Mid-Columbia Ballet -
introduces dance to children with special needs Story and photos by Elsie Puig MACIE SKADORWA IS GLIDING ACROSS THE STUDIO DANCE FLOOR with the grace of a professional ballerina. Her arms gently lift from the floor up toward the ceiling as she mimics the evolution of a seed into the blossoming of a flower in the form of interpretive dance. Although she looks over every few minutes at her dance instructor for reassurance, she performs with composure and confidence, as do all the other children in this unique Mid-Columbia Ballet (MCB) class. Meanwhile, a group of proud parents take pictures and videos from behind the studio’s glass window. This is not your typical ballet class. The participants, children aged 8 to 11, have special needs, such as Down syndrome and autism, and have never performed ballet before, mostly because there are few local dance companies that can accommodate the unique needs of these children.
MCB designed INCLUDE, a free dance outreach workshop, to help children with varying degrees of developmental disabilities to relish in the joy and benefits of dance. Over the arc of six sessions, INCLUDE will focus on bringing children with special needs joy through participation in a dance class designed
Students dance in a recent INCLUDE workshop activity. 44
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specifically for them. The program runs six weeks and is held every Saturday from 4 to 5 p.m. at the Tri-Cities Academy of Ballet. This workshop has been specially developed by MCB’s resident dance historian, Rebecca Rogo, who is passionate about bringing the arts to children who live with developmental disorders. Rogo has a master’s degree in special education and since graduating, has spent her career combining her background as a dancer with her formal education. “There are so many opportunities for kids with developmental disabilities to be integrated in schools,