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:
“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.”
Last week on the news, a Dallas Metroplex high school was spotlighted again for an exponential rise in drug use among its students. It is the same high school where several cheese heroin deaths were reported a few years ago.
One of the agencies that responds to this crisis is Nexus Recovery Center. It has specifically targeted this type of drug use, so common among adolescents – and particularly adolescent females. And within this population are a significant number of adolescent mothers.
The impact on children of young mothers debilitated by drugs is beyond the imagination of most of us – but more and more frequently the court system is sending these girls and their impacted children to Nexus Recovery Center for long-term treatment and care. At Nexus, the girls detox, live in dorms with one another, share their life stories in counseling sessions with other adolescent women in the same circumstance, and receive parenting classes as well attending school on campus 5 days a week for 6 hours per day. Their children attend a nearby elementary school.
The Adolescent Residential program is based on the 12 steps and addresses issues such as anger management, decision-making, healthy relationships and socialization, relapse prevention, physical fitness, and life skills training.
Within this structured and stable environment, Dance to Live offers 4 classes of movement therapy each month, and we have been doing that for the past 6 years. Our certified dance therapist works with the adolescents and their children in separate classes to inspire health, physical endurance, self-esteem and confidence through different types of movement. Feelings which are impossible to put into words can be expressed and released through movement.
One hundred percent of your donation is used to provide services. We are very, very grateful for your support. Our goal is to give to each child, for their future, the tool of movement as a means of expression. Thank you!
Dance To Live continues to conducted 4 classes per month at the Nexus Recovery Center. The need for treatment for teenage addiction is not abating and, if one factors in the impact of such addiction on the children of those teens, then the imperative to offer assistance to these young mothers becomes abundantly clear.
Nexus Recovery Center is a place to recover from addiction and learn life skills among adolescent females who are all struggling with the same problem. These are young women who want to be good mothers – but just don’t know how to cope. Frequently, they’ve had little education, were pregnant in their early teens and live in a culture where becoming a mother at an early age is, if not expected, is accepted.
We are impressed as we facilitate the girls and their children to learn how to express feelings 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 girls are young and hopeful, and because of this we know we can make a difference in their confidence, trust, strength (both physical and mental), and performance. Accomplishments earned in the Dance To Live classes prepare them 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.
We continue to be rewarded by our contact with these adolescents. They are young and strong and possess the ability and the desire to make changes to their lifestyle. By the mere fact that their children are housed at the treatment center with them and receive classes from Dance To Live, albeit separate classes that are choreographed for their age group, they share a common healing experience with their mothers.
Thanks to all of you who have supported Dance To Live in its mission to provide movement as a healthy and effective method for a child to transcend the challenges of the moment and to work toward emotional and physical wellbeing. It is a means of expression, connection, co-operation, an outlet for emotion and a source of joy for children of all ages, backgrounds and physical abilities.
Nexus Recovery Center continues to be a successful challenge for Dance To Live. It fulfills our mission statement.
"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 last sentence so very well 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 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 developed to address their most pressing needs.
It's September now, and before we know it the holidays will be here. Observing a class at Nexus last Thanksgiving was a surprising lesson in gratitude. We sat in a circle after the class and each of us said what we were grateful for. So many adolescents expressed gratitude for support from specific family members. So many knew they were loved and had not been abandoned. There was so much hope and raw love in the room. This is why we have made Nexus Recovery Center one of our projects. We sincerely appreciate your support through donations which allow this work to continue.
Susan Parma - Susan.Parma@DanceToLive.org
Nexus is a residential treatment center for female adolescents recovering from drug addiction and a shelter for their children as well. Dance To Live has been offering services at Nexus for the past five and one half years. Nexus Recovery Center receives our services twice a month, with 2 classes per session - one for the younger children (the children of the addicted adolescents) and one for the young women themselves. We work with adolescents and children in separate classes to inspire health, physical endurance, self-esteem and confidence through different types of movement. Feelings which are impossible to put into words can be expressed and released through movement.
The population changes every few months - so it is necessary to tailor 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. Participants applaude the successes of others as well as their own. 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."
Thank you for helping us make a brighter day in the lives of these young women. One hundred percent of your donation is used to provide services. We are very, very grateful for your support.
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