Dance: Communicating without Words
by: Christina Holl
Three years ago, I graduated Montclair State University with my BFA in Dance. The dance training I received there was excellent and I felt ready to enter the world as a professional dancer. I knew I wanted to perform professionally and teach, but I also wanted to be able to serve others through dance. After countless auditions in New York City and not being able to book a job, I was introduced to Mark, Melissa, the Roxey Ballet Company, and Mill Ballet School. The whole thing seemed to fit perfectly together- I was dancing professionally for the company, I taught for Mill Ballet School, and I was given the opportunity to become a teaching artist and teach the Dance to Learn curriculum to special education schools in New Jersey. The Dance to Learn program is an interdisciplinary and inclusive dance curriculum with the goal to advance dance education in schools and community settings. The Dance to Learn curriculum encourages students to explore, internalize, and transform classroom learning through movement. It allows students to develop their individual creative voices! There are a few dance companies in New Jersey that teach this curriculum, however Roxey Ballet is the only company that works with the special needs community. I was nervous going into my first residency in fall 2017 because I wanted to be able to provide the best experience for my students as possible. I went in with an open mind and an open heart. The students were a little apprehensive at first, but as time went on it was amazing to see how the power of movement and dance allowed these students to express themselves. Melissa Roxey always starts off each residency asking the students what they think dance is and after they give the expected responses of “moving to music” or showing us “the floss”, she explains that dance is “communicating not with our words, but with our bodies.” One moment in particular that really stuck with me was during a class with students who were all physically disabled in some way. They depended either on a walker or wheelchair for mobility. One student who was wheelchair bound and non-verbal did not care much to join in dance class every week and would often just sit in his chair and not participate. I developed a system of drawing picture graphs on a large poster board every class in order for the students to choose- through either pointing or eye contact- how they wanted to move (i.e. water, fire, air, earth). After weeks of this student being non-responsive when I approached him with the picture board, he pointed to an image of a swirl which represented the wind. He started moving his arms in a circular motion while displaying a bright smile on his face. His teachers and myself were so excited to see him make that connection and communicate through his body not words that he understood! Being able to teach creative movement residencies at special education schools has been a life-changing experience for me. It is truly remarkable to see how dance transcends any type of communication barrier and the positive impact it has on the mind and body. I leave each residency with a grateful heart hoping that I have impacted my students as much as they have impacted me.
Roxey Ballet teaches creative movement residencies as well as provide other educational assemblies and workshops to schools across NJ and PA. If you are interested in a program for your school please firstname.lastname@example.org