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Ensemble Espanol: Much More Than Dance

By Cathleen Schandelmeier-Bartels
On November 9, 2010

My 11-year-old son is busting a move! It's a good thing our downstairs neighbors moved these days because they would be going crazy with all the toe-tapping and snappy dance moves my son is practicing. All this dancing is a result of his having been accepted into the Ensemble Espanol Youth Company. He was awarded the tremendous honor of a $10,000 scholarship to dance flamenco with this world-class dance company.  However, he is experiencing much more than simply dance: discipline.

  The contract I first read - and later signed – which is mandatory for accepting any youth into the company, clearly articulated expectations for him as a scholarship recipient.  The contract continued to state that beyond the discipline of dance:

"Dame Libby Komaiko and the Ensemble Espanol uphold the highest standards of behavior.  1) you are responsible for your actions, you are responsible for your behaviors and 2) as a scholarship recipient you represent the Ensemble Espanol Youth Dance Company in the community and the University."

Delighted, I read on:  "All dancers are expected to maintain a "B" average;" no problem for our son who is a straight-A student. It also stipulated that there could be no gang involvement, no earrings for boys or men, no drugs and no drinking. Furthermore, it required the youth to inform their parents of their whereabouts at all times.  For a mother whose teenage son – my oldest living child - had disappeared for almost two months of hell for our family and the family of the girl he'd run away with, these words were music to my ears.  My oldest son graduated high school early, as a valedictorian, while managing to avoid gang involvement and violence and he is also on his way to becoming a father at 19.  Their choice, not mine.

I cherish babies and am delighted to be welcoming a new family member that I did not have to provide for myself.  I also delight in the richness my daughter-in-love – yes, the same "Juliet" he had run away with – has brought into our lives.  My son did go to college for one semester at my insistence, but refused to so much as open a book because he was much too busy being in love. I, personally, would have preferred my son to willingly  go to college and establish himself in his career first, before having children.  Life is hard and having children at 19 makes it harder.  Now, a quote from the contract:

"A very important part of your learning process is learning self-control, self-respect, respect for others and learning to accept gracefully what you cannot (at the moment) change.  You may be right, still you must conduct yourself with dignity and show, above all, that you have self-control and respect.  Without self-control, a strong mind and an open heart, you will not become a good dancer.  This good behavior will also benefit you in all other areas of your life."

Flamenco dance may or may not be my youngest son's calling as he undertakes his life's adventure.However, I am grateful for the village it is providing in helping to instill the values I support and wish to see in my children.  "As role models for the community and university, it is our hope that all of our dancers will pursue a college education after high school graduation."


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