How Dance Moves Me

Our mental health coverage in 2024 is made possible by the Minnesota Association for Children’s Mental Health.

I took my first dance class when I was five years old. I was born with a rare form of dwarfism, and I have a vent to help me breathe. I often use a wheelchair because I cannot walk very well without assistance and I have equipment with me that I can’t carry. I was in that first class for only half a year because I had a hard time keeping up. 

The next year, my dad met someone who was starting an All Abilities dance class for kids with and without disabilities. At first I was scared to join, because it meant trying something new. I was afraid of finding out that I couldn’t do it. I finally decided to join when I was 10. Now I dance in three Young Dance Company classes: All Abilities, Choreography, and Modern Dance. 

When I arrive at dance, I am cold and stiff because I do not get a lot of exercise other than dance. We usually start class in a circle and talk about the plan for the day or how we are feeling. We do warm-ups or stretching and learn practice dances. I am happy during class because I love to dance and be with my friends. As I move, I get hot and my muscles get tired. By the end of class, I am sweaty and just want to sit. 

Some of my favorite dances include Ananya and the Boxing Dance, because they are fun and challenging. Ananya Dance Theatre creates contemporary Indian dance, which includes lots of named hand movements. A guest artist taught us boxing moves and we made a dance out of it. 

I like performing to show people the work I have been doing. I like making our own dances, which involves planning the moves, costumes, music, and lighting. I choreographed a drag dance — based on American ragtime jazz — with a puppet. 

I sometimes surprise myself when I am able to do a dance move I didn’t think I would be able to do. Other times, I have to adapt a move in order to be able to do it. For example, a dance may have a move that involves leaping while moving an arm, or walking while using both arms. I need at least one arm on my walker to move, so I adapt by not raising an arm or not moving. 

I work really hard  because I have to keep up, learn the dance, and change the dance so it works for my body.  

In addition to boxing and Ananya, we have had artists teach us how to create dances to live music, or to illustrate issues in the world, like gun violence and women’s rights. We made a dance with a guest artist about water quality, with moves that look like water. 

Art becomes my dance.

Lainey Lee (she/her) is in 7th grade. She enjoys dancing, vacationing with her family, and watching animals. During the COVID-19 crisis, Young Dance is offering distance learning options for several of its courses.

Watch Lainey Lee perform with Young Dance.