Francita Meaux has a story of tears and triumph, and her light is shining brightly in Athens, especially for kids who have Down’s syndrome, or are battling autism, Asperger’s or other physical challenges. “Miss Franci” is 66, and began dancing as a child, but not in the usual way, such as with lessons at the barre, recitals in tutus, or with supportive parents out in the audience.
Born in Louisville, she became a ward of the State of Kentucky at the age of four, living in a children’s home run by the Catholic Sisters of Charity. Around the age of ten, she was doing her chores as assigned by the nuns, and was cleaning the church. She says of that experience, “While alone with God, [I] talked to Him about [my] life. While in the sanctuary [I} began to dance only for Him as a form of prayer and praise. This passion for dance is now expressed through the liturgical dance style of Le Maseran.” She told me she told no one about her experience that day in the chapel, because “she would have gotten in trouble.”
In between that first encounter with “the Lord of the dance,” and then becoming a dance teacher, she taught herself ballet and tap, largely by watching variety shows such as Ed Sullivan. She mimicked what she saw, and practiced hard, all by herself.
She married, had kids, and for a good while, the dancing part of her got shut down. While working in the Baptist church, she found other ways to express her creativity in worship by doing Christmas plays and programs, and, blessedly, she finally had a pastor who backed her desire to bring what is explained below to the people of God. She moved back into what she had experienced as a child, and Le Maseran was born.
FAQ: What is Le Maseran? (The Master’s Hands): An ancient, psalm based form of worship, praise and prayer expressed in the language of movement in dance.
Her dance troupe visits churches, “and we do not perform, we present. We want all the glory to go to God, and invite the people to just worship Him.” They have made DVDs of their presentations, and as a result of the dancers visiting one church, a man by the name of Brian Passe wrote and published a book about Miss Franci’s life. It is entitled Looking Beyond the Wall: Francita Meaux And Liturgical Dance.
Miss Franci’s passion for empowering and teaching praise and worship dance has found a unique place for special needs kids at The Dance Factory in Athens, located just down the street from Federal Mogul. “We want to fulfill a need for physical expression and physical education in the special needs community,” she said, and to that end she began a dance program called “Just For Me.”
“Our Just For Me class gave their first presentation this spring,” she says, and as you can see from the photos, both the teachers and the children enjoyed what they are doing.
“We don’t push the kids,” she told me, “but they do want to work hard because of the love they feel,” she added. Le Maseran classes are available for kids without special needs, too. Franci gives group and private lessons, and has a handpicked crew to help her with all her classes.
All classes are held at the Dance Factory, which is located at 1432 Freeman Ave in Athens, and registration is going to be held soon for the new Just For Me/Le Maseran classes, as well as the fall classes for the Dance Factory.
It is rare to have a dance program have worship as its focus, but I can assure you, the level of professionalism and love I have observed at Le Maseran would make me want to enroll my child, whether or not special needs were part of my decision.
What is Miss Franci’s mission statement and purpose? “To spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ expressed through the presentation and teaching of the Le Maseran form of dance.” If this is something you would like for you or your child to experience, please contact Franci Meaux and partake of all that Le Maseran has to offer.
Le Maseran at The Dance Factory
1432 Freeman Avenue
The Dance Factory: 256-230-0479
Check them out on facebook at Le Maseran
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner