By Tori Romba, Education Intern
With this being my first ever blogpost, I so desperately want to write something that is well-crafted, witty and imbued with some kind of old-soul wisdom. Reflecting on my experiences from the past few weeks at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University as the Education Department and Hands Together Heart, to Art (HTHTA) summer camp intern I feel like the above should be easy to accomplish. However, I am a bit daunted; I’ve never been very witty; instead of “crafting” my words I am scribbling the first draft while riding the train; and, to top it off the only words I can think to start with are from the classic (okay, cliché) one-liner: “Life is a journey—not a destination.” Well, if it didn’t resonate with most people or wasn’t rooted somewhere in truth, I guess that sentiment wouldn’t be so familiar. It’s the best I can do so here goes…
… “Journey.” I’d like to think that my journey albeit relatively short at this point has allowed me to see and experience so much. If I had to pick a starting point it would have to be when I discovered my voice for the first time in a dance studio. That discovery came from the electricity I felt every time I stepped up to the barre, the inspiration I found in the artistry of great teachers, mentors and fellow students, and ultimately the articulate language my body could speak when no words came from my mouth. That’s what dance gave me—a soul, a voice, passion, and curiosity. I suddenly felt so much closer to the answers of questions like “Who am I?” and “What am I capable of saying in a way that is uniquely my own?” when I was freely exploring and celebrating the space around me.
Dance became a sweet addiction that sustained me while challenging to swallow everything else in my life whole. Although dance took me to some incredible performances, a summer intensive or two, and to Berlin, Germany for the 2009 Tanzolymp Dance Festival, I still made the hard decision to turn down a ballet conservatory and study in St. Louis for my first year of college—“UNDECLARED” replaced by bunhead identity. The following year, dance again pinched me awake, and brought me to New York as an Ailey BFA student at Fordham University. The hot-to-cold transition was invigorating but ultimately unsatisfying. Once again, I began to feel swallowed whole. I could say so much through dance but knew I could say more only if I allowed myself to learn more through seeing other places and hearing others’ thoughts.
Dance brought me back to Chicago—a city where dance is a sometimes a struggling but always changing world. Now, I am able to continue dancing while earning my bachelor’s degree at Northwestern University. Studying Human Development allows me to bring other past experiences out of the shadows that a life of only dancing once cast. I can rediscover the challenges and joys of working with children as a dance teacher; reflect on what I learned about the human spirit while working with the elderly at an assisted living center; and even do the same with what I learned about the human condition while working the drive-thru at McDonald’s years ago. Now the moving experience of working with children and early teens as they explore the arts and continue to grieve the loss of their deceased parents is the next step in my journey. My time in the ATRU Education department has been a great introduction to arts education, the world of not-for-profit organizations, and of course the legacy of the Auditorium Theatre. Meeting incredible young people with so much strength, and working on a staff of passionate artists and compassionate educators has been invaluable.
This summer at ATRU and HTHTA, I’ve definitely learned so much. I know that I will have so much to say both in words and movement when the summer comes to a close. That’s why I am so grateful that I’ve been given this chance to combine my love for the arts with my desire to connect with others. And, woven throughout my experiences are so many phenomenal people and beautiful places that one can only find in Chicago. It’s become so apparent to me that my journey will never lead me to center stage, and that’s okay. After all, to echo the borrowed wisdom I began this post with, it’s more about the journey itself than anything else.