This week, Miss Chiara, our Richmond Hill teacher, is sharing with us how dance has impacted her during these changing times. We hope her reflections inspire you to stay positive, keep moving and take control of the things you can!
When this pandemic started getting serious, one of my first thoughts was “how will the special needs community I work with be affected by this massive change”? The change of routine, added stress to families who are losing therapies and school, not to mention the increase in challenging behaviour that was surely to be a result of having kids remain at home for weeks, if not months. What I didn’t realize though, was how not seeing my special needs community members would impact ME.
I have always preached the idea that working with someone with a disability doesn’t just benefit that individual person. It benefits EVERYONE, and this is one of my biggest reasons for advocating so strongly for the successful, equitable, and meaningful inclusion of participants with special needs within recreational activities with their typically developed peers. What I didn’t think about was that even though I am approaching my 8th year working with people with special needs, I am still one of those people who is benefiting, learning, and growing from working with unique individuals.
This might be the longest stretch of time that I haven’t worked with, helped, or been around a person with special needs. It sounds silly, but until this moment, I hadn’t really realized how much of a norm it had become for me. People with disabilities literally brighten my world. There have been several moments during these isolating times when I’ve thought specifically about individuals I’ve worked with and sit and wonder what they’re doing right now, or think of a special moment they brought such joy and laughter to me during one of our encounters. For any extroverts who can relate, not being able to see people has had a profound impact on me. I thrive on human connection, and being with and around others is what makes me happy. However, what is saving me and my fragile heart right now is maintaining my connection with our Dance Ability Dancers.
I must admit, I was a bit skeptical at first about bringing adapted dance classes to our dancers virtually. How will they react? How will I instruct? Will they be supported? Will they be able to do it? Will it be successful or will this be a disaster? Thanks to the courageous Ryan sisters who, from the start, knew that this was possible, it has been more successful and meaningful than I could have ever imagined. During that hour that I get to connect with my dancers, it feels like I am being refueled. Our dance classes always did this for me (I always felt like I left the studio with my heart literally 2 sizes bigger than when I got there). I am learning now, that it wasn’t necessarily being in the studio and playing the music that made me feel this way. It was the connection to the people in the room that gave me that feeling. Virtual dance classes have proved to me that connection is not necessarily based on physical proximity. It is based on what you share emotionally with those individuals. You do not need to be “close” to someone to be close to someone. My Wednesday night virtual dance classes with Dance Ability bring me happiness, joy, hope, and so much laughter – just like they ALWAYS have. I count my lucky stars that some determination, adaptations to typical delivery, and added technology allow us to maintain and grow the connection with our community to something bigger and more meaningful than it has ever been before.
Share your story with us!
We would love to hear from you. Do you have a story to share about how dance has impacted you during these times? Have you found a new way to dance, or a new meaning behind what it means to be part of a dance community? Send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org