It has never occurred to me to say this in writing, but the reason we do not have photographs on this site of the children we work with - is because they are children - and frequently the Mothers themselves are legally children as well. I received a thoughtful question about this. Virtually all our work is with children in protective shelters - so we vigilantly guard them and their privacy. Not to do so would be to endanger them. So thank you for asking the question and giving us the opportunity to explain. We are always happy to discuss Dance to Live with anyone. My email is included in each report.
From our website - "Dance to Live! provides grants for expressive movement and dance therapy in memory of Michelle Parma. Our mission is to raise funds to support community programs that provide dance therapy as a means of expression, connection, co-operation, an outlet for emotion and a source of joy. Dance to Live uses dance therapy to connect beauty with one’s self." The previous sentence expresses what we accomplish at Nexus Recovery Center.
The adolescent girls we work with have already experienced poverty, dead-end education, hopelessness, drug addiction - and ever more frequently single motherhood. The children are housed at the residential shelter with their mothers and we have had an explosion of young children in our classes. Since most of these children are developmentally delayed (because of their home environment) we work with the school to tailor classes around what they are currently being taught. At this point, we are dividing our children's classes into two groups - the very young children and then the elementary age children. Their mothers all attend one adolescent movement class where lesson plans are coordinated with the counseling and educational staff and developed by Dance To Live to address their most pressing needs. Frequently that need is an alternate means of expression - some form of outlet for emotions other than words.
The environment which these girls and the children inhabit is so different from most of the lives we live. But Dance To Live can make a difference. They have come to Nexus for help - either through their own volition or court ordered. They will receive weeks of counseling with their children and peers, education and tutoring, and lots and lots of group work and play. We are proud to be part of that healing process and we very much thank you for your involvement in Dance To Live.
When I visited in December, a new group of children had just entered Nexus Recovery Center with their Moms. I joined the children’s class.
Whereas the kids Lynn works with on a regular basis are thrilled to see her - these children were apprehensive of a new person and what was expected of them. Lynn got out her "dots" and spread them in a circle on the floor. Each child sat on a dot - and we began the movement period with music and games.
The games involved moving with colored scarves and taking turns dancing in the center of a circle when your color was called, Yoga poses, a story book followed by questions about the child's favorite part of the story, stuffed animals (each child chooses an animal and then makes the sound of the animal or walks like the animal), and a piece of Christmas tinsel under which the children crawl/slide/slither and then later jump over.
One of the boys seemed incapable of participating. When all the other children would sit, he would remain standing and seemed oblivious to what Lynn had asked him to do - and also, totally unaware that the children around him were having fun. He watched or stared out into space but never participated in the class. He was not a problem and we would speak to him using his name, but he was unresponsive. We knew there were no physical problems - it just seemed he couldn't connect. I turned my attention to others in the room - and later when I looked back, he was sitting on his dot on the floor - smiling - not participating yet - but smiling. Next time...............
I was so happy to see progress in just that one class, as the children began to meet expectations and participate fully in the movement program - and relax and enjoy the experience.. The feeling in the room went from concern (doing something new) to enthusiasm and smiles. That’s just how fun Dance To Live is!
Thank you for supporting Dance to Live! We all need to dance a bit and shrug off life's problems. One hundred percent of your donations go directly to providing services to the children. Without your help we would not be able to affect a positive change in these children's lives. We are grateful.
Susan Parma, President - Susan.Parma@DanceToLive.org
Thanks to all of you who have supported Dance to Live throughout the years. We are working hard to provide movement as a healthy and effective method for an adolescent to transcend the challenges of the moment and work toward emotional and physical wellbeing.
It's difficult to imagine that another year has almost gone by and we will be starting our 7th year at Nexus Recovery Center - a residential treatment center where adolescent women receive treatment for drug addiction while their children reside with them at the center. The women and children attend school plus counseling sessions, both individual and group.
Added to this mixture of treatment, Dance to Live offers classes in Yoga and therapeutic dance, both to the mothers and their children – who are as much victims of their mother’s drug addiction as the mothers themselves.
Some of these young women have had lives so confusing that it is difficult for them to express what they are feeling. Movement transcends all languages and allows the women to express themselves in ways that otherwise they would not be able to. Dance to Live works on trust and supportive relationships– pairing individuals in Yoga and dance moves where success is dependent on both parties.
We continue to be impressed as we facilitate the girls and their children on ways to express feeling through movement, support other young women in their group, appreciate what is being offered to them, and voice love and gratitude for members of their family who they know care about them.
The first time I attended one of the Nexus classes was near Thanksgiving 6 years ago. Our dance therapist, Lynn, asked the girls to express what they were grateful for. I was truly surprised to realize that these young women felt “loved” by their families- that they realized others in their lives cared very deeply for them. I honestly thought that they would be disenfranchised from their families – but that wasn’t the case.
Perhaps because Nexus exists to work with adolescent females, particularly girls with children, they are not yet hardened addicts. However, on the same day of my first visit the girls had just received the news that 2 of their friends who had recently been released, overdosed and died on cheese heroine on the same weekend they left Nexus. The girls in class were struggling with grief and the realization that they were not so different from their deceased friends.
We hope that accomplishments earned in the Dance To Live classes prepare these young women to succeed in other challenges. If one can master a difficult Yoga pose, the balance required for that transcends into other aspects of their lives. Exercise, expression, music, motion, release from daily struggles in a healthful setting – all these are tools for their future survival.
This holiday season, Dance To Live is grateful for your support. As Michelle once wrote -
“When I was dancing, I could be anyone. I took all my anger, the love, and the disappointment that was hidden deep inside my soul and let it burst out through my body. I always knew I was OK when I was dancing, that things would work out after all and that tomorrow would be a brighter, new day.”
We wish for you a holiday season filled with love and friendship. Thank You!
Susan Parma, - Susan.Parma@DanceToLive.org
Nexus Recovery Center is a facility where addicted adolescents girls and their children come to begin their journey into a new, drug-free life. They are provided shelter for several weeks as well as counseling, both individual and group. They learn to live without drugs and they meet mentors who return to demonstrate that each of them can successfully survive and thrive, without drugs, in a complicated and difficult world.
So many of these young women come from cultures where out-of wedlock children are part of the norm, but the culture does not teach the educational, vocational, or personal skills necessary to provide a healthy and stimulating environment for their children. Failure at the one thing that is supposedly thought to be the "best" experience of their lives - motherhood - frequently is one of the factors that that plays into their addiction - plus so many of their friends are in the same situation and using as well.
But motherhood is also the impetus for these young girls to lead better lives. The welfare of their children frequently is the biggest motivation to get clean – that and the fact that a judge may have offered Nexus as an alternative to prison and being separated from their children.
Dance to Live is one of the healing cogs in their road to recovery. The population changes every few months - so it is necessary to tailor our classes to those who are currently in residence. With the children we frequently inter-mingle games with movement exercises or Yoga. The games stress cooperation, respect for the space of others, enthusiasm, joy and pride in accomplishments. Yoga, which requires balance and control, is frequently conducted in pairs to demonstrate that they can count on one another.
The Moms' classes are much like their children’s but demand more focus. The movements are challenging, group exercises insist that each pairing is with a different young woman - and, yes, they dance sometimes to favorite music which is chosen by vote. Ultimately as well as providing a safe, challenging, learning environment, we want to see smiles. These young women have had too few opportunities to smile.
As Michelle, for whom this site is in memory, said -" I always knew I was OK when I was dancing, that things would work out after all and that tomorrow would be a brighter, new day."
May 15, 2014
This afternoon I visited the Dance To Live pre-K class at Nexus Recovery Center. I never cease to marvel that these small children have already faced such difficult lives and yet, when presented with the option of joy, display such resilience.
When the dance therapist, Lynn Moon and I arrived, the children’s faces lit up with anticipation. Of the 14 pre-K children, 8 were selected by their teachers to participate in today’s class. Lynn manages to seamlessly integrate movement and learning. For instance, today we started with a song about rocket ships. While singing the words to the song, we also simulated “countdown to launch” and then whooshing into the air with arms uplifted. The song requires body movement, using fingers to count down and attention – attention is important because many of these children have been put aside as their mom struggled with addiction.
Next - out came a bag of colored scarves. The children could wad the scarves up and catch them with various body parts called out by Lynn. Catch the scarves on their backs, on their shoulders, with their elbows, on their heads and tummies. Then Lynn reinforced colors by asking the person with the red scarf to step into the circle, do a dance and then step out --- until each color was called, responded to, and each person had an opportunity to perform.
This was followed by a game with dinosaurs. After pulling different plastic dinosaurs out of a box, Lynn asked questions about each type of dinosaur - what each type liked to eat, etc., and then the children mimicked the different shapes of the dinosaurs – like stretching out to eat the leaves high on the trees, or growling to eat meat, putting their hands on their backs to make the spikes of a Stegosaurus or flapping their arms to become a flying Pterodactyl. A book was read about dinosaurs eating at the family table and using good table manners – followed by a round of the children saying what healthy food they liked best.
Next it was the time for each child to jump up, say his or her name and then shout, “I am wonderful!!” And they mean it and feel it in that safe space.
We closed by sitting quietly, breathing in and out through our noses 5 times and sending out good thoughts to everyone in the world.
Class time – 45 minutes – attention and focus – 45 minutes!! Movement, games, learning, cooperating, taking turns, acknowledging and affirming one another – an uplifting experience – one well suited to the memory of Michelle who said:
Project Reports on GlobalGiving are posted directly to globalgiving.org by Project Leaders as they are completed, generally every 3-4 months. To protect the integrity of these documents, GlobalGiving does not alter them; therefore you may find some language or formatting issues.
If you donate to this project or have donated to this project, you will get an e-mail when this project posts a report. You can also subscribe for reports via e-mail without donating or by subscribing to this project's RSS feed.