Creative Movement Exploration class gives physically challenged dancers room to move
KayLynn Booth is quiet and seemingly shy, but her eyes speak volumes, especially when she hears music. The Nutcracker soundtrack is playing in the background as she studies herself in the mirror. Just like most 17-year old girls, KayLynn is obsessed with music. “She’s the DJ for the class,” her dance instructor, Christine Ryan, says. “She always picks the music.” Her favorites are Broadway and Disney tunes.
Her sisters, Loree and Amanda, call her a “music nut.”
“We’ll throw on music, and she starts to dance,” Amanda says.
KayLynn is one of 30 students participating in Creative Movement Exploration, which incorporates dance as well as movement for children and adults with special needs. She has a rare genetic disease called tuberosclerosis, which often causes autistic tendencies and afflicts just one in 100,000 people. Despite not being able to communicate much with words, her sisters say, she looks forward to her one-on-one classes with Ryan.
“She now has an opportunity to express herself without the language barrier,” Loree says. “After three months, she is much more aware of how she walks, talks and expresses herself.”
When KayLynn’s favorite song comes on—"All That Jazz"—a huge smile appears on her face and she starts to tap her foot. She plies across the small studio toward Ryan, grinning as she concentrates on her movements. Besides dancing to the Chicago soundtrack, KayLynn’s favorite part of class is reading along with the Nutcracker CD.
To add a little fun to the dancing, Ryan uses props such as fairy wands, butterfly wings and princess crowns. She also incorporates art projects into her classes to mix things up and keep students focused.
“I like to figure each student out and then focus on individual needs,” Ryan says.
But you don’t necessarily need to be able to walk to dance in these classes. Sherri Douglas is another one of Ryan’s students, and although she depends on a wheelchair to get around, she can dance like no one else. “You’re holding up the train,” she says to another dancer, laughing during a recent rehearsal. She is very energetic and willing to learn and to encourage the others in the class.
She is one of about 10 in Ryan’s wheelchair-only class who can dance better than many who can walk. Although she has different specific needs than KayLynn, they share the same love for music and dance.
“There are different ways to dance,” she says. “This is a way to express how I feel about the world.”
Douglas has also been involved with theater, but when she heard about Ryan’s classes she thought it could be a different way to be creative.
“I couldn’t sleep for two days,” she says.
This particular class is a group setting, where the other dancers are also in wheelchairs. Ryan starts the class off with a warm-up, with movements such as neck exercises. They usually work together in a group practicing their dances, making circles and movements in their chairs. As others might dance with their feet, they dance with their wheels.
“It’s a way to open the doors and unite as a group,” Douglas says.
To show just how hard her students work and have improved, Ryan has choreographed a dance recital, where all of her students from the different classes will come together to perform for the community.
Ryan wrote the recital as a play and said that her students will use what they’ve learned from class, including dance and different movement techniques, in the recital. Plus, everyone will have costumes, handmade by Ryan herself.
“Every student has improved," she said. "I’ve never seen anyone not improve."