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2014 Gaynor Minden Essay Scholarship Winner Inara Wheeler - "How Dancing Enhances Community - A Personal Story"


Dancing is flying like a bird. It’s a way to let go of everything and just burst out and surround yourself with freedom. I discovered that when I was only two years old when I saw my first Nutcracker. Before me was a colony of shimmery snowflakes, swirling and leaping around the stage. I knew at that moment that I wanted to be a ballerina. For me, dancing was getting three scoops of double chocolate chip ice cream in a rainbow sprinkle cone. It was delicious and fun, and I loved it!

My first ballet class was magical. I loved life, school and dancing. As a very small child I dreamed I was going to become a professional dancer. My childhood was happy until I turned five. Sadly, at that time my daddy was diagnosed with stage-4 brain cancer. Since my dad’s medical bills were high, it was hard for my family to pay for my ballet classes and find time to get me to the studio everyday. At the Colorado Conservatory of Dance I was surrounded with such warmth that I felt like I was a part of a big loving family (I was blushing nonstop). To me, CCD isn’t just a ballet school, it’s a family that invites anyone who has a passion for dance, from toddlers to senior citizens.

Ballet became more than just a place to dance, it was my larger family and community when my daddy was sick and passed away. The teachers, staff, fellow dancers and other moms would wrap me in their love and care and help me through the most difficult times. My ballet friends would always be at my side to lend me a hand through the dark tunnel of sadness. Everyone at the ballet has always been there for one another, regardless of what might be going on in the outside world. This really came into play when my mom created something called Ballet Buddies. When a new family joins our ballet, one of the seasoned families takes them under their wing and helps them get started, helping them find people to carpool with, answering newbie questions and helping out with any concerns. This has made my ballet school an even bigger, wonderful family. Miss Julia, our director also created a program for injured dancers called SPRAIN-D, a support group to assist injured dancers work through injuries. This program was created to support dancers as they are going through a rough time. I attended this class and it truly helped me get through my injury with a positive attitude. Dance is a time and place where I know there is a loving and positive community that will help me and anyone who walks through their doors.

Dance inspires people to come together, naturally enhancing the community holding the power to heal and create positive relationships that last a lifetime. For me, dancing is like breathing and I couldn’t imagine my life without it. Throughout my lifetime, I hope to inspire others, share my passion in dance and make the world a better and happier place.

Inara LeBaron Wheeler
August 21, 2014
12 years old
Colorado Conservatory of Dance, Broomfield, CO


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