Skip to main content

I can’t dance. When the music starts playing, I can only manage to flail around like I’m the Scarecrow from the Wizard of Oz. It doesn’t help that I’m built like that scarecrow too. My lanky arms and legs have no grace, jerking around like the limbs of a spider. I never have any sort of sense of rhythm—a weakness I blame on my upbringing. When I was a child, my parents never played music on the radio. Rides to school were filled with either NPR (my mom) or sports radio (my dad). Neither of these had anything I could even tap my foot to. I’m taking time to explain my total lack of dancing skills to communicate how crazy it is that I’ve ended up at a jazz and hip-hop dance camp. This is an entirely new world for me. The stretching, mirroring, and constant repetition are all so strange to me.

DukeEngage students dancing with kids at Walltown Children's Theater
DukeEngage students stretching before rehearsal for their final performance with kids at the Walltown Children’s Theatre.

I did my best to learn alongside the kids, but there were points when the actual dance teachers simply could not break through my incompetence. Like sashaying, for instance. Miss Abby made it look effortless as she glided across the stage. In theory, it seems so easy, a simple union of foot and arm movement. In practice, however, I was terrible. I was incapable of turning what I saw into motion. There’s a reason I’m not a dancer or even a dance teacher. I lack the talent, commitment, and sheer experience that is essential for great performers, even the smaller doses the kids all have.

As an adult, I feel comfortable saying that dancing isn’t for me (and despite Kidznotes, the violin isn’t either). However, my first week at Walltown didn’t leave me discouraged, it made me happy. Here there are kids who have chosen to commit themselves to dance. They listen with attention and try their hardest to mimic the steps of the teachers. And the entire time, they’re having fun. Hopefully, Walltown will set them on a path where they don’t end up incapable of dancing at twenty years old. As a kid, it’s so important to be competent, to be able to do things yourself in the overwhelming world of adults. Walltown Children’s Theater teaches these kids to trust in their own competence— however nascent—and prepares them for a performance in just five days. I see this trust-building as the process of growing up.