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From former Youth Director Renny Ma: Signing Off

Youth Director Renny Ma speaks about her experience with Jasmine and how she will carry Jasmine with her as she prepares for college.

Author: Renny Ma

My Chinese heritage has always been an important cornerstone of my life. From Mandarin lessons to making dumplings with my family, to phone calls across 13-hour time differences, I have grown up in an environment inspired by my ancestry. When I was eight, a new channel of expression presented itself to me – the Jasmine Chinese Dance Group. For the first time, I was able to connect with my heritage in an artistic manner, in a way that reflected not only my own personal background, but a broader one filled with history and tied me to the Chinese community around me. Though I was never a dancer, I found that each lesson became easier to follow, each movement was more fluid with every passing week. Eventually, I found myself performing on stages like Yardley Hall and at the Ethnic Enrichment Festival, and every time I felt the lights on my face and the crowd’s anticipation, I felt an adrenaline filled with satisfaction and accomplishment that pushed me to work even harder.

This past year, my last year with Jasmine, I became one of the dance group’s youth directors. As such, I became the lead of the Moon Festival Benefit Dinner, an annual event to benefit the children at Operation Breakthrough. Through the planning process, I encountered struggles and obstacles that I had never experienced before. There were days that nothing went right, and nights that I stayed awake just to make sure they did. In the end, the event led to an accumulation of nearly $1,000 for Operation Breakthrough; months of work had suddenly fallen off my shoulders and transformed itself into new materials for children who needed them. It was a feeling synonymous to the one I felt on stage, and finding it again in a different way was even more exciting.

Renny (far left) performing at the 2015 Chinese New Year Celebration at the Nelson-Atkins museum.

In retrospect, Jasmine contributed an enormous amount to who I am today. Because of it, I have learned to dance, to listen, to communicate, to plan. I have met so many kind people who are still in my life today. I’ve experienced emotions in performance and in giving unparalleled to other moments in my life. As I move on and away from Kansas City, I’ll hold the Jasmine Chinese Dance Group close. From here, I’ll strive to embody the qualities that it moves to instill in its members – strength, determination, leadership, and magnanimity. 

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