dance class – part one of a whole bunch


Movement never lies. It is a barometer telling the state of the soul’s weather to all who can read it.

~ Martha Graham


I’ve had a lot of false starts lately. My intentions have been good, but my time, energy and attention span have been flagging. Thus my draft box is full with the detritus of half-formed thoughts, meticulously crafted first paragraphs and single-line story reminders that have yet to be fleshed out.

I paged through them this morning – turning them over and inspecting them like bits and pieces of sea glass. Some were junk – dusty and opaque – so I threw them back into the water. Some were jagged shards that I couldn’t pick up without slicing into my flesh. I left them where they were, trusting that time would soften and round their edges.

One – just one – was clear and bright and precious as any gem – a group of pictures of my girl at her dance class. This should be an easy one, I thought. The pictures will speak for themselves. But then I remembered how much there is to tell you about the dance studio. And that’s when the run-on sentences started.

Because I just can’t show you the pictures without telling you about my conversation with the director of the dance academy. No, I have to tell you that when I told her that I’d heard that they had been very welcoming to a friend’s son with special needs she’d said, ‘Of course. ALL children should have the opportunity to dance.” And I have to tell you that when I told her that we’d been searching for a place for Brooke to dance after the last experience ended in heartache she’d said – without a moment’s hesitation – “What if we bring in a second teacher to work with her as an aide? Do you think that would work?” And I have to tell you how I’d barely had words for her generosity.

And I have to tell you how happy my little girl has been to put on her leotard and tights – just like a ballerina – and dance. Actually, I won’t have to tell you that part. I’m guessing you’ll see for yourself.










None of those moves above were actually related to anything the rest of the class was doing. Luau had warned me when I went in that ‘it may be a little tough to watch.’ He’d told me that she ‘tends to just kind of do her own thing’ and that it didn’t seem to have much to do with what was going on in the rest of the room. He knows me. He knows I can have trouble watching my baby desperately out of step.

He was right, she did do her own thing. But for once it wasn’t tough to watch at all.

Brooke dances to a different beat. Sometimes literally. And watching her – arms akimbo and legs flying faster than my little phone camera could focus – was pure joy. The aide will start to rein her in a little bit now – to break down the choreography for her in hopes that she can follow along. But even if she doesn’t learn a single step, it will not have been for naught.

Sitting on the hardwood floor that night, trying desperately to capture the moment, I remembered why we’d pushed so hard to find a place for her to dance. And even in these grainy, out of focus pictures from my phone you can see it, can’t you? It’s like finding the perfect piece of sea glass, isn’t it?

Because when my girl dances, however it may be that she moves, she is HERSELF and she is FREE.

Thank you so much, C. For everything.

ed note ~ Thank you from the bottom of my heart for the incredible comments on yesterday’s post. Your love and support for me and my girl held me up yesterday and you carried me through a day that might have been unbearable otherwise. I was humbled by your words and grateful (as always) for your presence in our lives. A million times – thank you.

26 thoughts on “dance class – part one of a whole bunch

  1. Man, do I have a bff for Brooke. My older son Nathan, who has often been referred to by teachers and slps as “a child with his own agenda” would just love Brooke. He once took a dance/music class and when I asked him why he wasn’t doing what the rest of the class was doing he told me that when he feels the music he just has to go like this (insert 5 year old boy doing interpretive dance moves). I like photo #6. It looks like she is just in love with herself in that outfit.


  2. She is FREE … That’s the home run, isn’t it? I treasure those moments when my son finds his rhythm – his own rhythm – in whatever activity he is participating. If that rhythm somewhat resembles what the rest of the group is doing, all the better. And don’t be surprised if Brooke does start to follow more of what the rest of the group is doing. If the activity and the setting put her at easae, she may just surprise you. I know those tough to watch moments that Matt describes, and I also know that several months later, I no longer watch (in our case, hockey practice) with a pit in my stomach. It’s kind of freeing for both of us, actually.

  3. The pictures say it all no matter what the lighting or focus looks like. It is impossible to maks her joy and ease. Unfettered. She’s beautiful all the way down to the cellular level and it radiates. But you already know that. xo

  4. I feel like jumping for joy when I see these pictures. Brooke is a dancer! As far as I can tell she always has been. She looks like she is loving this. From the pictures, it looks like she may be picking up things from the class and expanding her movement repetoire even as she is doing them in her own way and time. Some of these photos capture classic dance positions. I am so glad she has found a welcoming place to dance with others and a teacher who understands her need to dance.

  5. Oh! LOVE this. Look at the pure joy on her face! So wonderful! Reminds me of watching the Roc RUN on the beach. He has such anxiety about leaving my side and it takes him a bit to let go and just go for it – it’s what we want for them, to feel the joy we remember feeling from childhood. Kuddos to you and your girl!

  6. I was just reading something the other day about kids like ours. The writer was saying that you get to a point where you stop asking “Will my child be XXXX?” Fill in the blank wherever you want to go –a doctor, an engineer, ‘normal'(you know what I mean), or even ‘live independently’ and you start asking yourself, “Will my child be happy?” This is the beauty you’ve found here. Forget the skills she is or isn’t learning, she’s loving it. And is joyful to the cellular level, as Niksmom calls it!

  7. I believe her mother used to dance like that as a little girl. She even put on shows in her playroom and danced and sang to her own full band. I still cherish those times and in some ways (just a little different, perhaps), Brooke is repeating history in “her” own way.
    Love you,

  8. I personally have a soft place in my heart for those who are out of step with the rest. My husband says a friend of our teenage son, “He marches to his own tuba player.”

  9. Sometimes we can learn more from our kids than what we teach them. Brooke is spot on- dancing is joy! We should ALL dance more. Who can’t use a little joy in their lives? Rock on Brooke! Show the rest of us how to do it right!

  10. I’m a huge fan of marching to the beat of a different, ideally your own, drummer. And I’m a big fan of Brooke. And I’m a big fan of that damn bob, could NOT be any cuter!

  11. Pure Joy!! My favorite pastime is cranking up (which in our house means barely audible) “I Hope You Dance” by Lee Ann Womack and dancing around the family room with my sweet angels.

  12. i really needed that story after yesterday’s… you know what they say, “you have to dance like no one is looking, and love like it’s never going to hurt.” we could all learn a little something from my precious niece πŸ™‚

  13. Brooke is beautiful. You could feel every bit joy she was feeling through the pictures you have posted.
    I bet she has the most fantastic melody she is dancing to, and everybody else would only be so lucky to hear it.
    Thank you for sharing

  14. Brooke is beautiful. You can feel every bit joy she was feeling through the pictures you have posted.
    I bet she has the most fantastic melody she is dancing to, and everybody else would only be so lucky to hear it.
    Thank you for sharing

  15. Hi Jess, Congrats to you in persevering to find an environment for Brooke to flourish. The world constantly reminds us what is normal and what is acceptable and ends up overlooking the beauty in that which is NOT main stream. Brooke is never out of step with the Lord πŸ™‚ and never out of step with your LOVE πŸ˜‰ I love your analogy of the pieces of Sea Glass. Jess, thinking on it YOU are a piece of sea glass. The Lord is using Brooke as a beautiful, sometimes wild, storm in your life. You get tossed about a bit then end up resting on the sand or in-between crevices of stones. While being tossed, you get your edges smoothed, what was once interior (like lime) is brought to the surface to become more beautiful than before. A little pitted,frosty and smoothed out. More beautiful! There is story and history in a shard of sea glass, just like in you and Brooke. Good job Mom! Fair Winds and Calm Seas, Deborah Leon

  16. She’s found her happy place! I know and everyone hear knows the heartache of watching your child march to a different beat while the other kids follow along. But when it’s matched with joy like this … wow … it makes your heart skip a beat to even be in the presence of such pure, sparkling joy.

    And you, you who love your girl so achingly, helped her find a place to feel the joy.

  17. what a delight it is to see her in those pictures…such a gift, that one. super cute with her own dance moves…she may very well take over teaching duties…within a few weeks the class will be dancing The Brooke Dance, moving free, looking happy, enjoying their new style. i like the cross pollination that can occurr in moments like this: she’ll see how a group moves…and the group will see how an individual moves. beautiful thing.

  18. She is herself and she is free. That is the utmost goal for our children, and for us all. LOVED this and of course, loved the pictures. I also loved the stars you put between each one – maybe it’s the designer in me, but I thought it was very symbolic of how sparkly your girl is.

    XO R

  19. My granddaughter, Isabella, is a vivacious four year old with autism. She, too, dances. A dance school at least 45 minutes away from here is starting a special needs class and I hope and pray for the strength to be able to take her whilst her mom is working.

    Thank you for this wonderful blog site!

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