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A dance class for anyone who thought they would never move

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In Motion's newest dance class is for anyone who thought they would never have the chance.

Courtney Lopes is behind it. Her hope is that it empowers children who learn differently, people who are physically challenged and anyone who has never had the opportunity to learn.

She was introduced to "inclusive movement" on a trip to Mexico while in college.

"I was just kind of thrown in," the dancer said. "We taught classes at orphanages and domestic violence shelters where some of the people, mainly children, developed physical disabilities because of the experiences they had when they were younger.

"We were bringing movement into these people's lives and showing them that anything is possible. The point of these classes is to show that [everyone] actually can move and dance and be creative individuals no matter what their limitations might be."

In 2016 Ms Lopes went on a nine-week trip to South-East Asia with Dance Motion USA, a project created by the US Government and the Brooklyn Academy of Music.

"They developed this programme where they would send dance companies off to countries all over the world to do outreach and perform. The whole purpose of the trip was to have cultural exchange through dance or music. We went to Laos, the Philippines and Indonesia. We spent three weeks in each country and we still communicate with most of the people we met."

In anticipation of the trip she had to take training in dance for Parkinson's disease. It prepared her for the range of challenges the students she met had.

"At first I was a little confused. I was like, why are we doing training in dance for Parkinson's disease when we're not going to be teaching dance for Parkinson's disease?

"Some people were both blind and deaf, some people were in wheelchairs, some people were missing limbs. I was there for this whole experience of teaching dance to people who never ever would have had this opportunity, who just would have never been allowed access to a class like that."

Very sad for her to see was just how scared the students were to walk into the class.

"They didn’t think they were going to be able to do it," Ms Lopes said.

A 16-year-old who was deaf and had never learnt sign language sat in a chair in the corner for the entire 90-minute class.

"By the end of the class I felt like I had so many conversations with her. By the end of it she was laughing, and literally dancing. But she sat in the chair the whole time. You can do that. You can sit the whole time. You don’t have to get up and move.

"Watching these people transform that quickly, in a matter of an hour, just gaining confidence, feeling empowered enough to just get up and start moving and communicating through movement, I think that’s something."

Her outreach continued with Dance Heginbotham, the New York company Ms Lopes works with.

"Every time we travel we always do this outreach work and the goal of it is to just empower students to have confidence. We explore music and movement through games and exercises. We teach repertory. A lot of the classes that I've taught have ended in some kind of showcase for family and friends who want to see."

She hopes to replicate that success with the classes she plans to offer to children and adults at In Motion School of Dance.

"To be able to dance with somebody who's been told their whole life that they can't, that’s the most fulfilling of all. To watch the transformation of somebody who is scared and by the end of it they have a smile on their face and they're so confident, to show somebody that they can do something — it felt so life-changing."

Ms Lopes is not a trained dance therapist and is aware that there are classes taught at Dame Marjorie Bean Hope Academy and elsewhere by professionals here.

"That’s why we're calling it an inclusive movement class," she said. "For me the most important thing is they're coming to a dance studio and maybe doing something they’ve never been able to do before because they’ve never had access to it; someone's told them they can't do it.

"There are all these benefits of dance: improved flexibility, body co-ordination and motor skills — things everyone should be practising all the time, things we sometimes forget. I think we often think of dance as an active fun thing but there are so many health benefits that come from it. And when the music comes on, even the deaf students that I've taught feel the bass."

What will also set her class apart is that it will be open to people with a range of challenges.

"I'm not sure there is a class where, potentially, there is someone who is deaf and someone who is in a wheelchair and someone who has autism, where they can all walk into a room and take a class together.

"And that’s what I'm hoping happens. And if people are interested in coming and don’t have disabilities, if they just love dancing and moving and there's no classes for them, I think it's important to know that literally anyone is invited to come and attend these classes."

Classes will be donation-based. Anyone interested in participating in a class or becoming a sponsor should contact In Motion School of Dance: info@inmotionbda.com and 292-7615

Courtney Lopes travelled through South-East Asia teaching dance to people who never thought they would have the chance (Photograph courtesy of Dance Heginbotham)
Courtney Lopes travelled through South-East Asia teaching dance to people who never thought they would have the chance (Photograph courtesy of Dance Heginbotham)
Courtney Lopes travelled through South-East Asia teaching dance to people who never thought they would have the chance (Photograph courtesy of Dance Heginbotham)
Courtney Lopes travelled through South-East Asia teaching dance to people who never thought they would have the chance (Photograph courtesy of Dance Heginbotham)
Courtney Lopes travelled through South-East Asia teaching dance to people who never thought they would have the chance (Photograph courtesy of Dance Heginbotham)

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Published October 25, 2021 at 8:00 am (Updated October 26, 2021 at 8:04 am)

A dance class for anyone who thought they would never move

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