Safiyyah Rasool is a dancer and artist/educator who performs and teaches in Kentucky. She recently led a dance workshop at The Home of the Innocents (Louisville, KY) on behalf of The Kentucky Center's Arts In Healing program. In her workshop, she helped teenage residents to understand that dance is not only an avenue of self-expression and a way to have fun, but also a way to learn to trust yourself.
Safiyyah had this to say about her experience working with teenagers at HOTI:
"I went into this workshop very nervous and excited! I got to meet some of these teenagers prior to the workshop, which is rare. When I met them, I was wearing my corporate work gear! The teen girls looked at me, judging me by my appearance, as if I wasn't a dancer. Working with traumatized and troubled kids can be challenging. You must meet them at their level, not above, not below. The way I was dressed seemed to intimidate the girls. I represented someone with authority. From their perspective, "authority" carries a negative connotation. So our initial meeting was not very inviting.
"I came back for the workshop as "me," a dancer. As I was setting up for my performance, a young girl came up and introduced herself out of the blue. She told me she was also a dancer, that she loves to dance. Then she hugged me goodbye and went on her way. Her hug was so sweet and innocent! That hug relaxed me and reminded me why I love working with kids. They just want to be loved and respected...that is all! I can give them that all day, every day!
"The teens I had encountered previously didn't even recognize me when they entered the workshop. They were very excited and smiling. I always start the workshop with an icebreaker. My main focus is engaging the participants. I ask them to introduce themselves and state why they want to participate in the activity. I proceeded to tell them about Hip Hop dance, and dance in general. Most importantly, I let them know that through dance, you can build self-confidence. Through dance, you can learn to trust yourself.
"Now my workshops are all about fun. Mistakes are perfectly alright. Participation is what matters. In fact, my motto is "Practice makes Permanent." After the icebreaker, I took the students through a brief warm-up and then began to teach them a few short dances.
"I noticed that some of the kids didn't want to dance in front of their peers. They became nervous. As we were working, I talked to them about respect...respect for me, respect for themselves, respect for the other students in the room. A young man became frustrated during the dance, and decided to leave. I talked to him, but never pressured him to stay. I realize these young people have a lot on their minds, and I want to make sure I'm not contributing to their frustration.
"Overall the workshop went very well! The students enjoyed themselves. At the end of the workshop, the kids had learned a short routine which they performed for the staff. After the performance, the kids showed me their moves and asked when I was coming back. I was very delighted! My experience was definitely fun-filled."
The Kentucky Center's Arts in Healing program provides opportunities for people to encounter an artistic experience in a traditional healthcare environment. We believe that the shared experience of artistic creativity contributes to the well-being of patients, families and staff. For more information on this program, contact Jeff Jamner, firstname.lastname@example.org.