Many people drive by Sparrow Dance Productions, a dance studio for those with special needs, in Rio Rancho, New Mexico every day. But having just opened in this location on June 19, 2017, most of those people probably don’t yet understand what the studio is all about.
The story begins with Christina Daly-Smith, a 29-year-old dancer and teacher.
Willing To Share
Christina’s life was challenging from the very beginning.
“My father was an addict; consequently, he was hardly ever in our lives,” Christina said in an interview with The Epoch Times. “When he was, it was always traumatic and damaging.”
But it didn’t take long for Christina to find her place of peace. “Dance really became an escape for me to heal from what was going on around me.”
The Great Escape
Christina recalled how in her childhood dance represented a sort of safe haven; a place to go to in order to escape.
“When I was a very little girl, I remember playing dress-up, closing myself in my mother’s sewing room with the classical radio station on, and dancing out my imaginations of princes and princesses,” said Christina.
When Christina was an eight-year-old girl, her mother simply told her, “I don’t care what you do. Just pick something and do it well.” She chose ballet.
At the age of fourteen, the young dancer moved across the country to study ballet year-round.
“I was so terribly homesick at times. Especially when my youngest sister was in and out of the hospital,” Christina said. “The days that I was told she might not live, I danced like I had never danced before. Nobody knew what I was going through. I quite literally danced for my sister.”
Christina’s sister became both her motivation and her solace. “I prayed with every breath and movement that she would live,” she said, “knowing that if she did not in fact survive, I could not allow my dancing to be in vain.”
The reality of their opposite existence was a heavy load to bear for a young teen away from home. “After all, I was away living the dream and she was hooked up to a ventilator.”
Her days at boarding school were often trying. At the ages of fifteen and sixteen years old, she was being told that she was too heavy and needed to work harder to “slim down in your hips and thighs.” She had not yet hit puberty, and the pediatrician’s growth chart showed that she was actually fourteen pounds underweight.
Inner And Outer Injuries
Christina suffered an injury one day in her pointe class. It took her breath away. Afraid of reprimand, she danced on it for almost two weeks before reporting it to her directors. She was then accused of faking the injury. “They actually had me sew my tutu to fit my understudy as punishment,” she said.
It was during that season that her dance world felt violated. Her safe place was now a dark realm where she felt like she was being buried alive. She couldn’t be with her mother and sisters, and she couldn’t dance on her foot with torn ligaments.
However, her Modern Dance teacher was extraordinarily encouraging and unknowingly planted a seed of resilience and strength deep inside her that would bring her to the next chapter of her dance career.
This was a kind of positive, caring mindset that began to embed itself into Christina’s character and integrity. Or perhaps instead, it began to reveal an intrinsic part of her own self.
An Earned Opportunity
Through a series of unexpected events, Christina landed an opportunity to graduate high school a year early and attend a dance conservatory in New York City! She was ready for a fresh start.
But life wasn’t perfect in New York. Christina battled through some unstable relationships, a bombardment of insecurities, and a few more injuries. “But the rush of it all [was worth it],” Christina said, describing the challenge of finding her balance in living life and her dream.
Stepping into a dance studio each day was what she needed. She needed to be there no matter the circumstances. After all, dance was not what she did. No, it hadn’t been simply a task for a long time. Rather, dance was who she was, her identity. Despite every curveball thrown her way, dance consumed every fiber of her being.
On The Big Stage
The performing arts world can be a dark place sometimes. Christina managed to stay away from the drugs and the eating disorders that were around every corner.
She was told countless times by numerous instructors that her “hips were too big for ballet.” Christina would laugh and remind them that the tutu was designed for the hour glass figure and that she could jump higher than any of the men. At nineteen years of age, her choreography was premiered at the prestigious Dance Theatre Workshop.
“His Eye Is On The Sparrow”
Throughout the trials and victories, ups and downs of life, Christina always held onto dance. Her mantra became “His eye is on the Sparrow,” the title of an old Gospel song, which describes how God watches over even the smallest and most unlikely of creatures.
Christina began teaching dance to the neediest of young students and found her true passion.
“I have always known that God had a plan for my life,” Christina said.
“I trained hard, pushing myself because I wanted to someday own a dance company that represented Sparrows being cared for in their little nest, then set free to dance on stage, for audiences to be changed, understood, moved, and healed.”
The Whispered Dream Becomes Real
But Christina still sometimes had doubts about her future.
“Last October, I cried out to God and said, ‘I will never dance again if it means that I can help to change the world.'”
The response came in a whisper. “I felt a soft voice speak to my heart, ‘But Christina, I turn your mourning into dancing.’”
Sparrow Dance Productions Conservatory of the Arts and Community Integration is now in its seventh year as a performance company.
“Our mission is to target the needs of Rio Rancho, New Mexico, and the greater Albuquerque area, using dance and collaborative arts, in all its mediums, to help heal community trauma, as well as encourage positive growth, via outreach, mentorship programs, and performance for all ages with all ages,” says Christina proudly.
Fly, Soar, Conquer…
“I have overcome my father’s abandonment, car accidents, injuries, rape, and so much more,” Christina concludes. “Yet, God always provides an opportunity for me to persevere. Sparrows in the sky remind me that if they can fly through a storm, so can I.”
Christina now tells her students, “Do not only dance but fly. Do not only fly but soar. Do not only soar but conquer.”
“My mother’s encouragement, and ALL of my sister’s hugs, get me through the toughest of times. My student’s breakthroughs in class and in life give me unending joy. And of course, dance!”
Source: Dance teacher talks educational goals from rrobobserver.com and interview by Billy Soden, The Epoch Times, with Christina Daly-Smith.