We should all be proud of the accomplishments of 14-year-old Janasia Johnson of Miami. who was recently was honored at the White House for all she has achieved through involvement in the amazing Ailey Dance Camp. This annual summer program in Miami and elsewhere around the country not only teaches young people the intricacies of dance, it also gives participants essential skills including math and writing. The result, on the front page of Wednesday’s Herald, is glowing self-confidence and self-esteem, which come from the nurturing, supportive environment that the dance world can be.
Janasia’s experiences are in contrast to those of the young people who participate in the ubiquitous dance competitions written about in great detail several weeks ago in the Herald. The article highlighted the far-reaching effects of reality television shows on young children and their parents in a highly competitive world. Children perform in an unhealthy culture of competition, reflected in the language used — “I’m going to bring her down.” In addition, kids taught movements that are often borderline lewd rather than drawing upon the rich vocabularies of different types of dance.
A number of years ago I heard legendary choreographer Twyla Tharp point out that teamwork is a vital skill that students and dancers absorb. Janasia probably came away from the summer dance classroom with a sense of the benefits of working with others, in strong contrast to participants in the dance competitions. I wish her well in her endeavors and hope she carries the lessons gained in the dance classroom with her.
Annette B. Fromm, Miami Beach