In Honour of Morri-Lynn

This article has very special meaning for me and it's hard to know even where to begin.  Hoping to get more pictures, so be sure and check back.

I have a lovely daughter with a HUGE heart that from a very young age just wanted to dance.  It began simply with a class in someone's home studio and went through a few community centre classes.  But when she started kindergarten and still loved it, I stupidly did what everyone did and looked for the BEST school.  Best in today's society means lofty things - students that have gone on to professional work, lots of wins at competitions and more.  I have since learned BEST can mean what truly nourishes the child.  Sounds simple, but it's more complex than you think.

Morri-Lynn always does a production number every year - this year it was
ballet.  EVERY ballet student who committed to the number was included. This
photo is extra special to me as I created all the costumes except hers (top right)
In their defense, dance schools requiring large enrollments to run do have pressures on them and they come from parents.  Parents today can be very competitive and want their child in the BEST class. Everyone wants their child to dance up (be in a class a bit too hard for them) and absolutely not down. I don't know how many times I heard someone gripe if a child they felt unworthy was in with their child.  Dance schools, like many sports teams, are there to make sure everyone is competent in the same way and choreography reflects that.  If you child is not as flexible as others, growing too fast so struggling with coordination, or heaven forbid doesn't have great turnout, they most likely will be shunted to what is called "recreational classes."  What this mean is they will not get special attention, they will not be allowed to compete or do solos, and most likely their class's role in the year end show will be insignificant.

Morri-Lynn with her 2 daughters.  From article
in the Richmond News.  Click HERE to read.
Receiving Richmond Arts Award
in 2010 for Artistic Innovation.

I dealt with all of this despite my worries as my daughter seemed happy.  The year she came out of class sobbing because they made her feel bad about herself was the year we walked away.  We tried a new studio with a teacher she had worked with well before and had the same experience.  They sent her into ballet exams with one of the strongest kids to boost that child's score. The result? My daughter failed her exams. I was beside myself.  But then a glimmer of what could be appeared on the horizon.

Another great studio number that included from young to seniors.
There were adult classes being offered with dance teacher Morri-Lynn Buchanan so I decided it would be great exercise.  While we were stretching and visiting, I shared Danielle's story and how much she would love to do a solo.  The answer - we could do it here. Without telling the other school, I brought her for private lessons and watched her blossom under the attention.  Her first solo was kept simple to give her confidence.  She performed it beautifully and one moment I will never forget is when she turned and took 3 steps towards the audience, arms outstretched with a look of pure joy on her face.  It was priceless.  At the end of the year we switched schools.

Studio performance at a community event.
Over the 5-6 years she danced with this teacher, she was offered the opportunity to grow and try many things such as pointe, but always with her limitations in mind so that she could try them safely.  She expanded to do a wide range of dance and excelled in tap where the turnout and flexibility were not as important. Competition was there for her if she wanted it whether she placed first or not.  More than anything, she was respected. With great fear I allowed this teacher to put her back into the exam that was such a nightmare, but she passed easily.  The same was true for all students that came.  Group choreography was designed to have moments that highlighted each dancer's strengths and they all danced together no matter what their ability.  The satisfaction when they won awards or qualified numbers for nationals ran high.

Photo on left shows a small group where all heights were successfully
integrated into one exceptional number.
About 10 years ago Morri-Lynn began to feel drawn to a marginalized group of individuals - developmentally disabled adults.  She opened a class for them and instead of hiding them, took them to community performances and had them perform in the year end show just like all other students.  Then the studio expanded to welcome those with learning challenges such as Autism and physical challenges such as Cerebral Palsy.  One piece of choreography her dancers took to competition dealt with the stigma of Autism.  Called Missing Pieces, it was so well received, it earned an invitation to the World Dance Cup where it was awarded a Silver Medial. Outside the studio she has taken this even a step further, running fund raisers to purchase equipment special needs kids to improve their daily life.

Missing Pieces at the Wold Dance Cup.  To watch a video of this performance click HERE.
It is so rare to fine someone who dares to step outside the box, who welcomes those not normally included and proves they can can earn and deserve that attention. The fact her students have experienced success at competition validates all she stands for to me.  I have decided to launch a fund raiser for this amazing teacher to attend the World Dance Conference whose agenda this year is focused on Dance Therapy.  The potential of what she can bring back to the community is enormous and I for one feel it is important she goes.

Photo from a mother whose
daughter's were also touched
by Morri-Lynn

I hope each of you who visit my blog will consider donating at  There is no minimum asked, just whatever is in your heart and in your budget. Thanks in advance.