Monday, January 05, 2009

House of the Roses 

Posted by James at 9:00 AM ET

LogoIf you ask New Jersey Ironmen/New Jersey Devils Dancer Lauren what she's passionate about, her eyes light up and she'll tell you all about her involvement with House of the Roses Volunteer Dance Company.

Started in 2003 by choreographer Jeff Shade, House of the Roses (HOTR) provides dance-based outreach for at-risk children in New York City. "House of the Roses" was founded in the spirit of by Thérèse of Lisieux (Saint Thérèse). The message of Saint Thérèse is beautiful, inspiring, and simple: "Do the Ordinary with Extraordinary Love." Throughout her life, Thérèse used flowers to express love which further inspired the House of the Roses name.

Once a week for two hours at one of seven sites across New York City, HOTR volunteers lead dance workshops designed to foster healthy role modeling and respect for others. The sites of the workshops are at partner outreach facilities, such as supportive housing and community centers, as well as performance opportunities at outside locations. The program provides constructive, disciplined and fun activities for these children to show them that they merit the time energy and and interest of others.

LaurenThe volunteers who run these workshops come from a wide variety of backgrounds. Some are professional dancers, some are bankers or lawyers. All united by a common commitment to the donating their time and tale to working with children and performing a repertoire that inspires creativity and caring.

Lauren, who has been volunteering with HOTR since its founding five years ago, says the reaction from the children is overwhelmingly positive.

"One of the most rewarding aspects of being a volunteer, is seeing the childrens smiling faces and warm greetings when we walk in each week. Although, it is equally special just to see any child participate."

A workshop will usually begin and end with the children in a circle. In between the volunteers will lead them in a session of dance (tap, hip-hop, ballet, jazz, and more) and movement games. Technique is not stressed in these programs, but self-esteem and freedom of expression are.

"When they are able to suggest a move, or a game, or even comment on a success they had, I feel that the work we are doing is impacting their lives in a positive way," says Lauren. "Additionally, when they take part in a performance for the first time and realize that the audience is there cheering them on, there is an amazing energy that takes over. It is wonderful to have the opportunity to share our love of performing with them, and I love being a part of what is hopefully a very special, and happy memory for them."

One of the most important things HOTR does is to show the children that they merit the time, energy and interest of others, (especially important given their circumstances.) The workshops are designed to foster freedom of expression, healthy role modeling, self esteem and respect for others. Through these workshops, the children prepare for a variety of performances that celebrate their success and growth throughout the year. These performances give the children the opportunity to be recognized for their talent and creativity rather than their life circumstances. House of the Roses appears to be unique in it's dance therapy-based approach, which adds a dimension beyond simply teaching a dance class or choreography.

Lauren has been with HOTR since its inception back in 2003. In 2007 she was named to the organization's Board of Directors. And in November of 2008 Lauren became President of the Board of Directors. As President her responsibilities include organizing of the mission statement, searching out opportunities and overseeing fund raising. With her new responsibilities at HOTR, her daytime job and dancing for the Ironmen and the NJ Devils, Lauren says she's never been busier in her life.

Lauren is President of the Board of Directors of House of the Roses. This season she is a member of both the New Jersey Ironmen Dancers and New Jersey Devils Dancers. She was previously on the New York Titans Dance Team, The Sirens.

She says she's lucky that her job at a private equity firm allows her to support herself and be able to dance for the Devils and the Ironmen, as well as work with House of the Roses. Devils and Ironmen games are primarily at nights and weekends, as are the weekly HOTR sessions and monthly rehearsals, so she's fortunate that the scheduling allows her to work full-time.

But she feels very blessed to have the opportunity to give back to the dance community, as well as dance professionally.

Reflecting on her work with HOTR, Lauren says, "I can't believe that I'm actually doing this, so I'm trying to just enjoy every moment. The passion I have for both dance and community service drives me to continue, and I'm inspired weekly by some of the wonderful kids I've had the privilege of working with."

For more information on House of the Roses, to make a donation, or to learn about volunteering, visit HouseoftheRoses.org.

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