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For those of you who haven’t been following my CLP Inspired posts, the purpose of these posts are simple… to highlight cool kids, doing cool things in our community. I pair their post with photos I take of them while I have the pleasure of learning their story. There is no money to be made here, just a wonderful opportunity to share goodness with my community. My hope is that my posts encourage other kiddo’s out there to see that it doesn’t always take a lot to stand out from the crowd, and that it’s totally cool to be unique…or ‘normal’… whatever you prefer, as long as you do it well, and with a whole-heart. I also hope that my posts encourage us big people as well… because, well, there’s just so much to be learned from these raw little minds and hearts.

That being said, you guys, it’s the holidays! Can’t you just feel it? Smell it? Taste it? I dunno, maybe I went too far there… but whatever! This season makes us feel all the feels, and it’s wonderful. Therefore it only felt right to do an extra special holiday themed post this month. I am so excited about this one because today I get to tell you all about a festive little gentlemen who is basically as awesome as it gets. And, it just so happens that today is a very big day for my little friend James.

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Today is opening day for one of the best and most magical holiday traditions in history. Today, seven year old tiny danseur James, along with other top students from the acclaimed Master Ballet Academy in Scottsdale, will be warming the hearts and souls of the valley when they take the stage for Slawomir Wozniak’s holiday classic, The Nutcracker.

 

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Today, young James will be making his second annual appearance on the big stage at The Orpheum Theater in Downtown Phoenix. James is seven. Seven! And he’s performing ballet — Ballet! One of the most highly technical, complicated, strict (and very French) forms of dance that exists (pardon my very casual, uneducated description of this beautiful art form). Ballet is so much more refined then I will ever be. James probably is too. And that’s why I just adore him. James will be performing on stage, alongside grown adults, in front of hundreds of people. And sometimes, he’ll do it twice a day! You guys, did I tell you he’s seven? And he’s sweet, and he’s charming, and he’s so dang smart. And there’s more, but I’ll get to that in a minute.

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So, how does a seven year old little boy get into ballet anyway? Can we ask this question without offending anyone? I think we can. I was a seven year old little girl playing ice hockey, and I loved the question. I was proud to answer the question, and it was clear James was too. Confidence is such an important thing in this life. Be you, and own it. James does. So, how it all began? James and his family did what so many families do during the holidays, they went to see the Nutcracker. James was five, and for the little Christmas enthusiast,  it was love at first sight. He watched with bright eyes as the magic unfolded in front of him and he knew right then and there — He told his parents, “I have to do that!” Isn’t that amazing!? And I believe it, because I had a very similar experience with ice hockey. That Christmas he asked Santa for ballet lessons, and by the next Christmas, when he was six years old, he found himself auditioning for The Nutcracker and landing his very first role! Talk about a kid who knows what he wants and is willing to do whatever it takes to get it. Determination in it’s rawest form. And to be clear, it wasn’t all sparkling leaps and magic. There was tears, and pain, frustration and thoughts of how maybe it would be easier to quit. Not to mention the very obvious black shoes in the sea of pink – The questions and comments from his peers at school. But none of that slowed down James. James has ambitions. James has goals. And by the way, it doesn’t get any cooler then that. James refused to quit. He would be in The Nutcracker. And here we are.

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James practices three days a week and will perform up to five shows a weekend. On show days, James arrives at the theater at 9am and leaves around 11pm. I’m exhausted just thinking about it. And for goodness sake would somebody please bring his mother some coffee? This post is about James, but let’s be honest, we all know that behind every successful, dedicated, determined kid is an incredible mother who really could just use some coffee, and maybe a nap. Definitely a nap. Coffee, and then nap, and then more coffee. But back to James…

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So he dances, and he’s not scared of hard-work. He’s tough, and he’s well-spoken. And he’s funny! So funny. He’s a wonderful big brother, he loves Christmas and if you can get past his adorable dimples you would see that he is way more then just a cute face. Which leads to my favorite part about him – His big heart.

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You see, it’s not just that he’s kind, as we know he is. In fact, his kindness is one of his mommas most favorite things about him. He’s nice to everyone, she says. He’s accepting of peoples differences and he’s proud of who he is. James is my kind-of guy. But there’s more to it then that. James allows his actions to speak louder then his words. James allows his heart to lead. I know this to be true because this year James did something big. Bigger then performing on stage, and bigger then simply being kind.

This year, while watching the Olympics on TV with his family, James learned of the unfortunate situation of many children in Rio who were living in the slums. A photographer had done a piece on the kids, and James was taken-aback by it. His heart ached for these children who were living in absolutely awful conditions. He asked his mom if could learn more about the kids. This is the part where my eye’s get wet. This is the part that restores my faith in humanity, and in our future. He asked his parents if there was something he could do to help these children. As a family they researched the photographer, Gil Miranda, who took the pictures, and on his website they came across a story about a program in the slums that used ballet to help keep kids focused, safe, and on-track. When James came across this story, he knew immediately that this is how he could help.

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Seven year-old James took it upon himself to start collecting donations for the program he found called Tip Toe For Life. James set-up a donation box at his ballet school, made signs educating people on how the program was benefiting the kids in Brazil, and was able to collect boxes and boxes of dance gear to send to the students who were very much in need. He even raised the money he needed to be able to ship the gear all the way to Brazil by himself. Did I mention he’s seven? What a wonderful little soul we have in him, to already know what an incredible feeling it is to serve others. And I guess that’s what I mean by bigger then just simply being kind. James took the kindness that is built deep into his soul and he transformed it into action. He transformed it into something real. He transformed it into something real important. You see, I spoke earlier about all of James’ wonderful accomplishments in his short little life so far, but I think we would all agree that this is by far the one he should feel most proud of. Because I mean really if you think about it,  it isn’t that hard to be kind, but it sure as heck is hard to make a dynamic difference in other peoples lives for the greater good of all of us.

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So Phoenix friends, once again, I am so proud to introduce you to one of our very own. To our future, and to our pride and joy. He is one us. He is our neighbor, he is our friend, and he is raising the bar for all of us. Are you looking for something fun and festive to do this holiday season? Well then get out there and support this awesome little dude, and his fellow hard-working performers from Masters Ballet Academy. The opening show is tonight at 7:00pm at the Orpheum Theatre in Downtown Phoenix. I think we say, “break a leg!” right? I dunno, it doesn’t feel right. Don’t really break a leg James, please. But have a whole heck-of-a-lot-of fun!! Ticket’s for The Nutcracker can be purchased on The Master Ballet Academy website at www.masterballetacademy.com/2016-nutcracker-tickets-showtimes/.

If you’re interested in learning more about Tip Toe For Life and how you can help go to http://www.sebastiangilmiranda.com/on-tip-toe-for-life.html. And, of course, a great-big thank you to James for bringing local awareness to this awesome project. It’s just so incredible, how so often we can see that the size of a child’s heart has absolutely no correlation to the size of their stature.

Happy holidays everyone! Enjoy every second of it, and don’t let the craziness of the season get in the way of the things that matter most!

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