I firmly believe we are all deeply creative. Carving out the time and space to create is a vital tool to begin to practice the art of seeing what is not yet there.
One of the unique aspects of the work I do with children is to have the children create in every single class and share it. This process becomes second nature to them. They are not thinking of themselves as choreographers or artists. They don’t see it as a big thing, where they need to feel stressed because they are worried about an audience, or how they will be perceived. These children fall into the creative process very naturally. It is regular and consistent. They are given the tools to not simply learn to dance, but to create.
At Dandelion, we provide our students with different opportunities to see themselves and the world in new ways. We work indoors and outdoors. They experiment with fabrics, leaves, Jell-O, poetry, painting with their feet. We work with any medium that can inspire authentic tactile or emotional exploration. It doesn’t matter whether what they create is ‘good’ or ‘inspiring’ to others. What’s important is that they do it and that the process itself is rewarding and fulfilling.
This aspect of children creating is one of the things that called me into this work 16 years ago when I opened my dance school. I wanted to provide a space where children could discover this capacity in themselves. I wanted to offer a place where children of all abilities and body types could practice the art of creating by taking what was inside of them and making it visible.
The Impact of Creating On the Students
What I didn’t know then, was the effect it would have on children. The practice of creating from nothing, every week, would have a profound effect and impact reaching far beyond their dance and art experience.
Children begin to see what does not yet exist. They learn that they can create from nothing. This powerful knowledge can bleed into the rest of their life experience. They are enabled to share their work in powerfully adept ways and discover that their voice does count. They are given a sense of their own innate capacity and encouraged to see themselves as leaders.
They literally see that nothing was initially there and now there is something. What was simply an idea has transformed into something concrete right before their eyes. Doing this weekly, over years, creates a depth of experience to know, and maybe more importantly, feel that one does not simply have to do what one sees. One can create something new. What you see is not all there is.
I have been a mother for 23 years and have also worked with children within my dance school, supporting them in creating for 16 of these years. I have had ample time to watch children create and be profoundly moved by the process.
The Educator’s Gift Is to See Strength in Each Child
As I watch children see what is not yet there, I have been moved to reflect on what this means for myself in my own work with children. I take on this learning curve for myself as a parent and an educator.
I must grasp this even more fully than the students I teach, to better support my students in discovering their best selves. As I ask my students to see what is not yet there, I need to extrapolate this by seeing in my own students what is not yet there.
I need to see that kernel of beauty inside my most challenging students so that they too may see that beauty. I need to be their eyes for them. To see beyond the defensiveness or insecure young woman that may be in front of me. To imagine the most extraordinary human I could ever teach. I need to teach each child fully believing that, that is who they already are. I do this so that they too may have the gift of seeing themselves through my eyes.
This is not always easy. It can be hard. It can be hard with my challenging students and it can be hard with my own children and I definitely do not do it perfectly. But it is always what I lean into. It is what I strive for, especially when children really cannot see their gifts. Perhaps I, too, am struggling to see them. I must use all my creative capacities to see what will be there.
So now when I work with a student who hasn’t yet seen her beautiful self, I will see her in all her glory before it happens, so that she may know her beauty is seen. I have not yet ever been proven wrong.
For every girl and young woman I have taught who stood before me insecure, homeless, poor, angry, feeling ugly, believing herself boring, stupid, or those simply disconnected from their innate abilities, I have ended up seeing extraordinary beauty, strength, passion and ability.
This is what calls me to be an educator. It is what gives me life. I am so grateful to be a practitioner of seeing what is not yet there.