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Dancing for heart and soul

Stella Christenson,Ryleigh Thorpe,Emma Boen , Addison Batne, all of Two Harbors, listen intently to their teacher Renee Moe, artistic director of Sterling Dance. The 3 and 4-year olds are among 60 dancers who will be performing in an outdoor concert on June 28 at Thomas Owens Park in Two Harbors. The concert begins at 6 p.m. Photo by Jim Erickson.

Last Thursday Renee Moe’s Sterling Dance students gathered at their Two Harbors practice studio for pictures. Early in the afternoon, her youngest dancers arrived in costume, each embellished with enough pink ruffles and sequins to satisfy even the fussiest fairy-like fashionista. Looking like smaller versions of their older dancing role models, with tightly bound hair and ballet slippers on their feet, the girls fluttered about happily waiting for their turn with the photographer, as parents looked on. Picture day marks the beginning of the countdown to the dancers’ annual outdoor dance concert and the energy level was palpable.

On June 28, the 3 and 4-year olds will be among 60 or so dancers who’ll be sharing their talent from center stage at Two Harbors’ Thomas Owens Park. Moe said it’s a special evening for the kids, but its about more than just the love of creative movement.

“That’s always out there, that they will have it in their heart to take dance classes when they get older, but more than that,” Moe said, “I love working intergenerationally. I like the example of community that dance can show kids.” With dancers of all ages and experience levels, Moe said that the older students have an opportunity to mentor and encourage the younger ones.

“They’re all learning about working together and that’s the way life goes,” she said. “We have to all learn to get along with each other.” Each year, Moe also gives her students a chance to reflect and share their own ideas about what dance brings to their lives. She said she’s often touched by their observations.

“(Dance makes me feel) open and expressive. I’ve always been shy, but I can dance and feel good,” shared Brie.

“I feel like I’m in some sort of imaginary place,” Aili Marie said.

“It makes me feel magical in my heart,” said Ella.

“It’s the best thing in the world. It helps me understand everything,” said Bree.

Nine students said that dance makes them feel good, 13 others said it makes them happy. Open and expressive, magical, good and happy — they’re all reflected in the concert’s theme, “A Good Heart.”

In the concert program, Moe wrote that “A Good Heart,” came from an idea she had read in “The Chemistry of Joy,” a book by Henry Emmons.

“The cultivation of a good heart – a heart that is open, accepting of self and others, generous, loving and joyful – is the core of the resilient life,” Emmons wrote. Moe recalled that this idea stayed with her as the winter holidays approached last year.

“I carried that thought around with me as a touchstone,” she recounted. Later, one of her students demonstrated the idea in a special way. When asked what she wanted for Christmas, Moe recalled that the student thought for a moment before replying, “I have everything I need.”

“It is a beautiful moment I will always cherish,” Moe later wrote of the conversation. “It’s an example of a good heart. There are moments like this everyday I dance with these lovely children. It is a true blessing to work with them all.”

The dancers will be performing to music by artist representing a wide range of genres, including classical pieces by Beethoven and Mozart, disco numbers by The Village People and Donna Summer, and more current tunes by Pharrell Williams, The Lumineers and Taylor Swift. The concert begins at 6 p.m. in the park on Waterfront Drive. In the event of inclement weather the concert will take place Sunday, June 29, at 6 p.m. It’s free and open to all. Moe said that beyond seeing the dancers perform, there’s an opportunity for the audience to have its own experience of the heart.

“I want them to feel joy and the parents to be proud of their children,” she said, “and to have their hearts opened by watching them.”