A Parent's View
Helene Linden is the mother of Eric Linden. Eric was one of our participants and member of the FREE Players. The Tap Factor collaborated with Best Buddies NY and the FREE Players to form a tap dance immersion program that ended on stage at Carnegie Hall, May 21, 2014, in Elaine Kwon and Friends, a benefit concert supporting Best Buddies NY. Below is an account of her experience with the Tap Factor.
[When we were first approached about dancing with the Tap Factor at the Best Buddies gala, my initial thought was, “WOW Carnegie Hall! When will this kind of experience ever present itself again?” For a boy who dreams of being a star on Broadway, this is a pretty amazing opportunity. But will he actually learn tap dance in a few short weeks?
When we first met Chris Erk, creator of the Tap Factor, he shared his vision for this project. His enthusiasm was contagious as he spoke about tap as an expression or a conversation. After a brief meeting I was feeling very pumped about the project and less concerned about the “limitations” I often let creep into my thoughts as a result of having a child with special needs.
At the first rehearsal, we met the Tap Factor field dancers. Generally, Eric is very open and excited about meeting new people…especially when they are beautiful women! This introduction was no different. What was immediately clear was that these five dancers and our dedicated percussionist were equally excited about the opportunity to make new friends with people who share a love of tap dance.
Now Eric has always been a dancer, a lover of music, and musicals. However, he had very little exposure to tap so I began showing Eric tap dancing in movies and on YouTube. By the time the group performed at the Buddy Walk - an annual fundraiser supporting Best Buddies, I knew that Chris’ vision was spot on. The kids all rose to the occasion, but even better was the response from the crowd. They ALL wanted to join in and experience what the Tap Factor was putting out there.
Perhaps the biggest change I noticed in Eric was in his expression of dance altogether. He is always the first one on the dance floor but now I noticed him paying attention to the other dancers in addition to the music; having those “conversations” Chris spoke about. For a person who often has trouble expressing himself, it was so rewarding to see this development.
Needless to say there was some anxiety about performance day. It was going to be a long day and sometimes, Eric can simply shut down when it all gets to be too much. I knew he was in good hands but still those self imposed “limitations” started to creep in.
Then suddenly there they all were, on stage at Carnegie Hall. They brought the house down. After the performance, Mariana (Eric’s buddy) told me that Eric started to show signs of anxiety just before taking the stage. I know it was the relationship with his new friends and their experience that helped him through and go on to shine.
I’m not sure we have completely come down from the high of the performance yet. I know both Eric and I miss our Saturday rehearsals with our Tap Factor friends.
So now I can say my son danced at Carnegie Hall and learned that dreams really do come true.
But really this experience was about so much more.
It was about creativity, confidence, and inclusion. It was about the privilege of meeting wonderful people who share a love of dance. People who are kind, patient and incredibly talented. People Eric and I now call friends.
After all this project was always about “best buddies” and the wonderful relationships that they facilitate.
Thank you for the experience!]
*Follow this link to view our short documentary highlight some of the field work and impact of the project with Best Buddies and the FREE Players!