I have always been drawn to the idea of community. Over the years, the idea of what a community is has changed for me. It has developed, grown and transformed me as I have aged, had children, taught, watched my own children grow, my students graduate, and my parents age.
Having been the ninth biological child in my family and then having 11 foster brothers and sisters over my childhood has also really shifted my idea of what community means to me. My younger brother Jason, had Down syndrome. He moved in with us when he was three and lived with us my whole life. Other foster children who were a part of my family had varied abilities and came from diverse cultural backgrounds.
Celebrate the Diversity of Community
I have seen first-hand the challenges of being in such a diverse household with so many people, with their unique needs and differences.
At the same time, I have also felt the extraordinary richness that evolved from this. I am profoundly grateful to my parents for their unyielding vision to raise their children to see beyond sameness, and to see all of our wholeness.
At 17 years of age, just after graduating from high school, I moved from British Columbia to Ottawa to live in community at L’Arche. I was so excited about the idea of not working in a ’group home’ mindset, but being part of a community of people with and without disabilities, living together. We supported each other, cooked together, and helped each other to be our best selves. I lived at L’Arche for a year and my experience was profound. It was actually also where I met my husband, who stayed at L’Arche for 4 years.
Dandelion Dance is now expanding in September to add many more classes for girls and young women. As I plan with the Board of Directors and the teachers who will be working with us, we are holding firmly to our vision of establishing a community and not simply running and offering dance classes.
This community of girls and young women dance together, grow together over the years, celebrate and learn from each other’s creativity. Our community of teachers, students, families, alumni, and volunteers feel they belong. Here their unique gifts can be heard and felt.
Build a Sharing and Strong Community
What I enjoy so much about working with the young women in Dandelion is getting to know them outside of dancing together. I believe this approach not only builds a sense of community, but also supports our dance and creative exploration as well. Playing, travelling, and sharing meals together reminds us of our shared humanity. It is one of the most important things to remember as artists, as we collectively create. At Dandelion, we truly are a community. It is one of the biggest gifts in my life.
The photos you see are pictures of us going out for Ethiopian food together a few weeks ago. It was so lovely to spend time together sharing a meal. For most of us, it was our first time having Ethiopian food and we enjoyed the large shared plates and eating with our hands as there was no cutlery.
Jean Vanier, the Founder of L’Arche, wrote many books that speak to what being in community can give us. They include: ‘Becoming Human’, ‘From Brokenness to Community’, and ‘Community and Growth’. In a time and culture where independence is seen as the ultimate goal, it is so lovely to read books that speak to our interdependence and the gifts of needing each other.
Strength in Community
I also thought I’d share a video that the young Dandelion women created, called ‘Strength in Community’. They came up with such a simple concept. Yet, it was so inspiring and powerful. The entire concept and creation was done by them, not me. I am blessed to part of such a nourishing community.