Story of why I appreciate volunteering every year to Down syndrome dance classes:

by Skylar Cordrey        

            I enjoy volunteering for Down syndrome hip hop dance classes every year because they are fun and rewarding. It is an invaluable experience where I have learned and grown with the dancers. Every Wednesday I look forward to going to this class to see the happiness that dance brings every student. My job is not only to volunteer, but to help inspire a passion.

            From the moment you walk through the door into the dance class you can feel waves of positive energy radiating throughout the room through the teacher, volunteers, students, and even the parents. The kids come to class filled with hugs, smiles, and high-fives from the excitement and love they have for dance. I have been dancing for over 10 years and so it is particularly heart-warming to recognize the same joy the down syndrome dancers feel as I do when I am dancing.

                                                                                                 

            This is a special place where anyone can go to learn to express themselves without being judged on their dance ability. Whether someone’s personality is outgoing or shy has no effect on the amount of support and cheers they will receive. What is so exceptional about this type of environment is the community bond that forms between everyone and how we are able to have such an open space for people of all different levels and ages to learn. The self-confidence the students have in order to go on stage all by themselves and “free dance” is incredible. Even though I have been dancing since I was very young and it took me years to build the presence they have. The “free dance” is a great way for the students to express their individuality with all of their unique styles (see video).

            Dancing is very important for people with down-syndrome because it not only raises their spirits, but helps increase their flexibility, builds strength, and widens their range of motion. All of the students have varying degrees of agility along with physical abilities and I feel dancing is so crucial to establish a foundation for all different sport aptitudes. It increases their muscle tone and even though it takes a little longer for them to reach developmental milestones, I have seen the students eventually meet all or many of them.

            I plan to continue volunteering and working with Down syndrome kids even when I go off to college in a couple of years. Whether I am having a good or bad day, it becomes instantly brighter spending time with them. The friendships that have been formed with these students and the impact they have made in my life will never be forgotten.

 

Annie McConville's A Chance to Dance Experience

 

Communication has always been a strength of mine and has somewhat always come naturally to me. As such, during my years of teaching (both assistive and as the instructor) I have always worked at delivering instruction in my classes in the clearest way possible; both to student and parents/carers alike.


When I was invited by the owners of J’Adore Dance Studio to attend the Rhythm Works Integrative Dance Certification, I was both apprehensive and excited. Apprehensive because what more could I learn about communication? And excited as I was already working with and more importantly connecting with a child with special needs. “C” really opened my eyes to what dance and the right communication can do for someone. To begin with, we communicated more by me just talking to him and attempting to guide him through activities. But after attending RWIDC things got so much more interesting!
Some of the things discussed at the RWID workshop were such small changes that made the world of difference. Where you stand in relation to the dancer, how/where and when to touch, and even what questions to ask (not just to the dancer but to their caregivers and aids). By knowing what questions to ask, I was able to have a greater understanding of “C”. I knew to stand to the left of him, as he preferred to learn new steps with me beside him and not in front of him. I also learnt that “C” liked to count people in a room. This was really important information when it came to recital time!
It was “C’s” first ever time dancing on stage and I had the pleasure of being there to take him through it. I knew that stepping into an auditorium full of people would make “C” have the need to count them, so before the show started that's we did. Together we walked onto the stage and counted the number of people in the seats. By we I mean “C”, his ability to count so fast is something I still find amazing. Because we had counted the audience before we danced, it was no longer a distraction. “C” performed his dance twice with me by his side and I will never forget how much this meant to his mother, “J”.
We now have such a connection that while “C” is no longer in my class, he will come and visit me at the studio. We even talk now which is something I treasure and the friendship I have with both “C” and “J” keeps growing.
Since teaching “C”, I have had the pleasure of teaching many students with special needs. Currently I am guiding two students through our full year Creative Jazz Ballet program and they are doing brilliantly. I can't wait to see them dance alongside their classmates in their March recital.
I would also like to mention how much RWID has helped me in teaching not only children with special needs but also neuro-typical children. When a hip hop group was struggling to learn the ‘step-touch’ move, I used a line and many dots. They would step forward on the line and then tap a dot to the side while saying “line, dot, line, dot”. Eventually we removed the props and then the words, so simple but what a change it made for the dancers!
The use of charts in the classroom has been hugely beneficial for me this year as well. I have an amazing class of students who just needed a bit more guidance. Since using a chart to break up the segments of the class and allowing the students to choose whether they get a big check mark (for working hard, focusing and showing best dance manners), or a half check mark (if they could have better dancing manners), I have seen huge improvements in behavior and overall enjoyment of the class.
Rhythm Works Integrative Dance has really opened up my eyes as a teacher and allows me to bring a whole new level of teaching to the community at J’Adore Dance Studio (www.jadoredance.com)

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Traci Soule teaches through "Education for the Arts" in Kalamazoo, MI and her inspiring story of A Chance To Dance

 

Traci Soule teaches through "Education for the Arts" in Kalamazoo, MI. Here's her inspiring story of how she's providing students in her community with "A Chance To Dance."

Each week, I have the pleasure of teaching dance to a second through fifth grade deaf and hard of hearing classroom and a special education high school classroom. Every single week I see improvement in turn-taking, self-control, body awareness, focus, right and left differentiation, expressiveness and musicality. This can be attributed to my training as a Certified Rhythm Works Integrative Dance Educator.

Rhythm Works Integrative Dance training has put students’ style of learning at the forefront for me as a dance educator. I now incorporate lots of visual aids, more tactile reinforcement, and clear and concise verbal directions. I have also learned that for student success, I need to allow processing time. I have incorporated these teaching techniques in my classes and my students are thoroughly enjoying classes. This enjoyment translates to increased confidence which equates to student success.

Classroom teachers and student interpreters have been singing the praises of these classes. They have seen students more focused and calm after dance class. Students are excited to come to school because the dance class is the start to their day. Teachers love that the class sets the student up for success at the start of their school day.

I reached out to our fellow teachers to see if they were seeing any benefits of the dance class that carried on throughout the day. Here's a response I received from Kara.

"We have noticed some wonderful changes with our students since the start of your program with them. We have seen an improvement with their memory skills and that has carried over into their academic work as well. We have noticed that they are now better able to work as a team, knowing how and when to lead, taking turns, paying attention to each other, and interacting more appropriately. In addition, they are building great language skills through your program as well as learning different ways to express themselves both verbally and non-verbally which is key to their social/emotional health and wellness. Last, but definitely not least, it has given our group of kids a chance to experience success and confidence. They are not only showing increased self-esteem but are also more willing to take risks and try new things. It's given us a chance to have a joyful time together which recharges everyone, adults included, for the hard work that we all need to accomplish each day. Thanks for all you are doing to help our kids!"

I have always believed that dance is for all and Rhythm Works Integrative Dance has given me the perspective and teahing tools needed to facilitate that idea!

Importance of Dance History - Beyonce does Fosse

Everything old is new again!  Just a reminder of the wonderful choreography and inspiration Bob Fosse has been to the dance world.  A perfect example is seen in the above video - his moves stands the test of time.  They are as entertaining today with Beyonce as they were with Gwen Verdon.  Teachers this is why we need to expose and education dancers today about the wonderful pioneers of dance that have helped shaped the many styles we incorporate today.