Having a role model is an important part of our growth as individuals. A “benchmark” of ourAntonio Bandaras growth, so to speak. A measurement of our achievement. We use it for our character development, our physical growth and our artistic endeavor. Often we categorize and compartmentalize our growth as human beings instead of looking at the whole picture, the whole man. When we do that I believe we limit our potential.

The arts give us the opportunity to be that “whole man.” In our development as a performer we are challenged to grow intellectually, strengthen our physical prowess, and hue out an artistry that represents who we are and what we wish to portray. I decry the fact that when a budgetary crisis looms the first budget cut is often the arts.

There is an Horatio Alger story in the dance world that always makes me smile when I think of it. Dancing Classrooms, founded by Pierre DuLaine, is a true stroke of genius. If you’ve seen Mad Hot Ballroom or the fictionalized version Take the Lead, beautifully portrayed by Antonio Bandaras (pictured above), Dancing Classroomsyou’ll understand why I trumpet this program. It’s very success is not the obvious. It is not about dance. Dance is the means to which a higher purpose is served. Dancing Classrooms heralds the very qualities that develop successful individuals. It celebrates cultures, builds self-esteem, develops healthy bodies, oh, and by the way, gives us something beautiful to watch.

Building a program such as this one is no mean feat. Anyone who has ever constructed curriculum for multi-levels of dance can tell you how involved it is. But the curriculum is a small part of establishing the program. Acceptance of a program of this sort in the public schools is a tall order. Success of the program needs total buy-in from school officials and school boards. It needs parent involvement from the very parents who are stretched so thin just trying to get food on the table, hold families together, and just see that their kids get to school. Then, of course, the students need to be won over. That’s where the phenomenal teaching artists come in. They are the role models I mentioned in the first paragraph. Their professional artistry is unquestionable. Their desire to mentor is legion and their character exemplary. Some dance teachers are so busy crafting “show dancers” that they lose sight of their student’s character. These teachers are igniting the fires that develop our future leaders.