I’ll never forget sitting in a circle talking to the homeless girls at FreeHab about what dance has done for them and the impact it’s had on their life. They each had something special to say but shared one thing in common. That common thread was that dance showed them they can achieve something when they put their mind to it. All of the girls were surprised at how far they had come in the first few months of the dance program, and I remember feeling complete inside as though what I was doing made sense. Two of the girls that day asked me “Why do I do this?” I said simply because I feel called to. Dance is what I know and dance is what I can give back, and I know it can turn one’s life around. Sharing the gift of dance is more than just learning a routine— it’s about discipline, building confidence and getting in touch with your soul. It’s about helping you find inner direction using movement to express emotions that can’t be put into words.
Hearing the girls say that dance has kept them from going back onto the streets and has helped with their recovery is the reason why I do this. When I first started this program I knew it would have an impact in some way, but I didn’t know what that was or what it looked like. I wasn’t prepared for the magnitude of what this would do for these girls. There’s one thing I will never forget hearing. One girl came up to me and said –
“Melanie, you know it’s easier for me to be on the streets finding my next high and running from the cops than to be in your dance class? But I have to thank you because you taught me discipline, which is something I’ve never had in my life. I would always run away when things got tough for me, but you wouldn’t let me leave dance class when I got frustrated and found it hard. You taught me how to stick with it and stay in class and I want to thank you, because now I enrolled in college and I’m going to stick with it. You taught me how to stick with it.”
I am forever grateful for taking this leap of faith and starting this program. Knowing that dance helped someone find their direction to better their life and get an education is beyond words for me. This is why I do this and why I will continue to do this. Art heals and I believe dance programs should be implemented into more school systems, programs to help kids and teens in need, and in rehab facilities to help those with their recovery.
—Melanie Buttarazzi / Fostering Dreams Through Dance