Empowerment Through Dance

By Leia C. Ficks, 11th Grade Student at Farmington High School

I am an avid dancer. For almost every day as long as I can remember, I have put on dance shoes and gone to class at a studio near my home. I have also had the good fortune of living in Farmington and attending the Farmington public schools with mandatory art classes, and thus, have had near daily exposure to some form of artistic exercise. This has included, for example, chorus, band, ceramics and photography. For some who are either less fortunate or live in less affluent communities, these artistic opportunities are lacking or are simply not available. The arts are critical to the physical, spiritual and emotional development and maturation of young girls. Countries that consistently rank among the highest in testing for math and science such as Japan, Hungary and the Netherlands have mandatory art programs.

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I find dancing to be wonderfully artistic and therapeutic. Because of this, I have started a weekly dance class at the Boys and Girls Club of  New Britain. This class exposes those with limited access to this art form such freedom and joy. I feel empowered during – and after- the class. My girls have told me that they look forward to the class each week, and I enjoy teaching new dance moves and providing an outlet for their abundant energy. I also teach them to respect their bodies and show them that when they do that, the possibilities are endless. Dance also works wonders for a girl’s self-esteem. Perhaps a friend or a family member has told the young lady that she is “worthless,” or something worse. I show my girls, through the power of dance, that they are valued, loved and important. I also try to teach them to appreciate beauty in whatever form it takes, including in the form of a dancer. Walking into class week after week and hearing “Hi Leia, I remember the dance from last week!” is the greatest gift ever.

Some of my peers have asked “Why do you do this if they aren’t ‘dancers’?”  I do it for a few simple reasons: I strive to empower these young girls and give them access to different forms of art which can be lacking in some communities. Even though they may not go on to become professional dancers, dance can still be a hobby for life (not to mention an exercise which promotes a healthy lifestyle.)  I also do it to “give back” to this amazing organization and for many years in the future, I plan on continuing community service as such. Even when I am in college, I will give back to the community by teaching girls the art that has been such a significant part of my life. I also teach dance in order to lead by example, as I have a younger sister. I feel it is important to show her the joy that can come from the sharing of one’s time and talents.

Expression through different types of art such as dance is essential, and unfortunately many young girls growing up today do not have exposure to the arts. It may not be a big or “popular” issue like equal pay or employment opportunities, but to me it is equally important and very real. I am doing all I can in my power to change that.

This blog post was an entry into Young Women Rising’s annual essay contest in which 11th grade students were asked, “What is one of the most important issues facing young women today and how do you see yourself having an impact on that issue?”

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