Ballerina learns the joy of teaching
A young dance instructor aims to inspire the physically and mentally challenged with lessons brought home from a prestigious dance school.
Gabriella Medeiros, 16, picked up some top tips from the New York City Ballet after she was invited to sit in on their special needs dance classes.
Now she plans to balance choreography with expressive movement for the next term of her dance workshop, Para’ouette.
The student with the Somerset School of Dance said that she had wanted to give her students a creative outlet that they could enjoy.
She added: “I’m not going to rely too heavily on dancing just because, based on feedback from parents and students, it is difficult for them to learn.
“They told me that they prefer to do the exercises and flexibility instead, so I don’t think I will change that much.”
Gabriella, who is from Pembroke, shadowed the prestigious New York City Ballet’s Access Workshop in October after a three-week summer course at the Joffrey Ballet School in San Francisco.
She said that the opportunity taught her how the school organised classes and interacted with students.
Gabriella continued: “When I came out of the first class, I was actually kind of speechless.
“It was amazing because I got to watch these kids become ballerinas for that hour.
Gabriella added: “The students were just filled with joy.”
Gabriella also said that she felt honoured to visit the NYCB because their Access Workshop had inspired her to start Para’ouette. She explained that she found a video about the Access Workshop in 2018 and was inspired to start a similar company.
Gabriella added: “I showed it to my mom and she said ‘we need to do this here in Bermuda — there’s never been anything like this done before and you can be the first to do this’.”
Gabriella said Para’ouette aims help her students express themselves through movement while building strength, flexibility and balance.
She said: “When it comes to disabilities, each day for them is different — some Saturdays they’d be up to do lots of dance, some days there’ll be more fun activities.
Gabriella added: “For me as the instructor, I really have to pay attention to how they’re feeling; you can’t force them to do things because it makes it unenjoyable for them. So once I see they’re losing a little bit of interest in something, I usually move them on to something that I know they really enjoy.”
Gabriella said many of her students had made strides in both mobility and self-confidence. Andrea Lopes, the administrative director of SSOD who oversees Para’ouette, added: “The joy that I’ve seen, their intensity and their interactions in class — you can’t measure it.
“One little girl when I first went always frowned to me and screamed, but the last time I went to visit a class she did not stop smiling.
Ms Lopes added: “There’s a sense of freedom — they take a breath when they walk in the class and you see them smile and you see them not have any fear of being judged.”
• Para’ouette is held every Saturday from 2.30pm to 3.30pm in the Saltus Grammar School upper school gymnasium on St John’s Road, Pembroke. Classes are free and will start this Saturday. For more information, contact Ms Lopes at 292-0446 or e-mail email@example.com
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