Article originally posted as ‘The Home of New Beginnings' in 5678MeganIbrahim. Republished here with permission.
Imagine you’re seven years old. You love music; you can’t keep your feet still when you hear a song you like. Beats sound in your brain, your fingers tap and feet shuffle. You’ve spent your whole life clapping, grooving and dancing – at home, in the car, supermarket, wherever you can. You’d like to learn more, feel more confident, share your passion with other kids….. but you’re a boy and you don’t know how.
Your sisters take dance lessons, they’ve learned ballet, tap and jazz from when they were three years old. Your mum says you can join them but you’re not so sure. You don’t think you’ll feel comfortable in a room of pink leotards and Disney songs. You love dancing with them at home, copying their moves, learning step ball changes and other steps that intrigue you. But being the only boy in a room full of girls just doesn’t feel right.
You’d like to be brave, to not care what people will think… but you do care and you don’t know how to change that.
This was my son. He played basketball and enjoyed gymnastics and swimming lessons. He was no stranger to hard work, commitment and loved to try new things but, as much as he desperately wanted to learn to dance, he just didn’t feel he could join what he saw as a ‘regular’ dance class full of girls. His dad and I encouraged him, but it wasn’t until we found Off The Street that things began to fall in to place.
In my search for a class that might ‘fit’ I spoke to Tania from Tania Robins Academy of Dance and Drama; she had worked with Megan and Pete for a long time and advocated OTS’s philosophy of hip hop and breaking being an inclusive ‘way of life’ rather than just a dance class. She encouraged me to bring Master 7, meet them and try a hip hop/breaking class. So, after lots of fast talking, encouraging (and a little bit of reverse psychology), we drove to the hall on a rainy winter’s night. He was nervous but positive and full of ‘I can do this’ – until we got there and he planted his feet, stood in the rain and downright refused to go in. Unfortunately, (for him), he gets his stubbornness from me and I wasn’t taking no for an answer, so we eventually made it into the hall. I imagine he was dying a thousand deaths when I spoke to Pete and Megan. He hated my guts – I may never forget the glares sent my way when Pete told him to join the warm up.
Let’s face facts – he was seven years old, uncoordinated, embarrassed, nervous and angry with his mum. Yet he was brave. He did the warm up and tried hard to fit in to the routine even though he didn’t have a clue. There were boys and girls in the class – but they all knew each other so he felt awkward and uncomfortable. But he stuck it out.
Now, imagine you’re twelve years old. You’re starting high school, learning the ropes and meeting your teachers and the other kids. You’re nervous, desperately hoping people will like you and you’ll find someone to hang with at lunchtime. You go to camp for a week and, once you get back, you have a ‘debrief’ where you share your experiences from camp and your first couple of weeks at high school.
The teacher challenges you with ’tell us something we don’t know about you’ and your response, head held high, is ‘I dance.’
People are surprised, some want to know more, some snigger but you don’t care. You’re proud to say you study hip hop and breaking, you’ve choreographed routines, you’ve helped plan and run concerts, you’ve even done some professional gigs. You still care what people think but now, five years on, what you care about is that people know the real you. The you who has always loved music, always expressed himself through dance. The you you’re proud to be.