Most parents have watched their kids fall in love with childhood favorite songs and nursery rhymes. We see their faces light up when a familiar tune plays, and if we watch long enough, we catch them moving to the music. From a very young age, the desire to move and dance is something that is within us all.
DancingUnlimited is a program that hopes to promote a love of dance for every child — even those with physical disabilities. Dayton Parent spoke to Barbara Pontecorvo, artistic director of Gem City Ballet, to learn more about the DancingUnlimited opportunity.
How did DancingUnlimited (DU) get its start?
Gem City Ballet (GCB), a pre-professional ballet company, introduced the DU program in 1998 as part of a partnership with Children’s Medical Center. Their therapists were using the dance program as additional therapy for their patients. The program consists of two 6-to-8-weekly dance sessions with a performance at the conclusion.
How many dancers do you typically have in the program?
Gem City Ballet has 23 hard-working dancers between the ages of 12 and 18. They work alongside the DU dancers and we currently have 10 students with special needs. Although the DU program is limited to 20 students with physical disabilities, one sibling is also able to accompany each DU participant to their classes.
What modifications are made for the DU classes?
DU classes are run by both a ballet instructor and a physical therapist. The Gem City Ballet dancers are indispensable during these classes. In many cases, they will physically put the DU dancers into correct positions and help them with movements. The GCB dancers take their cues from the DU dancers with regard to how much help they want, but are always by their side to steady and urge them on. If a child is in a wheelchair or uses crutches or a walker, we help them to find alternative and creative ways to follow the movements like the other dancers.
Can you walk us through a typical class for a student with physical disabilities?
Classes are 45 minutes long and begin with warm-up exercises on the floor. Class continues with a short ballet barre, and trying basic ballet movements such as plies, tendues, degages, sautes and passe. We then move to port de bras (movement of the arms), marching, skipping and jumping. We end with a period of free dance.
What are the costs for the DU program and can community members get involved?
Even though there are some costs during the performance period with supplying costumes and paying choreographers, classes are completely free for our DU students and all their costs are covered.
For more information, visit gemcityballet.org.
Gem City Ballet Virtual Classes
Due to the stay-at-home measures taking place across the state of Ohio, Gem City Ballet has had to temporarily close their studio. To stay in contact with their dancers and the community, they now offer virtual classes online for free, for anyone who is interested. You can find the videos on their YouTube channel at keyword “Pontecorvo Ballet Studios.”