is the main thing that drives my passion to teach dance to these students. Urban students aren’t sitting at home conflicted about what to do with their day due to the overwhelming options being presented. These students are conflicted because there are no options. They do the same monotonous things day in and day out.
I grew up in a single parent home, and I am familiar with having limitations put on my desired hobbies because of financial struggles. Although I wasn’t raised in the inner city, and I am not personally familiar with most of the situations that my kids had/have to face, I do understand limitations. My break came in high school when I was given the opportunity to join the dance team and it changed my life. Dance became a way to express myself, and took me outside of the areas in my life that hurt. When people say to me, “Oh! Well, how interesting. That’s cool,” I respond with, “You’re right. It is cool," because I understand what it’s like to want something to do. It brings me joy to share my talents with students who, even if for the sake of having nothing else to do, will soak up what I’m teaching them. Maybe they will find that dance is something that can bring them into their own place of healthy expression. And that, to me, is ‘interesting.’