Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Stage full of joy....

You may remember that last spring my entire crew participated in the Peter Pan production put on by the Ballet Academy of Arizona. It was a delightful production made all the more special by the impact it had on Mrs. Caroline, the Ballet Academy owner/director.

Mrs. Caroline was so moved by working with kids of all abilities that she immediately shifted her focus and direction in an effort to draw more children into this fall's production of Cinderella! She has organized the teenagers from Peter Pan to serve as mentors. She has begun teaching classes to the children in the programs at United Cerebral Palsy. And she has opened her arms, her classes and the opportunity to perform in a beautiful ballet on an amazing stage to children all over the valley -- no matter the limitations their bodies may inflict on them.

We are honored to be a part of this. Benjamin and Mason are serving as mentors -- they'll be on stage helping to inspire the younger children! Our Claire is living her life-long dream -- she is Cinderella! And as such, she is helping teach the classes, work with the students and getting to love on all these amazing amazing children.

Cate, who started this whole thing by pulling her siblings in, is dancing in Cinderella, of course, as a little mouse AND a pumpkin! She is so excited about all the little girls in wheelchairs that she squeals every time she meets a new friend! She spent last Saturday introducing all her new friends to each other, and filling their minds with her descriptions of the stage, the experience and the fun they are all going to have!

Yesterday was our first rehearsal at the United Cerebral Palsy center. After some major struggles to get there -- oh goodness, a flat tire in 113 degree heat no less -- I arrived flustered and trying to calm down. Claire was already there in the midst -- Uncle Lenny had rescued her to get her that as quickly as possible. She was smiling from ear to ear....I rush in and was immediately washed in the joy bubbling out of that room.

Moms were watching with tears in their eyes as their daughters and sons of all sorts of varying abilities were following the grace-filled directions of our precious instructor, Mrs. Caroline.  One mom told me about her five-year-old, who can not verbally communicate, but her smile and her beautiful arms were telling the story of excitement:

"She has watched her little friends' recitals for the last few years. She has been happy for them and yet, desperately wanting to dress up and dance too! We are so excited she is getting this opportunity."

Another Mom who spent the afternoon helping her precious 23-year-old daughters participate, told me afterwards:

"The girls have wanted to dance since they were six years old. No one every offered them the opportunity."

Her daughters won my heart when I introduced myself and they told me, "The coach broke down. Did you know the coach broke down?"

It took me a minute....but then I realized they were talking about my Claire. Cinderella's coach HAD broken down and she had to arrive late! Oh, I have smiled all night -- somehow thinking that Cinderella's coach broke down is much better than thinking my old van had a flat tire!

The smiles were contagious. The energy explosive. The anticipation palpable. These kids and parents were thrilled with every aspect of the afternoon. The children left exhausted -- but so happy!

But there was one little girl. Ah, I have spent time in prayer for her this morning. She is heavy on my heart.

She was dancing with all the others. She was learning the routine. But her grandmother was watching with a scowl. I could see it across the room. When Caroline asked the child to push another little girl in her wheelchair in my sequence, the child accepted. But the grandmother grimaced. At the end of the dance, she went to the child, said "You don't want to do that, do you? No one will see you dance??"

Within minutes, the little girl was withdrawing from the group. Disengaging from involvement as she clearly was considering what had been said to her. Ten minutes later she was putting on her shoes and exiting the studio. The grandmother said to those around her, "Well, you can't blame her. She wants to dance, not push a wheelchair! Hmmph."

I teared up. My Claire had steam coming out her ears. Mrs. Caroline handled it with grace.

The bottom line: that Grandma, in one swift move, just went a long way in insuring her granddaughter will grow up intolerant of differences. Out to serve #1....herself. And annoyed by anything/anyone that gets in her way.   The grandma is not going to be changed. I wanted to talk to her. To convince her she was wrong. But some people can not be taught. And frankly, if she wasn't moved by the joy that filled that studio yesterday, then nothing I say would have helped.

My heart doesn't hurt for the loss of that little girl in our production. But my heart does hurt for the lessons that child needs to learn and could  have learned by participating.


But now, I have a question for you -- completely shameless in the asking because I feel so passionate about what is happening here: I want you to be involved! We need volunteers to help with our littlest dancers --  adults willing to help backstage -- and even on stage with pushing of wheelchairs, etc. So if you would like to help, please comment and let me plug you in!

You can also make a donation to help with the purchase of costumes, the theater rental (the amazing Herberger Phoenix!), as well as scholarships for those children who desire to be a part but financially can not. Go here for more info on that!

We also have a big fundraiser coming up -- A Fairy Godmother Tea -- at the Phoenician on September 25! Tables are $1000, or individual tickets are $100 -- we need you there!! (Or you could buy a table for some of our little ballerinas!) Our own Mason Shrader will serve at the Master of Ceremonies and the menu for tea looks divine!!

So the bottom line: Dreams are coming true for more than 100 children in the Valley of the Sun. Lessons are being learned. And a beautiful performance is being planned. How do you want to be involved? I guarantee a blessing.

Guarantee it!


Hoekzema said...

I so wished we lived closer!! Ainsley and Beatrix would LOVE to be a part of Cinderella, wheelchairs and all!

Kristin said...

Such a bummer that the young girl's grandmother took such an opportunity from her. But I am HOPEFUL that you folks will STILL have a great influence on her. I LOVE that Clare is Cinderella. What fun!