Dance Program Focuses on Students With Disabilities
by KRISTEN ARMSTRONG, Staff Writer
|Through a partnership with Wakefield High
School, Arlington Dance Theatre has been providing dance classes for the
school's Life Skills students since February last year.
Life Skills is a program for students with disabilities that teaches critical skills needed to make a successful transition from school into work and community life.
“Dance is for joy and for everyone,” said Arlington Dance Theatre school director Jennie Wisniewski. “Anyone can do this. It's one of the rights of being human.”
Arlington Dance Theatre instructor Martha Kabrill teaches the class once a week, for 30 to 60 minutes.
She covers basic dance terms and techniques, but focuses more on creative movement, and urges the students to come up with their own signature steps.
“They absolutely love it,” Kabrill said in a recent interview. “These kids always do their best, and everything they do is amazing.”
Kabrill, who has been with Arlington Dance Theatre since 2004 and who also is a featured vocalist with the U.S. Army Band, had never taught a class like this before last year, but has found it to be very satisfying.
“I was so nervous when I first went in, but I learned how to relax,” she said. “Everything I worried about went away after the first class. I leave [class] every Thursday totally alive.”
The Life Skills students participate in the Arlington Dance Theatre's end-of-the-year recital, and Kabrill said it is an event they look forward to all year.
The organization's staff said the students truly rise to the occasion, and this year's audience response was hugely positive.
“They got two standing ovations, and half of us were crying,” said Arlington Dance Theatre administrative director Martha Rutter.
In addition to classes at Wakefield, Arlington Dance Theatre expanded this year and provided dance classes for Life Skills students at Yorktown and Washington-Lee high schools, through Arlington County's After-School Recreation Therapy program.
“[The participants] loved it. The instructor was able to incorporate all of them into the program and was good at adapting everyone's needs,” said Becky Suttell, acting manager of the county government's therapeutic recreation programs.
“When she first came in, one of the participants only danced for two minutes, but by the end he danced the entire class,” Suttell said.
Arlington Dance Theatre's contributions were recognized by the county government's Department of Human Services during “Including People With Disabilities Month” in March.
Arlington Dance Theatre staff recently found out that there are Life Skills programs at the elementary and middle school levels, and would like to expand their partnerships further.
“Money permitting, we'd have a teacher in every school,” Wisniewski said.