The lights go down, and the magic comes up. Samantha Barnett has been putting her dancing shoes on since she was 4 and her feet have never stopped.
Dance offers so many wonderful benefits to students of all ages. In addition to the physical exercise, dance students get to experience the priceless feeling of community, friendship, creativity, and a sense of accomplishment.
A fifth-grade student at Lake Forest Country Day, Barnett has been part of the Soul 2 Sole Dance family in Highland Park since she started taking lessons. She heads to the studio four days a week and is part of five different teams competing in five dance competitions throughout the year. “They compete with studios all over Illinois,” Laura Barnett, Samantha’s mother, says.
“Samantha loves dance and is proud of the hard work she has done over the years that has allowed her to grow and advance,” Laura says.
This is clearly Samantha’s passion. Yet, dance has not always come easily to her.
“There’s a lot of discipline involved and a lot of responsibility— she cannot miss practice even if she isn’t feeling well. As long as she’s fever-free, she still needs to sit on the sidelines and watch. I think it shows her that if you work hard at something you will reap the rewards.”
Both Samantha and Laura say that they’re beyond grateful that they have Drew Tamez-Hull as Samantha’s coach. “I love my coach,” Samantha says.
“Drew is really special,” Laura continues. “He coaches at several studios in the city, and he’s a professional dancer and actor.”
As a coach and artistic director at Soul 2 Sole Dance, Tamez- Hull’s goal is to inspire and make every student count on the dance floor and to help them achieve their personal goals.
“From my experience, I feel like dancing is a healthy outlet and a form of expression for these kids. I sometimes think of it as dance therapy. Kids are constantly in environments where they’re told to be quiet. Sit down. Calm down. When I get them after school, they’re all wound up. They have all this energy, so they’re coming in and getting therapeutic movement.
“The second big takeaway I’ve noticed over the years is that dance creates a community of people whom students can get to know artistically, creatively. So, it gives them a sense of belonging,” he observes.
Not surprisingly, the respect that Samantha and Laura have for Tamez-Hull is reciprocated. A student like Samantha does not come along every day.
“Samantha is not only an inspiration, but she is the ideal example of what it means to be a part of a team. She is somebody who had to work super hard a few years ago just to get noticed or to even get the smallest part. But she would always have a huge smile from ear to ear. And for me as a coach, this is somebody whom you want to support because every year you can grow with that student. There’s no ego with her. It’s just all about hard work.”
For now, Samantha is thrilled to keep working hard, being part of the team, hanging out with her awesome coach and nice dance friends, and, of course, keep dancing.
Sole 2 Sole Dance is located at 799 Central Avenue in Highland Park, sole2soledance.com.