Learning to dance
"Point your toes,” I instruct, watching as the students, most two or three times my age, dance around the room. Some are following my moves exactly; some are just swaying, but all are smiling.
I have been a volunteer at the Down Syndrome Academy, part of Friends of Down Syndrome in Houston, for nearly two years, helping with everything from building birdhouses to dancing with them at their social events. Last year, after the students attended a performance of The Nutcracker performed in Stafford by the BalletForte ballet company, I realized they had a genuine interest in ballet and dance. I decided to plan some ballet classes for them.
I have taught six ballet classes to students so far. Ballet improves their balance and health, both areas that many adults with Down syndrome are working on. They like it and remember moves from one dance class to another.
I start my classes off with a warm up and stretching before teaching moves like tendu, plié and even some pirouettes. My favorite part of the class is the end because I get to see the smiles on the students’ faces as they prepare to go home and tell their families about their class. Recently, one student, who could only sway to the music while I was teaching, refused to leave when his mom came to get him early.
I love combining two things that I care about, dance and helping students with Down syndrome. This December, students saw me perform in The Nutcracker at the Stafford Centre. They were excited when they realized they knew one of the toy soldiers.
March 21 is World Down Syndrome Day. The Saturday before that, on March 18, students from the Down Syndrome Academy will dance at their annual Cinderella Ball, a fundraiser for their school.
Friends of Down Syndrome are always looking for volunteers – you don’t have to be a ballerina! For more information, visit friendsofdownsyndrome.org and cinderellaball.org.
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