A Prince Albert dance studio is amping up its philosophy of helping students reach their individual goals with classes specifically for children with unique needs and exceptionalities.
Ballet ‘N’ All That Jazz’s owner and director, Heather Ksyniuk, and associate director, Heather Mackie, both have backgrounds in education. Having been around kids with specialized needs both in the studio and out, they wanted to offer an opportunity for children of all abilities to experience the benefits of dance.
Ksyniuk and Mackie will be teaching the new set of classes, called Spin ‘N’ Sparkle, launching in September.
“I really believe in the importance of having that individual attention,” explained Ksyniuk.
“We’re hoping to meet with each family prior to classes starting and get a little more information about their child and their unique needs so that we can plan around them and make sure that we’re giving them dance activities that are accessible to them.”
The classes are open to children with physical disabilities, such as cerebral palsy, developmental disabilities like autism or learning and language disorders, as well as behavioural challenges.
“I’m also really looking forward to being able to incorporate children with wheelchairs or who need walkers or have different physical needs that we can adapt and make sure that they can dance, too.”
Ksyniuk has worked as an autism spectrum disorders consultant and a child psychologist. She’s been wanting to kickstart a program at the dance studio for kids with unique needs for a while, but it just didn’t fall together until this year.
She was inspired to take the leap while in Toronto for teacher certification. She listened to a talk from a guest teacher about her special needs program.
Knowing she couldn’t make the program happen on her own, she asked Mackie to help out. The pair were also guided by a longtime dance teacher, Gillian Horn, when COVID-19 struck and they wanted to make the most out of an uncertain upcoming season.
“Dance is more than sequence,” emphasized Horn.
She explained that while competitions, recitals and exams are important, the art is also beneficial for your well-being—and every child should have access to it.
Similarly, Horn said she’s come across people who are hesitant to dance because “they have the wrong body type.” In reality, she said, dance is about celebrating all shapes, sizes and abilities.
“The response on Facebook and Instagram has been really good and lots of people have been sharing and tagging people that might be interested or know someone that might want to take it,” said Mackie about the new program.
She said eventually, they want to pair older, more experienced dancers with each child. However, because of the pandemic, they’ll be starting by asking a family member to volunteer and help each student throughout the classes.
Ksyniuk and Mackie will assess each child to see which class will be more beneficial for them. One is 30 minutes and the other is 45 minutes, both taking place on Sunday afternoons. They’ll likely be teaching a mixture of ballet and jazz styles.
Each class will have a maximum of six students plus their volunteers. The studio is wheelchair accessible.
The studio is also taking several COVID-19 prevention measures. This includes sanitizing in between classes, marking squares on the ground so that each dancer is physically distanced, teachers wearing masks and offering the option of virtual classes if a dancer is feeling unwell.