Families logo


A long awaited freedom

By Frances Leah BrownPublished 2 years ago 4 min read
Photo by Kazuo ota on Unsplash

Let me tell you a story of an orphaned girl.

We met her when she was 13 months old. She, like thousands of girls, had been raised in an institutional orphanage. There were so many babies and so few care-givers in her orphanage that the babies were wrapped tightly in layers of blankets and clothes to keep them still in the cribs, and keep them warm. Each baby was picked up, fed, bounced in the caregiver's arms for a few minutes and then re-wrapped and placed back in the crib on schedule, as often as possible. When they got older, the girls would be placed in a high chair/potty chair, sometimes for hours, or placed on the floor with other babies with some toys.

Consider an infant that received very little physical contact or interaction for the first year of their life. If you have children, or have watched parents with their babies, you know that the first year of a child's life is full of firsts; laughs, mimicked words, rolling over, crawling, walking, and most importantly, building emotional attachment.

When we met, she was very thin, very sick and very quiet. When she had been cleaned up and fed and allowed to be on her own on the bed, it became evident that she couldn't roll over or crawl. Her fine motor skills were well developed however, and we'd watch as she gently and precisely put her pinky and thumb together. She was a silent observer, and as she watched a fellow toddler walking down the hall, she made it clear that she wanted to walk. To hell with that rolling over and crawling stuff. Her jaw would stick out, and she'd grab a finger in each hand, and walk between my legs, or between my husband and I.

Two months later, she was walking on her own, but she never went far away from me. Things were safe as long as I was at her side. To our great joy, she formed her attachments with us and we belonged to one another. But she was terrified of the dark, of being alone, of loud crowds, and losing sight of us.

Within that first year we danced to music in the living room, and I'd watch her spinning and singing and doing her own very modern style of expression. This was obviously something to be nurtured because any music she heard was her invitation to dance. So off to mom and me toddler music playtime classes, and gymnastic classes, and finally, when she was 3, she got to join the ballet classes.

Synchronicity followed; she had just the right teacher who was trained with skills in helping to build body-brain connections in toddlers, (something that was lacking after a year in confinement) and whose grace and kindness sealed a love affair with dance.

That first year's Spring Recital was a parental epiphany. I watched from the wings as that tiny 4 year old child with separation anxiety and fear of crowds stepped into the light with a serene smile, doing her small little plies and looking straight out into the audience. With my mouth agape, I realized that she was at home on the stage.

She was very small, and off stage she was quiet and shy. When she was bullied in pre-school (yep, no kidding) we signed her up for Kung Fu in hopes of giving her a voice, and a sense of empowerment. She stuck with it, but she never stopped dancing. All through grade school she delighted us with improvised dance concerts in the living room, followed by Kung Fu practice. We called her our Kung Fu ballerina. She reached the apprentice black belt level in Kung Fu but asked if she could focus completely on dance. So that's what she did.

Middle school came with a new dance studio, and to her joy, very fancy recital costumes. In high school she joined a professional training program. And during CoViD, when the studios all shut down, she danced in the living room taking classes via Zoom, and she never missed a class. A year and a half of pure tenacity kept her dancing. She now intends to go on to study dance in college, with a goal of joining a professional company that travels and performs. She wants to see the world. She is small, but she is mighty.

I marvel at her dedication. She's followed this love of dance since she could move freely, and on her own terms. It has given her roots that will be with her, wherever she goes. It allows her to express her emotions without having to depend on words. It has given her a voice that is eloquent and calm, sharp and irreverent. Dance has given her freedom.


About the Creator

Frances Leah Brown

I am a singer, a story teller on stage and in print, and a lover of family and nature.

Reader insights

Be the first to share your insights about this piece.

How does it work?

Add your insights


There are no comments for this story

Be the first to respond and start the conversation.

Sign in to comment

    Find us on social media

    Miscellaneous links

    • Explore
    • Contact
    • Privacy Policy
    • Terms of Use
    • Support

    © 2023 Creatd, Inc. All Rights Reserved.