Arkansas teacher spreads positivity through dance lessons

Amy Bramlett Turner is the dance director for the Hot Springs School District, spreading positivity to hundreds of students through a special exercise.

For the second year in a row, Hot Springs packed the house for a presentation of the Hot Chocolate Nutty Nutcracker.

The presentation is filled with dancers of all abilities from Hot Springs junior and senior high.

Hot springs high did not have the resources for the classical nutcracker, so instead they opted for the Hot Cocoa Nutty Nutcracker.

They’re led by Amy Bramlett Turner, the dance director for the Hot Springs School District. She has led a program that over the last eight years, now numbers over 150 kids from 7th-12th grade.

The reason the program has grown so much? It’s because of a major discovery from Bramlett.

“The kids have such voices and especially this generation they are exposed to so much through social media,” Bramlett said. “So instead of ignoring that or fighting against it, I think we should use education to help them communicate and articulate their voices.”

On the surface it may sound unlikely that dance has developed and amplified the voices of the next generation.

“They want to be active and express themselves and they want to be pushed, you just got to give them routine and high expectations and hold them accountable,” Bramlett said.

There’s even an emotional element to these exercises.

Bramlett’s Masters in Dance Education has led her to network with other dance educators, and that’s how she found out about “Love Your Body Week.”

This exercise is where the dance students lie down on their back in the middle of a circle of fellow dancers. This may sound small, but for a teenager it can be a big deal.

Students write down on sticky notes something positive about the dancer lying down.

“You know, [the note] could be physical, but it could also be part of their personality or their traits or their role in our dance family,” Bramlett said.

They put those sticky notes all over their body, which leaves the dancers with huge smiles on their faces

The sticky notes are all saved and in many cases put in dancers’ notebooks that are with them beginning in the 7th grade.

“When they flip through the pages, they see these random post notes of positive things that somebody loves about them,” she said.

As for the technical and emotional development, Bramlett adds one more element: ambition

After intensive fund raising in 2018 and again this year, Bramlett took her students to Europe, where they performed seven shows in five European cities over a 12 day stretch as a part of the Stars of Tomorrow Tour.

“That took us to [another] level because the students started to see that we can have big dreams,” Bramlett said.

The performances, the troupe, the European tours, the sticky notes, creating a sense of belonging — these are all imperative to the team’s bond.

With all of that in mind, Bramlett never loses sight of the message she’s conveying to young people

“If you work hard and are consistent and define your goals and work towards them, then the sky’s the limit,” she said. “You can do anything in this world, you don’t have to be a dancer, you can be anything.”

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