Abled, disabled dance students celebrate movement

Anoka Middle School for the Arts’ young dancers learned rhythm and movement from a talented troupe of artists when the Young Dance Company visited the school last week.

Young Dance Company dance instructor Mike Cohn (who walks with the assistance of a walker on wheels) demonstrates to Anoka Middle School for the Arts dance students the artistry and movement produced when he integrates his walker into his dance moves.Photo by Sue Austreng

Young Dance Company dance instructor Mike Cohn (who walks with the assistance of a walker on wheels) demonstrates to Anoka Middle School for the Arts dance students the artistry and movement produced when he integrates his walker into his dance moves.Photo by Sue Austreng

During the four-day residency Young Dancers demonstrated to students how people of all abilities can work and move and dance together.

“What we want to do is expose students to integrated dance where the abled and the disabled work together,” said Young Dance artistic director Gretchen Pick.

The goal, she said, is for students to realize that the physical, mental and emotional differences among them do not limit their ability to work together but rather allow for a rich experience in dance.

And so, dance they did.

Practicing movement, step, reach and turn, middle school students – abled and disabled alike – incorporated blindfolds, canes, wheelchairs and walkers into simple dance moves.

Dance students learned that “different abilities are just that – different,” said Pick.

“There are different abilities, different rhythms … and together they produce beauty and grace like none other,” she said.

Young Dance Company

Since 1987 Young Dance Company (a company made up of 25-30 young artists, ages 7-18) has encouraged youth to build body and spirit through the creative art of dance. The dance company “collaborates with professional artists, forges meaningful community partnerships and pushes the boundaries of the art and practice of dance,” said artistic director Gretchen Pick.

Young Dance approaches dance unlike other groups, she said.

“We rarely turn away anyone due to lack of training. Our unique approach to dance is designed to help young artists develop physically, emotionally and intellectually,” Pick said.

“Young Dance teaches modern dance technique, but more importantly, we teach our dancers how to be thinking artists,” she said.

To learn more about Young Dance, email Pick at gretchen@youngdance.org.

Sue Austreng is at sue.austreng@ecm-inc.com

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