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Dance Company Adds Classes for Kids with Autism, Down Syndrome, More

A local dance company is updating its business model to include children who may not otherwise get the opportunity to participate.

Expressions Dance Theatre launched RemarkABLE Movement. Alexandra Smith introduced the program designed for children and teens with autism, sensory processing disorder, Down syndrome, and other differences..

"My daughter is a dancer, and has been at Expressions now for about one and a half years," said Smith. "She loves it, and I thought that movement is something most people can do, so I would love to give other children, children who don't always have the opportunity, the chance to love movement and dance like my daughter does."

The classes will begin in January, and an instructor certified by RhythmWorks Integrative dance will teach every class. The classes are designed to help support existing therapy goals. Dancers will work on gross and fine moto  skills, strength and flexibility, social skills and motor planning, body control and awareness, focus, coordination, and memory and recall skills.

Crescent Springs-based Expressions held its first trial class recently and twenty-five children took part. Several of the older students at the school signed up to be volunteers in the buddy system suggested by the program. 

But there can be too much of a good thing.

Smith said some of the students found the amount of people in the room to be a bit overwhelming, so she and Expressions owner Cara Patrick are rethinking the amount of assistants to make the students more comfortable.

"We are learning as we go," said Patrick. "For the most part, we want to have our ducks in a row, so that everybody feels safe."

Patrick first met Smith at church where Smith's husband is a pastor.

"Her daughter Hazel started dancing with us, and she loves it," said Patrick. "Alex and I started talking about how dance is so much a part of her family, and about how she loves the community.  She said she feels she has a calling to do something more.  When Alex came and talked to me about the RhythmWorks program, and asked if I would be interested in a program geared toward children with certain disabilities, I told her I would love to, but I didn't have the staff to dedicate to the program."

The two brainstormed, and decided to call their program RemarkABLE Movement.

On December 2, there will be another trial class.

"This looks like it is going to be a very successful effort," said Patrick. "I would like to expand on it, and we are going to go into Redwood school to do a class. I would also like to work with Special Olympics."

The classes will start regularly in January, likely on Fridays. The classes will run for eight weeks.

The studio typically has a show in June, and Patrick said they will include the RemarkABLE Movement students if they want to be in it.

"We have gotten great feedback on the program," said Patrick. "I am beyond happy."

Smith is also pleased by the initial debut of the program.

"I love making dance a part of everyone's life," she said, knowing how much dance has always meant to her. "I love seeing the joy on the kids' faces!"

Written by Patricia A. Scheyer, RCN contributor
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