“It was the best day of my life!” –MHBT Student

There are two beautiful bouquets sitting on our conference table. Energy snacks and drinks are in the refrigerator. Family and friends know this is a crazy week at Danceworks as we’re days away from the 7th annual Mad Hot Ballroom and Tap Competition at BMO Harris Bradley Center.

Entering the BMO Harris Bradley Center Bowl Photo credit:   Mark Frohna
Entering the BMO Harris Bradley Center Bowl
Photo credit: Mark Frohna

They have sent these gifts to keep us smiling—and we are.

We have a lot of great memories… How about Debbie Payden volunteering to project manage the program our first year?! I honestly don’t know how we would have done it without her. Her church even sent along hams to feed the kids! Her daughter Rachel Payden is now our full-time Outreach Director.

We’re always looking for the perfect formula to give as many students as possible the opportunity to dance at BMO Harris Bradley Center every year. There was the time we let all those not chosen to compete dance in between the rounds of the competitors. These students were having so much fun that they would exit the bowl and run to find anyone they could grab to go out and dance with them again. It didn’t matter what school they were from—all that mattered was that they knew the dance.  When Liz Tesch, our project manager for many years, realized what was happening, she didn’t have the heart to stop them. “That’s what the program is all about,” she exclaimed.  Sheer chaos?  Possibly.  Sheer joy?  Absolutely!  Thank goodness for staff, faculty, volunteers and  community who understand this program is more about breaking down the barriers that divide people than learning perfect dance steps.  That was our longest competition in history.

Watching their team on the Jumbotron
Watching their team on the Jumbotron
Photo credit: Mark Frohna

We’ve made mistakes and learned from them, while many teachers, principals, families and friends who come to watch have supported us and cheered on the students. They understand that Mad Hot offers much more than dance instruction. It’s a beacon of hope for many students and for our community.

The health of urban youth is reaching a critical point. While we don’t claim to solve these challenges, we do offer young people a chance to find joy in movement. When the program ends, many are transformed and seek outlets to continue creative expression and physical activity.  Through our MPS Partnership funding, we are able to provide scholarships to our dance classes, creative arts camps and school day off workshops for students wanting to continue on. Danceworks Youth Performance Company provides an opportunity for serious students to perform.

If you need a little hope yourself, come experience this on May 18th. Let me know if you come. I’d love to say hi. Oops, gotta go—Debbie Payden just dropped off brownies!    —Deb Farris

trophy shot smaller (2)
Winning the trophy but really they are all winners!
Photo credit: Mark Frohna


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