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Janan Mirza

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Janan Mirza danced with Moving in the Spirit for eighteen years. During her tenure as a student, Janan served as a student board member and capital campaign champion, helping Moving in the Spirit raise $8.4 million to build our new performing arts center. She recently graduated from Brenau University with degrees in dance and physical therapy.

“Moving in the Spirit is a family. It’s not just a business or a dance company or a place that you go. My friends at college talk about how they aren’t really close with the people from their dance company, that it was just a place for them to learn technical skills. It’s quite the opposite for me, and I’m really appreciative.

Dance has always been an important outlet for me. I have a hard time explaining myself with words. Dance is my strength. My senior year, I created a solo with my teacher about a situation and time in my life when I felt absolutely hopeless. I translated my feelings and experiences into very specific movement that had meaning to me. It really helped me process and see things from a different perspective. It’s been several years, but sometimes if I’m having similar feelings, I’ll go back and watch my dance. It brings me peace, knowing that in the end there is always hope, and that I can get through hard times. Without dance and choreography, I wouldn’t have that understanding.

A lot of the skills I learned at Moving in the Spirit have prepared me for life, in college and beyond. Learning conflict resolution, ‘I feel’ statements, and how to approach people about different situations was super important for me. I tell everyone that it really has helped me so much in my life, with my family, with my friends, and in professional settings.

Touring with the company, there were always unexpected changes, and we’d meet a lot of highly professional people that we’d have to interact with. Being put on the spot without knowing what you’re doing is really hard, but it gives you skills that you wouldn’t have learned otherwise.

It was similar when I was a student representative on the Board of Directors. I got the opportunity to sit in rooms that not a lot of people have access to, and I felt a lot of pressure. I learned through that role that being a leader is not just leading people with my opinion, but truly listening. That’s something I’ve carried with me in my years after Moving in the Spirit, and a lot of people say I’m really good at it.

I’m hoping to use those skills with my patients when I become a physical therapist. I became interested in physical therapy in my freshman year of high school when I injured my shoulder. That’s when I learned that I am really interested in the human body and how muscles work and why. I feel like dancers in general don’t learn about injuries or how to prevent them as much as we should, and I would love to educate athletes and dancers because I know what they’re going through. I chose Brenau University because it’s one of the only schools where you can study dance and physical therapy. Moving in the Spirit helped connect me to a professor there and prepared me for my interview and my audition, and I really needed that mentorship.

At the end of the day, I gained a lot of confidence from Moving in the Spirit. I used to be very shy. Now I know that I am enough and that I have the power to change the world.”

Moving in the Spirit students consistently score in the High Adequate range for developmental assets such as empowerment, commitment to learning, positive values, and social competencies (like interacting, decision making, and coping skills). Source: Developmental Assets Profile Trend Study, 2011-2021.