Annika, you have been part of Dandelion since it was first known as Tournesol. You then joined our Performance Company when you were in high school, and now you're one of our most passionate alumni! Can you tell us how Dandelion made a difference in your life while you were growing up?
I joined Tournesol when I was seven years old. I had just moved to Ottawa and was beginning at a new school, making new friends, and going through a huge change. A change that was tough to navigate. I remember that when I was at my new school, I would stick with my sister during recess and follow her and her friends. I was a very shy and introverted girl and had a hard time adjusting to a new environment.
My mom enrolled me into Tournesol (which is what Dandelion was originally called), and things started to change for me! I looked forward to Hannah’s weekly dance classes, as it was a space where I felt safe. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t blossom into an extroverted social butterfly! Instead, it was something even more beautiful: I was allowed to be myself and grow at a pace that I was comfortable with. The power of being in an inclusive environment is very impactful. It is what allowed me to discover myself.
Dance is a tool for expression and story-telling, but I’ve never heard of any other dance program like Dandelion’s, which embraces the power of dance and provides young women such a unique opportunity. The program was a huge part of my youth, and continued to be a place I called home in my teenage years as well. I auditioned for Dandelion’s Performance Company in grade 10 and was part of the Company for two years. This was one of the most amazing experiences I’ve ever had. I will always cherish my time with the Company. I was amongst other young women who had deep passions for issues like the environment, self-expression, education, self-love, the ocean, friendships, human-rights, and more. And Dandelion gave us all a place to explore those passions and bring our thoughts and ideas out into the open.
What have you been doing since you graduated from the Performance Company?
After I graduated from the Performance Company, I took a gap year to continue my self-exploration and to discover new opportunities and parts of the world. I moved to New Zealand and was an au pair for a couple of months, travelled across Europe, drove across Canada with my best friend, and worked the rest of the time.
After one year of travelling and working, I made the decision to move to The Netherlands for my Bachelors’ degree. This was a huge decision, as it required me to start a new life in a new city by myself, far away from my home – outside of my comfort zone. My experience at Dandelion gave me the courage and resilience to take this step. During my years with Dandelion, I was in awe of all the other young women that always embraced new adventures and had so much courage to be vulnerable and to try new things. This allowed me to envision something new for myself, too. In fact, each and every member inspired me in some way and empowered me to discover new paths.
Now, I’m living in Amsterdam and am in my second year of my Bachelor programme, Creative Business. I also work for a non-profit that provides students to have hands-on experience with social enterprises that are centred around sustainability. I truly believe that it is because of Dandelion that I am where I am today.
Annika, why do you think that Dandelion's programs are so important for girls and young women?
Dandelion’s programs provide an environment that empowers girls and young women to voice their passions, and dare to dream of new paths for themselves that they might never have thought would be possible for them to pursue. And it allows every girl to share her stories and passions in a way that comes from within herself. We all have a story or a passion to share, and dance is an amazing tool to express ourselves and to encourage social change.
The Dandelion experience is unique for every girl, because every girl is supported to go through her own discovery process. But no matter what, it shapes girls and young women to be strong, and wonderful human beings, because it celebrates diversity, discovery of ourselves and others in our community, in a safe and encouraging space.
In closing, we'd love to hear your hopes and dreams for our community and our world. What do you wish for our collective future?
My dream for Dandelion is that the organization grows, and continues to curate a safe and special space that will empower many, many, many more girls and young women to be the person they want to be. As a young woman, I think it is so valuable to have a community like Dandelion for all other girls and young women, and that everyone should have this opportunity.
I will forever cherish my time with Dandelion, and always consider myself to be a part of this amazing community, which I love so much.