Giving back to others through dance | September 30, 2011 | Pleasanton Weekly | |

Pleasanton Weekly

Arts & Entertainment - September 30, 2011

Giving back to others through dance

Performances spread joy and take patients' minds off their fears and pain

by Virginia Wu

Dance is an art form that soothes and calms the soul. It is meant to be shared among all the people in the world. Ever since I realized this, bringing dance to the community has been one of my chief priorities, and two recent performances made my summer a truly memorable one.

I am an entering senior at a school for the arts in San Francisco, but I am actually a resident of Pleasanton. One of my favorite hobbies is dance -- whether learning, choreographing, or performing -- I can never get enough of it. In my junior year, I started a dance group and began organizing and performing in community events. I found that dancing feels even better when you know you are doing something for your community.

This summer we performed at the Pleasanton Senior Center. I brought a small group of three children with me, and we performed five dances. The setting was spacious and the senior audience members were warm and welcoming.

Knowing that many seniors at the center may not have been exposed to large amounts of Chinese culture, I began each number with small bits of general information about Chinese culture, followed by an introduction to the upcoming dance. There were many people watching us perform, from seniors to program coordinators to lunch workers; they were all enthusiastic about the performance, and we received an eager round of applause for the show.

At the end of the show, the program coordinator of the senior center invited us to participate in a multicultural festival next May. It was a huge boost to my group, as we are fairly new. Being asked for an encore is one of the best things a performer could wish for.

My most memorable performance of this summer was the show at Children's Hospital in Oakland. Ever since I was younger, I thought that public places needed performances to keep them entertaining. I feel that this especially holds true for hospitals, since they are places where children may experience pain or fear. I wanted to do something for these kids to relieve these feelings.

I scheduled a performance with the hospital and chose a series of lively dances to bring some joy to the hospital environment. I received notice that we would be performing in the outpatient center on the stage in the lobby.

At first, when I was unloading the show equipment and surveying the area, I thought, "Where are all the people?" Indeed, at first the entire hospital was so quiet you could hear a pin drop. But as soon as I turned on the music for the first dance, I saw small faces peek out from the viewing area of every story until I had a large audience.

When the children first looked down at us, I saw in their young faces a touch of tenseness -- perhaps they were nervous about surgery? A number of toddlers were squirmy and restless while waiting outside the hospital rooms, older children simply looked bored. However, as we went through a few numbers in the show, I felt the atmosphere change. I saw smiles emerging from the children's gradually relaxing faces; I saw toddlers pulling on their parents' shirttails, eagerly pushing their way to the front of the observation area.

When I saw their faces, I knew that they were captivated. I realized that I had the ability to take people's minds off their fears and their pain and use my talent and craft -- dance -- to truly help people and to do something effective for the people who make up our community. I discovered how warm it feels inside to know that I am able to make a change in the community.

--Pleasanton resident Virginia Wu is the founder and leader of a small performing group for traditional Chinese dance and music.