Finding an activity for your child or teenager can be a mammoth challenge. There are a lot of options available through the school your child attends, but sometimes your child is not going to want to spend their free time doing something school related.
In recent years, a lot of research has cropped up that recommends dance as a viable activity for children and young people that supports their healthy development on a number of levels. Apart from the obvious benefits of strength straining, hand/eye coordination development, and discipline, a good dance studio can also improve a child's self esteem, enable their ability to appropriately socialise with their peers, and set them on a path toward success.
Recently I had the opportunity to work with a dance crew called 'Urban Energy Dance'. I was coordinating an event for a philanthropic organisation called the Our Village Foundation, and it was my job to find a dance crew for some gorilla marketing efforts that would promote a major festival.
Enter Urban Energy Dance and their choreographer, Mark Barber of 'Swagamama' fame (Australia's Got Talent).
Over a period of about six weeks I visited Urban Energy Dance at one of their training locations ("The Space" for Young People in North Lakes) and watched them do their thing. I was able to spend time with their business manager, Carol Johnson, as well as Mark and I had the opportunity to meet a number of the parents of the children who were learning to work together as a team.
Mark and Carol are completely dedicated to the emotional welfare of their young charges. Urban Energy Dance have had a good slice of success in a short period of time, having recently won state championships (both junior and senior). They're currently trying to raise money for the national championships in Melbourne next month. That level of success could go to anyone's head, and the fear of failure could negatively affect anyone regardless of their age, but Mark and Carol go out of their way to make sure their dancers don't feel any pressure and don't place too high a level of importance on winning at all costs. I admire that. The emphasis is on the collaborative activity of dancing as a team, and on the actual joy of engaging in something physical and creative.
Watching Mark teach the guys over a number of weeks was an education. I have a 21 year career in youth work and I know that maintaining the attention of a child or teenager can be a challenging experience! Mark does this with the patience of a saint. In six weeks he did not once raise his voice, criticise or make demands of a child. He spent one-on-one time with each young person when they needed it, tirelessly repeated techniques to the group until they grasped them, and laughed and had fun with them creating a genuinely supportive and inclusive environment.
While all of that was happening, Carol was sitting with the parents, engaging them and making them feel welcome and as much a part of the crew as the kids were.
I was impressed. Hell, that's too tame. I was blown away! I hadn't grinned that much in a long time.
One of my passions in life is supporting the healthy emotional development of young people, and ensuring young people are safe as they take part in opportunities that can help them grow and discover who they want to be.
Urban Energy Dance does that. It provides a safe environment for children and young people that leaves no child behind.
An added bonus was that the parents were all, without exception, lovely. These weren't rabid soccer mums and dads who were overly invested in their children's success, they were parents who genuinely loved watching their kids enjoy themselves.
The kids... well, they were just awesome. Polite, respectful, energetic and accepting. Newbies were embraced without judgement and those who have been with the crew for a while were always willing to mentor the younger ones.
Urban Energy Dance has two levels of entry - junior and varsity, with junior being for children and varsity for the teenagers and the ages of participants ranges from eight years old to 18.
Opportunities to dance in public are always popping up, and sometimes from the most unlikely places. During the six weeks I spent with them, they were asked to do a flash mob engagement proposal for a young bride and groom and were invited to open for Justice Crew at a recent concert that took place on the 5th of September at the Redcliffe Festival.
These young stars, and this wonderful dance studio, are on the rise.
If you're looking for a way to get your child off of facebook and out into the world, or if you're just looking for a safe and friendly activity, I highly recommend Urban Energy Dance.
Information on the school can be found at their website. Alternatively, you can call or text Carol on 0434 195 280 or check them out on Facebook.
Classes are held Monday afternoons at the Narangba Community Centre at 229 Mackie Road in Narangba and Wednesday afternoons at "The Space" North Lakes on the corners of Lakefield Drive and Endeavour Boulevard.
It's just $10 a class.
I've worked all around Australia as a youth worker and a performing artist (I know, strange mix, but it's worked for me) and I've rarely come across people like Mark and Carol. Their dedication to the kids they work with is absolute, and their ability to encourage, nurture and develop young talent is truly something special.
If you have a few spare bucks lying around, and want to support these kids to make it to Melbourne to represent our state at the National Championships, call Carol on the number above. I'm certain they would love any help they can get to help these remarkable kids' dreams come true.
Absolutely beautiful article Jarryd, well captured and perfectly said.
From a parent of a 'newbie Bodhi' who only joined in August this year, Marcelle. This is exactly why we love it there too. We are very proud to be a part of the Urban Energy family