Sunday, August 26, 2012

Places My Grandparents Never Dreamed of Going

If there's one thing I'm aware of it's how different my access is to the world than what my Grandparents experienced. We were raised to believe we could go anywhere and do anything. You can adapt that however you want, but our only boundaries were set by our personalities.

I thought about this a lot this week. On Monday I attended the opening night of the Chicago Dancing Festival. I wore a big, sparkly leaf pin that attracted a lot of attention. When I told my friend that I wore it in memory of my Grandmother who would have loved to have attended a show like this my friend completely understood.

Our grandparents were the poor or middle class immigrants (or first generation Americans) you read about in history books. Even if they had the money, it would never have occurred to them that they could or should go to a dance performance. It was just their mindset that live performances were for rich, fancy people.

Yet, there I was last night sitting in the audience watching the final performance of the Chicago Dancing Festival. It was an amazing night that started with the founders' introduction. When they said that the arts should be free for everyone it hit me that times really had changed. In the audience were people from all walks of life and all income levels. The person sitting behind us could hardly speak English, but he clapped wildly after each performance.

Our girls sat with their eyes wide open the entire evening. When the After School Matters students finished their performance the blond twin said, "This is awesome." Throughout the evening the girls leaned over to ask questions and I never once thought of telling them to be quiet. They politely whispered their questions and we answered their questions. Once they understood the answer they went back to staring wide-eyed at the stage.

If there's one reason I like living in the Chicago area it is that there are so many free opportunities to expose our children to the arts. We take advantage of as many as possible to ensure they have a well-rounded view of what's available to enjoy. We know they won't like all of it, but their decisions will be made from a place of knowledge. One thing I know they won't do is live with the idea that they cannot or should not go somewhere or do something. While it was ingrained in my Grandmother's generation that live performances were for rich people in fancy dresses, events like the Chicago Dancing Festival ensure the arts are available to everyone. We are quite grateful to everyone -- sponsors, performers, volunteers, staff -- who make events like the Chicago Dancing Festival happen.

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