… many of these kids that come to the studio are from less -than -fortunate home situations– where, if they weren’t so involved with dance, they might have ended up in gangs, drugs, or worse.
In the heart of almost every little girl, is the dream to be a ballerina.
Unfortunately, because of life, social, and sometimes traumatic circumstances, for many girls this remains an unfulfilled desire. A locally known, but well-kept secret– Northwest Dance Studio– is a humble little creative powerhouse that is making some waves, allowing the opportunity to make this dream come true for whosoever will…
Not only does owner/founder and principle Sarah Swindell have a vision to teach anyone to dance regardless of their history, financial status, or other limitations– these students are finding themselves saved, in more ways than one.
Many of these kids that come to the studio are from less -than -fortunate home situations– where, if they weren’t so involved with dance, they might have ended up in gangs, drugs, or worse. Several of Northwest Dance Company’s principle dancers were just such kids.
Bradley Wafer, a member of Northwest Dance, grew up in the surrounding Pine Hills neighborhood of Orlando– an area that is unfortunately known for being rough and riddled with violence. Bradley’s own brother was shot and killed at a young age. Wafer (as he is lovingly referred to as) tells us, “… I was going down a bad road. I found out about Northwest Dance from a friend of mine who invited me to one of their productions. It had a huge impact on me–and it made me want to be a part of what they were doing. Now I’m part of the Northwest Dance Company and it’s my passion. It gives me an opportunity to give back for the second chance I’ve been given.”
Northwest Dance Production Director Hana Boyce who is also a part of the Company writes: “I dreamed of dancing as a little girl, but that dream was quickly forgotten once faced with the trials and disappointments of growing up in a family that struggled with alcoholism, drug addiction and poverty. At the age of 13, I myself turned to drinking and drugs to try and mask the depression and heartbreak I felt. An acquaintance of mine invited me to a ‘Diaries’ performance by Northwest Dance Company when I was 16 years old. Because I identified with the story so much, I decided to take dance classes at the studio. There, I found friends who helped me break away from the cycle of addiction in my family, and I found a safe place where I could process and express my emotions. Now, over 6 years later, I’m the Production Director…”
DANCE AS THERAPY:
The idea of dance as a form of therapy is not without merit. Popular parenting website imom.com reports “…in one study, adolescent girls, all of whom had previously shown signs of low self-esteem and stress, had significant improvements after taking dance classes. Why? The consistent exercise the class provided, the social benefits of group activity, and the emotional upside of having a creative outlet.” *read more here.
There is actually such a thing as “dance therapy,” as is recognized by the The National Coalition of Creative Arts Therapies Associations, so the fact that many are claiming that their lives have greatly improved by being a part of Northwest Dance is not a stretch.
Perhaps the heart and drive for the students’ lives to become empowered through dance, comes because of Sarah’s own personal triumph over struggles with anorexia, among other commonly known issues that plague professional dancers. (Read Sarah’s Becoming Lovely story here). She was an apprentice at the Orlando Ballet from a very young age- and has been dancing professionally ever since.
This professionalism spills over into their roster. They offer all the “normal” classes a dance school would offer, but they also incorporate the use of acrobatic silks (think Cirque Du Soleil), Lyra (aerial hoops), and cubes, among other modern additions to the stage. They even have dance superstars come in to do special training with them on occasion, like Orlando Ballet Company dancer David Kiyak, and others that have performed in Disney shows and even Cirque du Soleil. To say that these kids are receiving the opportunity of a lifetime is an understatement.
The productions that Northwest Dance produces are up-to-par with any community theater (some would even say Broadway…) – but the stories that are being told are being done so from real life. You won’t find any kitschy dance recitals here. Even the “little ones” are incorporated into the high-quality masterpieces. All are done on a large scale, many of which are from a “Diary” series where dancers utilize artistic movement and expression to share and recover from traumatic moments in their own lives, most times being given the opportunity to tell their story to thousands of people. These “Diaries,” due to popularity, have traveled to other venues in the US, Europe and in South America.
The next installment that the Northwest Dance company is working on is called Maggie.
This production takes place in a modern setting inspired by the colorful movie “Moulin Rouge,” but is based loosely on the ancient story of Mary Magdalene, a prostitute who escapes death and destruction to find a new life through redemption and forgiveness. Throughout Maggie, dancers take the stage set in the seedy surroundings of a modern day bordello. There we meet Maggie, a young woman struggling to find a home. Drawn in by the charming and deceitful ringmaster, Maggie joins the brothel’s group of young women and begins the descent into their nightmarish underworld. The production, which includes aerial, modern and ballet dance supported by video scenery and original music written and recorded just for the production, follows Maggie’s journey from seemingly finding the answer to her hopes and dreams, to learning how forgiveness and personal redemption can set her free from the past and empower her to receive a new vision of herself and her future.
We here at the Lovely Project are happy and proud to partner with and support Northwest Dance because we have the same goal~ to empower girls to pursue their dreams and to be all they want to be! As a matter of fact, several of the dancers that will be performing in this production are Lovely Girls! Many of which, you may have met through their Lovely Like Me stories here on the blog. If you are anywhere near Orlando, Florida the weekend of March 29th, you will not want to miss this show where you will meet some of the girls, and maybe even be find yourself saved… in more ways than one.
Watch the short teaser for MAGGIE below…