So often, we focus here on the adult side of St. John – the restaurants, happy hour, fun events and more. Well today, we’d like to tell you about some of our youngest residents who recently had a very cool experience of their own. The following story was written by Andrea Milam about St. John’s very own Dynamic Dancers. I think you’re going to enjoy it. -Jenn
St. John Dance Group Enjoys Stateside Performances, Weeklong Trip off Island
By Andrea Milam
Even a force as strong and devastating as Hurricane Irma comes with some silver linings. For the island’s children, one of those silver linings was the group St. John Kids, an effort started by stateside resident Susan Marone, aimed to connect those who visit and love the island with St. John children. The statesiders and their “adopted” island children got to know one another, the adoptees sending gifts and supplies to the children they were connected with. Perhaps one of the most rewarding connections is the link between Sue Nicholas and a member of the all-female island dance group, Dynamic Dancers. This connection led to a trip to the states for the Dynamic Dancers group, the first time many of the young girls were able to leave island since the storms.
“We were treated like royalty, and we made such good friends,” said Loraine “Pat” Richards, who founded the Dynamic Dancers in 2013.
(Side note from Jenn: I had the opportunity to meet Sue Nicholas and her family earlier this year during a News of St. John island tour. Sue is an amazing woman, and we are fortunate she loves our little island so much.)
On May 30, Miss Pat, along with 25 St. John girls, one as young as 3 years old, and 12 teen and adult chaperones, traveled to New Hampshire to perform in a recital at the Lakes Region Dance Studio, where Sue Nicholas works as a tumbling teacher. There were many “firsts” for the girls on the trip, including the first plane ride for some of them, and their first experience on a rollercoaster during a group outing to the Story Land amusement park.
“The first time I was terrified, but the second time it was so much fun,” said Dynamic Dancer Yamilette Diaz-Reyes of the rollercoaster experience.
In addition to dancing at the planned recital, the girls performed at two other venues, they enjoyed a train ride, and they got to work on their gymnastics skills at the Lakes Region Dance Studio. The studio also hosted a welcome picnic for the Dynamic Dancers the day after they arrived. Adults and children from both dance groups became very close during the Dynamic Dancers’ weeklong trip to the states.
“Stephanie, who connected with my daughter De’neicia Baxter through the St. John Kids program, I could say she’s like my family now,” says Miss Pat. “That’s how close we became. The girls from the Lakes Region Dance Studio had never met the Dynamic Dancers girls before, and by the end of the trip, you would’ve thought they grew up together, that they were sisters. That’s how close their bond was.”
Miss Pat says she watched her Dynamic Dancers go from quiet and reserved when they first arrived to totally relaxed and happy by the end of the trip.
“It had a lot to do with what they went through with the storm and everything,” she says.
Some of the Dynamic Dancers easily picked out their favorite parts of the week, while others found it hard to choose.
“I liked all of it, I can’t choose a favorite part,” said Jada Jn-Phillip. “The performances were really amazing.”
The girls’ trip to the states was also incredibly fulfilling for those who hosted them. Here’s what Sue from the Lakes Region Dance Studio had to say about the visit:
“What was most memorable was seeing some of the Dynamic Dancers meet up with family members who live stateside, and the St. John Kids group matches getting a chance to meet up and simply spend time together. Another memorable moment was seeing the Dynamic Dancers hit the stage and dance their hearts out. The crowd roared and they did a great job! It was a touching moment to see our Lakes Region dancers meet up with their Dynamic Dancer pen pals at the welcome party, and watch them make what I feel will be some lifetime connections. I simply loved spending time with the girls and getting to know them, and I can’t wait to get back to St. John and teach some more tumble classes to them. Never in my wildest dreams after the hurricanes hit did I think we would be able to do something as special as this trip for children on the island.”
Miss Pat has big future plans for her dancers. Follow the Dynamic Dancers on Facebook to see what they’re up to next!