As Director of Dandelion’s Performance Company, I am so excited to report that the Girls Leading Girls Tour has begun! We are proud to be traveling across the city to share our stories and to raise awareness about the issues that matter most to girls and young women in our community and world. And, on top of it, this year we are supporting girls at every tour stop to see their bodies in new and celebratory ways though a workshop component based on the theme, “The Best Part of Me.”
We had our official launch on October 10th at Joan of Arc Academy, the perfect first stop after more than 12 years of working with this fabulous community partner. We will visit 5 more schools before June – and we are already booking into next year. That is a testament to just how much the girls and young women in our community need this.
For my first post about this initiative, I wanted to share why it is so important for our Performance Company to share its work before student audiences across Ottawa. As we tour the city, the exceptional young women are bringing to the stage, and into the classroom, the issues of ageism, body image, hunger in our communities, disability rights, and an overarching celebration of life, storytelling, and togetherness.
These are all incredibly important topics – but perhaps the most exciting part is this: By simply getting up on stage or walking into a classroom, our Performance Company helps students and teachers rethink their preconceived notions about who can be a “leader” and who can be a “dancer”.
As a society, we tend to have quite narrow ideas about what a leader looks like and the same goes for dancers. It is the Performance Company’s goal to challenges these ideas and we take great pride in helping our audiences throw such notions out the window!
Leadership is generally understood to be embodied in words such as “strong,” “confident,” “outgoing”, or “charismatic.” Our collective consciousness all too often defaults to an image of a “leader” as someone who looks like the politicians and CEOs we so often see or hear about in the news. And we still often think of leadership in hierarchical terms.
A New Kind of Leadership
But what our Performance Company leaders bring to the table, and what I am most in awe of when my dancers take to the stage, is a new kind of leadership that is rooted in their willingness to be vulnerable and their bravery in being exactly who they are, unapologetically. Our Performance Company models a kind of leadership that exemplifies the true meaning of words like diversity, inclusion, and authenticity.
The members do not pretend to be perfect, or try to conform to externally imposed standards about what they must look like or be like or think before they have a right to share their viewpoint with the world. And in this way, the Performance Company shows youth audiences that leadership comes in so many forms, and that every person, regardless of gender, race, religion, ability and body type, has a right to a view and to share her voice with the rest of the world.
The experience of watching our Performance Company is so powerful, in part, because each audience member begins to see themselves reflected in at least one of our dancers – and this isn’t just limited to girls and young women. In fact, adult audience members – both women and men of all walks of life – often share with me that our Performance Company members remind them of who they once were as youth. They see that it is possible to create a space for even the shy teen to step forward and share an idea. They see that it is not only “ok” for every one of us to be a work in progress, but that there is power in acknowledging our imperfections and vulnerabilities. They see that there are actually all kinds of leaders. By the end of a show, it feels like everyone is thinking, ‘That could be me!” and “I could be a leader!”
And in this way, the Girls Leading Girls Tour is an unparalleled experience for folks in our community. It’s an experience that allows all audience members to see a little part of themselves on stage and, in doing so, to recognize that shy people, insecure people, big people, small people, and people that look different from the traditional image of a “leader” that our culture often promotes, all have something to contribute and the capacity to be leaders themselves.
What’s more, when our Performance Company members put their vulnerabilities on stage, they give permission for all that makes us human to exist, to be acknowledged, and to not be a source of shame. They open up a space where both performers and audience members feel accepted for who they truly are and, in this way, they lead everyone towards a more inclusive society.
Stay tuned for my next blog post, which will give you a window into what goes on in the workshop at every school after every performance.
This workshop, based on the theme “The Best Part of Me”, has been inspired by the Unapologetic Beauty dance and toolkit.
In the meantime, I’ll leave you with this collection of images from the girls at Joan of Arc Academy, to celebrate what they see as “The Best Part of Me” with the whole community!
Our next two stops are York Street Public School followed by Immaculata High School.
WE CAN’T WAIT!