Imagine Ballet: a reflection from Madame Ballet

My name is Katie Muckley, and I’ve been a member of the Imagine Missions family since 2014. For reasons you are about to read, the kids (and sometimes adults!) in Despinos call me ‘Madame Ballet’, a nickname I’ve learned to respond to automatically. In addition to serving as “Madame Ballet”, I have co-led Camp Imagine and currently work with the health and communications committees as well as the Imagine Missions Board. It’s an honor to learn more about Haiti, effective service, and the Lord’s heart as I learn to love our Imagine Missions family well.

Almost five years ago, I traveled to an orphanage to learn more about a country, a culture, and a God who loves us all.

I didn't know what to offer the children I was meeting that would be in any way valuable to them. Their lives were unimaginably different than mine.

My good friend Glen suggested I do what came naturally - dance! I started a small ballet class with some of the girls, and was delighted at how they understood the names of steps because Haiti is a country filled with French influence and history. I boarded the plane home feeling the peace that God gives when He allows us to get a glimpse of his purposes for our lives.

But I had no idea just how big His vision was and is. (Why do we always underestimate Him?!)

Though sharing ballet started with just a few girls at Imagine Missions, in just one week, two young boys from Imagine- Jamesly, age 11, and Mardoche, age 9, get to represent Haiti in an internationally acclaimed classical ballet competition.

Somehow God grew our simple, dusty, loud, constantly-disrupted ballet lessons into a love of dance for many of the children, boys and girls alike. Young Estephanie (age 10 at the time) was so determined and passionate about learning ballet that Imagine directors Melissa and Pascal decided to sign her up for dance classes. Fortunately, God partnered us with the Institut De Danse Lynn Williams Rouzier family through Estephanie’s dance enrollment, which would forever change the lives of our children who love to dance.

Many friends and family of mine helped to pay for Estephanie's first 10 months of ballet classes so she could continue to learn more about dance and follow her passion, for which I will always be grateful.

Estephanie attended class in Petionville, Haiti 4 times a week at Institut de Danse. She learned a lot, and shared what she was learning with her brothers and sisters at Imagine Missions , who regularly requested ballet and dance classes when myself or other dancers visited.

Many generous individuals donated dance clothing and shoes so that it would be possible for me to run a dance camp the last two summers with daily classes in real ballet uniforms! The new music room served as a perfect studio. The boys grew passionate about having an all-male ballet class, so we regularly worked on their technique- especially jumping- with the help of a teenager serving as a percussion accompaniment. The little kids have learned many ballet class rituals and now know to form a circle for our stretching time and a line for leaping! And as our children’s interest in dance has grown, many have contributed to creating a space in the music room to serve as a dance studio, complete with ballet barres and mirrors.

When visiting Estephanie’s dance class in June of 2017, God granted me meaningful conversations with Lynn and Marynn Rouzier. They were tickled that I had a whole class of sometimes up to 15 boys participating in dance classes. Like me, they believe dance is such an important form of self-expression for youth development, and males are particularly underrepresented. These directors of the dance school offered to drive three hours from their home to visit our summer dance camp and see our kiddos participate in my still-simple, constantly interrupted, slightly-less-dusty-but-still-dusty ballet classes.

This meeting lead to God granting us their favor and generosity to ask that eight of Imagine's children- four boys and four girls (including Estephanie) - attend their school on scholarship.

Since then, I have been blessed to watch from afar as Haitians and Americans have sacrificed many hours of time and many dollars to ensure that these eight children are able to maximize the opportunity to attend this dance school and learn discipline, self-expression, and the art of dance.

These eight children have become leaders among their peers, knowing what it means to be a part of something larger than themselves and gaining the confidence that goes along with that. On top of improving their dance technique and growing as people, they have been honored with wonderful opportunities to perform for diplomats and even the First Lady of Haiti.

In April, I was again amazed to hear that this endeavor has resulted in granting two of our children even more life-changing opportunity. Jamesly and Mardoche were selected to represent their school and the country of Haiti in Youth America Grand Prix in Tampa, January 4-6, 2019. Again, thank you to the donors (especially Liz Hicks and Keirsten Finnicum) for helping to make obtaining visas and passports possible, and to those that have given towards the trip expenses.

I can't believe the time has almost come to watch our boys who live in a humble orphanage dance on a bigger stage than I've ever danced on, for some of the most prominent dancers and judges in the world. This is an incredible opportunity and experience for them. One they will remember the rest of their lives. Haiti deserves a spot on the stage, and what better way to represent Haiti than through young dancers of all backgrounds.

I'm in awe, friends. I'm in awe, God.

As many (including myself) take this time of year to reflect back on growth, I'm spending some moments reflecting on how a small, dusty, noisy 'ballet class' was transformed into the performance experience of a lifetime for Jamesly, Mardoche, and the Imagine Missions family.

Check out Imagine Missions' ballet journey through photos below: