Brigham City Dance Instructor Creates ‘Dance For Life,’ to Help With Suicide Prevention

May 16, 2019, 6:46 PM | Updated: 6:53 pm

BRIGHAM CITY, Utah – Troubled by the suicide of a Box Elder High School student over the summer and an overall high suicide rate, Kristen Barlow wanted to do something to help.

She at first started by putting together an annual dance showcase to build awareness, but most recently decided to grow that effort into something more.

“Besides just making awareness, we thought ‘well, what can we do to actually help people, so they don’t get to that point?'” Barlow explained. “We know what dance can do for young ladies, and young men. It brings self-esteem, confidence, they discover hidden talents.”

As the owner of Starstruck Dance & Performing Arts, she decided to start offering dance classes to children, for free.

“We wanted dance to be for everybody, not just for people that can afford it,” Barlow said.

Barlow, her teenage daughter Janessa Barlow, and Janessa’s longtime friend, Leah Larsen all pitch in, as volunteer instructors for the three classes. Larsen and Janessa Barlow are both students at Box Elder High.

Leah Larsen and Janessa Barlow

Leah Larsen and Janessa Barlow

“There’s a lot of suicides in this area, and a lot of people don’t feel included,” Janessa said. “I think being a part of something big like this, something they can look forward to, it will really help them and help boost their self-esteem.”

“Once you get to our age, people kind of start like breaking off, into cliques and stuff,” Larsen added. “Its just nice to have something to get away from the world for a second, and just… move however you want to.”

Larsen and Barlow will be playing Odette and Odile, respectively, in an upcoming production of Swan Lake. Students from the three classes will accompany them.

“Some of them had never danced before, they didn’t have any clue what to do, but they have been so excited,” Kristen Barlow said. “We’ve discovered hidden talents in some of these kids.”

Kristen Barlow

Kristen Barlow

Kristen admits that with this type of approach, it’s hard to know whether they’re having a direct impact on preventing suicide, but seeing the joy the kids receive from learning dance makes it worthwhile. It’s something she says she’s seen many times in her 25 years of teaching dance.

“I’ve seen them transform into amazing, confident individuals,” Kristen Barlow said. “And so I’ve seen what dance and activities like this, extracurricular activities can do.”

Barlow says she will eventually look for additional volunteer instructors to expand the program. So far, more than 90 kids are enrolled in the free classes.

There will be two performances of Swan Lake at Ogden High School this Saturday, the 18th, at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Tickets can be purchased here.

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Brigham City Dance Instructor Creates ‘Dance For Life,’ to Help With Suicide Prevention