If you’ve been following along for a while, then you know how important hip-hop has been to our daughter Macyn and you may recall the life changing dress rehearsal and dance recital that took place in 2017 when Macyn danced in her first ever dance recital. Since that day, Macyn has continued to be mind, heart, and soul committed to hip-hop. She practices daily in the kitchen, or at school, or on the sidewalk or while waiting in line at the store. The music and the dance pulse through her blood and ring in her ears. It is a privilege to get to witness it
Which is why it was so confusing to me when we moved in 2018 and dance studios were not lined up at the door begging us to let Macyn dance there. I know I’m her mom, and moms often think these kinds of thoughts about their kids, but when it comes to dancing with, learning from and/or teaching Macyn, it remains a mystery why our whole community is not in line for this opportunity.
And it’s not because Macyn is the best dancer with the sharpest moves and on point rhythm. Quite the opposite in fact. When she first started dancing at a studio, she was always a few steps behind or ahead and her body wasn’t able to do certain moves, (she can’t turn left! She’s a real live Zoolander!). She always stood out, not because she was the best dancer, but because she was so off from the rest of the class. But! I guarantee you there is not a dancer in her whole dance studio who is as committed to dance as she is or who has the passion for dance like she does. And even more so, in a world where we are told we must be a certain way or you need to do better and be better, she continues to show up and say,
“actually, you just need to be you.”
We did find a dance studio in our new city and Macyn joined the hip-hop class for her age group. Week after week she showed up and danced her little heart out. There were zero accommodations made for her. Not a stich of extra help or time given to her. And I will say this; we are the ones asking for full inclusion, and so full inclusion is what we were given. However, let me also add a little side note here as the world continues to figure out what it means to fully include all people: inclusion is not about everyone being treated equally. Inclusion is making sure everyone has equal opportunities. It making sure all the different kinds of people in the world can show up to all the different spaces and be fully embraced and seen as able so they can strive to be their very best. This should mean that when a person steps into a space where their needs have not been accommodated, the people in the space bend and flex and scoot to make it work for everyone. Back to Macyn’s hip-hop class. During every class I sat in the waiting area, watching her dance on the screen cringing at the lack of shifting taking place in the class for her while simultaneously beaming inside watching her learn the moves and keep up and NEVER once giving up. She just blows me away.
As it goes in the dance world, months went by and we found ourselves in recital season. The routine for her recital was full of so much difficult and advanced choreography and in perfect Macy fashion, she showed up, never gave up and practiced and danced her little heart out. Once we started practicing for the recital I did ask for some extra assistance for Macy. I asked if I could have the dance on video, and the teacher gladly let me get video of the routine (which a lot of the other moms did too! And which I have seen a minimum of 1 million times!). I also asked for music ahead of time, which I did not get, but I understand people are busy. And I let them know Macyn is available for extra practices and lessons, which we would pay for, if they felt it was necessary. We were never taken up on this idea.
Before I go on, please hear me. This is not a post complaining about a dance studio or shining a negative light on one particular teacher or studio. August is in a dance class at the same dance studio and we have had an amazing and positive experience where he is fully embraced, fully celebrated and all of his needs are taken into considerations to help him be his best self. August is also five years old and the size of most three-year-old’s, which matters a great deal when we talk about making space for people who are different than us. The younger kids are the more likely they are to be embraced and the more likely they are to embrace differences. But this is not a message about that either. What this is, is a message about how much better off we all are when the “Macys” of this world are included and accounted for in allthe spaces and how this is not happening in the majority of the spaces, and this needs to change.
This past weekend, along with watching both August and Macyn SLAY on stage in their dance recital, I also volunteered backstage where all the students who don’t do a costume change wait until it is their turn to dance and then wait until the final bow. There were about 50 kids in that room ranging from three years old to teen. And you want to know what I watched Macyn do for almost two hours while we waited? First, I watched every single person in her hip-hop routine make their way to a different dressing room, even though some of them did not have a costume change, and not one asked Macyn to join them. Which means for the two days when there were performances every girl in her routine gathered together and went to a different room where they were all together. Everyone but Macy. And in addition, only one girl from her class even said hello to her or acknowledge her as a fellow dancer. Then I watched Macy go from small group to small group trying to fit in while kids would smile kindly and then literally turn their backs and keep playing what they were playing or continue their conversations. I sat in the room and felt the weight of the world as Macyn finally resolved to dance along to the show happening on stage which could be viewed on a screen in the large backstage room or sit by herself and watch. I do not share this for you to pity Macyn. At the end of the day our girl is adored and embraced by so many in her life and she and I know this truth to be true. What I do need you to do is hear the sense of urgency in this message. This kind of exclusive behavior is happening among our kids and it is not okay. And it’s not happening because kids these days are unkind and exclusive, it’s happening because kids lack opportunities to be around those who are different than them, so when they are, they don’t know what to do. As I watched the hours unfold, I wondered if I was being overly sensitive. And I thought about all of you. About all of the people on here who follow our family and journey and questioned if I should share. Hesitating to do so because haven’t I complained enough about this kind of stuff? Feeling like it’s always something.
But you know what? It is always something, and I’m sick of it. We’ve got this one life and this one world and for some unknown reason we’ve decided it is best spent surrounded by people who are just like us and who make us as comfortable as we can be. We read self-help books telling us that our lives and our dreams and our hard work are the most important things and should be pursued unapologetically. And in the meantime, divorce rates are up, stress is at an all-time high, suicide rates are up, the world is miserable.
Then there’s Macy and hip-hop. Total uninhibited assurance and passion and contentment. The very things so many of us crave and need in life. Yet when opportunities arise to become more assured, passionate and content humans, to learn from and alongside Macy, we turn our backs, programed and prone to ignore it because it is so different from us.
We need Macy and hip-hop. We need the people in this world who respond so differently to it that it makes us uncomfortable to the point of needing to make changes in our lives. We need dance studios who go out recruiting the “Macyns” of this world recognizing that passion and skill come in many shapes and movements. We need our kids and teens to think outside of themselves and to know how to navigate interactions with people who are different than them and how to pursue relationships with those people. We need to look around and scoot over and make some room in EVERY SINGLE SPACE in our lives and ask ourselves who do we allow in or who are we keeping out? And this is a group effort friends. Everyone needs to make their way to the front lines and do the hard work needed to make this world more inclusive
We need to look around and scoot over and make some room in EVERY SINGLE SPACE in our lives and ask ourselves who do we allow in or who are we keeping out?
One more thing, and this last little bit is especially for those of us who continue to show up in spaces where you or your loved one is not accounted for: On the day of the recital, as Macy was sharing with us how nervous she was her little brother, August, who also has Down syndrome, looked at her and said, “You are brave, and you are strong. and you can do it.” And then a few hours later, when he was back stage with his class waiting for their routine to start and the girls started talking about how nervous they felt, he gathered them around and said to them, “you are brave, and you are strong, and you can do it!” Friends, creating a more inclusive world is a lot of work. Continuing to show up in spaces where we are not sure we belong, is hard and scary. Opening our lives up to people who are different than us, is hard and scary but let’s take a pep talk from August: We are brave, and we are strong, and we can do it! We can keep showing up, we can keep scooting over, and together we can make this world better for all of us:
We are brave, and we are strong, and we can do it. We can keep showing up, we can keep scooting over, and together we can make this world better for all of us.
Help us make a more inclusive world.
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Scoot Over and Make Some Room