Every semester, Regis DPT students participate in a service learning project that gives us the opportunity to work out in the community. Our first semester project didn’t happen due to some pesky snow; this semester, though, we had many options to get involved with different disabled populations. Others in my class spent time at weekend retreat camps for children with motor and mental disabilities, skiing with those with mobility impairments, and bowling with people with Down syndrome. As a former ballet dancer, I was attracted to the dance program that was listed in our options.
Spoke N’ Motion is a fully integrated dance company. When I say fully integrated, I really mean it! During my time with the company, I have met many members who have vision, hearing, and mobility impairments along with other members who have autism, Down syndrome, or lesser detectable disabilities. I remember walking into the rehearsal the first day—I had absolutely no idea how it was going to work. How do you get a group with such different levels to dance together? Honestly, I expected the rehearsal to be messy and difficult.
It was the opposite of that. An individual with visual impairments stood to the side and watched a few times before joining. Those in wheelchairs used their arms to mimic the leg movements. The younger kids kept up with the adults. I was amazed and so honored that I was getting to experience a little slice of it. The company performs regularly! I entered with a narrow mind about what I would be experiencing, but they opened me up to so many new ideas.
My project only required a handful of hours, yet I have found myself going back every week. I’m no longer a person who is dancing with Spoke N’ Motion as a project for school; I’m a member of the company. I have fun dancing with everyone there. They have a performance coming up next month, and I’m even dancing in the show.
The atmosphere of the company is of overwhelming joy. One member posts in the private Facebook group every Friday before rehearsals about how excited she is to see everyone the next day. For many there, this company is a place where their varying abilities are highlighted as a good thing. We push the boundaries of what I thought was ‘okay.’ Who would have thought it was okay to stand on the back of a wheelchair to do spins?
Service learning is an amazing opportunity to get out of our ‘school brains.’ We get to work with real people and see how concepts from class can be applied. Being open to new and uncomfortable situations is an important part of our education. I, for one, am glad I go to a university that encourages service learning!
And, if you happen to be around Denver next month: come see us dance! Performances are May 14 and 15th. Look here for tickets: http://www.spokenmotiondance.org/performances.html
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