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Dance of the Phoenix, LLC

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People with disabilities can dance

Disability dance program

Everyone can dance!  At Dance of the Phoenix, we believe that dance is for everyone.
We have an open enrollment policy, and students may sign up for any class they are interested in, without audition or pre-approval.  We welcome students of all ages, genders, ability levels, and body types. 
We welcome students with disabilities, including those in manual or power wheelchairs, students using crutches or orthotics, and students with developmental disabilities such as cerebral palsy, mental retardation, and autism.  Able-bodied participants are also welcome to join our courses.
There are many benefits to disabled students who dance, including:
  • Fun
  • Increased self-confidence and self-awareness
  • Positive interpersonal interaction
  • Improves muscle coordination, motor skills, and balance
  • Enhances cognitive and brain development
  • Decreases muscle tension and stress
  • Increases discipline through challenging oneself to acheive
There are also benefits to able-bodied students who participate in an inclusive dance program.  They include:
  • New friends
  • Decrease in stereotypes towards those who are different
  • Develops an attitude of acceptance and caring
  • Psychological benefits from dancing in a relaxed, accepting, nurturing atmosphere

How can people with disabilities dance?

At Dance of the Phoenix, we teach traditional dance technique with adaptations.  Additionally, we seek to explore new and innovative forms of movement and technique, appropriate to the abilities of those with movement disorders. 
Some examples of adaptations:
Tap:  Students in wheelchairs who have the ability to use their feet may remove their foot supports, and tap from a seated position.  Students who use crutches or have poor balance control may hold on to the barre while learning steps.  Students without the use of their feet may place taps on their hands, and mimic the sound and style of tapping through the use of their hands.  It is recommended that these students have a sturdy lap tray or board they can tap onto.
Ballet:  Students in wheelchairs may use port de bras (arm and head positioning), and movement/position of the upper body to convey the grace and beauty of traditional ballet technique.  Students may pirouette (turn) by quickly turning their wheelchair in a circle, and may execute the gliding moves of ballet by quickly and smoothly moving their wheelchair across space.  Students who have leg/foot control may execute forward kicks, point their toes, and execute some leg/foot techniques from their wheelchair.  Students using walkers, crutches, or who tire easily may use the support of the barre in executing most of their movement.
Jazz/ Hip hop:  Turns may be done in a wheelchair, and kicks may be done from a seated position.  Kicks may be practiced at the barre, for students who have difficulty with balance.  Jazz is less focused on intricate foot movements, and includes large, "jazzy," movement patterns, making it ideal for students who have difficulty with fine motor control.
Movement of the upper body and torso is a prominent part of hip hop, making this form of dance fairly easy to adapt for students in wheelchairs.  Movements through space are generally performed in defined patterns that can be mimicked with wheelchair movement.
Flag / baton:  Flag movement is ideal for students who are able to stand, but have limited ability to move their lower body.  Baton can be done from a seated position in a wheelchair.
General:  Any student who fatigues or has physical discomfort may take a break at any time.  Students may elect to quietly watch class, and resume participation when they feel able.
Students may change or elect not to execute any step that feels uncomfortable or exceeds their ability level.  Injury prevention is a goal, and students are instructed to trust their own bodies.  The instructor will assist students in altering or adapting any step they are not comfortable with or able to do. 
Instructions will be given slowly, clearly and repeated as many times as necessary, for students with cognitive or learning difficulties.  Rhythms and timing may be slowed down or altered, as necessary, until the student learns the steps.
Students with cognitive or developmental disabilities may enroll in courses designed for a younger age group, with the instructor's permission.
Students in wheelchairs may wish to wear gloves to protect their hands, as they may be propelling their wheelchairs in non-traditional ways.

Can people with disabilities be REAL dancers?

Yes, absolutely.  In fact, there are several professional dance companies using disabled dancers, including:

Asher Dance Eclectic

AXIS dance company

Dancing Wheels

Full Radius Dance

Infinity Dance Theater

Moving Experience Dance Company

Revolutions Dance

Additionally, wheelchair dance has become a sport at the Para-Olympics.

Got moves?  At Dance of the Phoenix, we believe that everyone can dance.  Sign up today to find your inner dancer.

Dance of the Phoenix