Written by Shanna Kirkpatrick, Chara Founder
From Comfort Zone to Growth Zone
Each November at Chara, it is an exciting annual tradition for many of our students to attend Dance Revolution, a Christian dance convention. This is a huge undertaking for the studio: earlier this month the staff and I brought 100 dancers to the event, which takes place in Dallas. It was our 16th year to attend, and as always, it was an exhaustingly fun weekend of classes, inspiration, and new friendships. The growth our dancers experience in just three days is truly invaluable.
What I love most about involving our dancers in Dance Revolution is that it offers them the chance to step out of their comfort zone. They take classes with unusual names like “tribal funk.” They work with new teachers who ask them to try steps and combinations that are unfamiliar. They interact with students from other dance studios. And they see that, yes, their teachers really do know how to dance too! Many of our Chara teachers will take class right alongside the students, allowing for a bonding experience like no other.
Over the years, as the number of Chara dancers participating in Dance Revolution grew, we began to implement a creative new system of student buddies. This system encourages connections between our students: dancers who may not know each other (or who haven’t had many opportunities to interact at the studio) are strategically paired to eat lunch together between classes. Instead of dancers sitting in tight groups together, this allows for a much wider circle.
What we have found is that the buddy system builds connections, yes, but it also accomplishes much more. It grounds our students in their shared experience, and it helps shy dancers come out of their shell. Student leaders emerge, a helping hand is offered, and social confidence grows. It is bigger than just a lunch break.
Over the course of the Dance Revolution weekend, I loved hearing feedback from parents on how much they appreciated the buddy system. I heard stories of older buddies sweetly picking up the lunches of their younger buddies, and I saw buddies who had never met before taking pictures together before heading off to their next class. I also personally had the joy of introducing recreational Chara dancer, Allie, to her Friendswood Contemporary Ballet member buddy, Ella.
Reflecting back on this year’s event, I am incredibly proud of how our students accepted and celebrated these relationships with each other. Even as adults, we can find it difficult to break out of our usual comfortable circles and meet other parents. We don’t mean to stay in our comfort zones—around the comfortable people we know—but without the intention to meet others, we often fall into old habits. Let’s face it: it takes thought and energy to branch out and meet someone new!
Though there may be natural tendencies for certain dance class friend groups, we are One Chara, welcoming to all. And it’s not just our students who can instill this value in themselves and others. Our staff and parents can help to cultivate new friendships and intentionally “leave the circle wide,” making Chara a loving and dynamic place for young dancers to walk into each week.
At Chara, we are working harder than ever to foster inclusivity. Our experience at Dance Revolution always includes a ton of life lessons, and this year was no different. We were reminded how important it is to break the ice, open the circle, share experiences, and listen when God nudges you.
Students, staff, and dance parents, we hope you will intentionally step out of your comfort zone and into your growth zone, because growth only happens when we get a little (or a lot) uncomfortable. Sometimes we just need a little encouragement—or a lunch buddy—to make it happen.