When Joshua Orsak was a child, he sustained a head injury that caused problems with his hand-eye coordination. The injury complicated his ability to learn to write, but now, he views that bump on the head as a blessing.
Orsak, who is the pastoral associate at St. Thomas the Apostle Episcopal Church and School in Nassau Bay, suffered residual issues from that injury, he said. Combined with an ongoing battle with anxiety and depression, it led him to healing through an activity he discovered with his wife.
“I’ve found incredible healing through ballroom dancing,” Orsak said. “It’s had a profound effect on me. Since I started dancing, my hand-eye coordination issues resolved, and as far as my issues with depression. When I dance, they’re just gone.”
At the weekly dances at Hometown Heroes Park in League City, Orsak saw aspiring choreographer Lauren Simmons dancing.
“Lauren is only 18, but she has ridiculous class presence,” Orsak said. “She was giving lessons to kids and adults, and I asked her if she would teach me. Her ability to teach is absolutely uncanny. Lauren can read your mind.”
Orsak shared his enthusiasm for the sport with the students at St. Thomas the Apostle and had no trouble getting the children interested in after-school ballroom dance lessons with Simmons.
Fifth grader Charlotte Moye was late to join the class, but other students who had signed up persuaded her.
“Josh and Lauren have taught us that it’s all about connecting with others on a deeper level,” she said. “I’ve learned the country waltz, the single-step swing, and the West Coast swing. They teach private and group lessons. I am so into it.”
It was much less awkward to dance with boys than Gillian Fricker, another fifth-grade dance student, thought it would be, she said.
“It’s not gross when you’re dance partners,” she said. “Charlotte was so into it, she was literally calculating the hours until it was time for lessons. I loved it after the first lesson, so now I say, get over here and dance! You will like it.”
When the lessons started, fifth-grader Kovi Vetter was surprised that there were more boys than girls, he said.
“I don’t think of boys doing ballroom dancing so I had to think about it,” he said. “But it’s Josh teaching it, so it’s awesome. It’s actually an art. I wouldn’t have thought I would dance in the fifth-grade talent show, but I did.”
Lessons are fun, he said, but challenging.
“If you make one little tiny mistake, Lauren will know,” he said. “She’s a professional.”
All three young dancers agreed that they were learning great life lessons through ballroom dancing.
“I learned patience and that you have to work your way up,” Gillian said. “And a lot about coordination and confidence.”
“Dance is my antidepressant medication. It’s better than any pill,” Orsak said. “Dancing is how I connect with people on every level. It’s spiritual for me; it’s a way for me to encounter God. Dancing is so much more than learning steps. It’s about engaging your core and connecting with your partner, because if you can’t do that, you can neither lead nor follow.”
Simmons, who plans to study choreography at San Jacinto Community College in the fall, knew early on that teaching choreography would be her passion in life.
“There’s a one in a million chance that two people could fit together as dance partners as well as Josh and I have and share this passion with these kids,” she said. “Now that I have my own dance studio, he’s my dance and business partner. Together, we’re helping people break walls and connect with each other through dancing.”