Young Achiever: Gabriella spreads joy of dance
No disability can hinder human creativity — a fact that is fully embraced by Bermudian dance instructor Gabriella Madeiros.
The Royal Academy of Dance graduate has launched a dance class called Para'Ouette tailored for people of all abilities including those with physical and mental challenges.
The Bermuda High School student gives her time for free every Saturday at the Bermuda High School gymnasium to teach the class that is run and overseen by the Somerset School of Dance.
It was a family tragedy that set Gabriella on a course of compassion and inclusion.
When she was just 4, her brother, Jeffrey Madeiros, died from complications related to muscular dystrophy.
“I've always had a passion for dance and for including everyone.
“From having a brother with a disability, I saw that kids my age discriminated against him.
“He loved watching me dance, he was my number one supporter.
“Being able to bring that joy to another child by using my talent — that is what sparked it.”
Gabriella, 15, from Pembroke, has studied at the Somerset School of Dance since she was 4 and still attends.
She has had many dance opportunities including summer camps and intensives with the National Dance Foundation, and the Bermuda Civic Ballet under the guidance of Coral Waddell.
This summer, she has been accepted to participate in the Joffrey Ballet summer intensive in San Francisco for three weeks, which will include a performance at the end of the intensive at the McKenna Theatre of San Francisco.
Gabriella was inspired by a dance programme for people with disabilities run by New York City Ballet and wanted to do something similar in Bermuda because the island has never had such a class.
“We do a lot of different things — we have done African dance, ballet, the Barre, we have done jazz, reggae, some tap — it's a nice, fun class.
“Every week we keep the warm up and closing the same with a parachute we float above our heads. When they enter they always remember — you can tell because as soon as I bring out the parachute out they all lift their arms up.
“The rest of the class is based on how the kids are feeling and moving that day. It is flexible, it has to be.”
Andrea Lopes, administrative director for the Somerset School of Dance, did lots of research about teaching dance to those with challenges but decided not to have therapists attend the classes as the children have around them in many other aspects of their lives.
Instead, parents or a guardian must accompany each student to class.
Since the class launched in September, Gabriella has seen the students progress in many ways.
She described one student who would cry at the start of every session but a few weeks in, her tears turned to laughter.
Some of the students have experienced an improvement in their posture as a result while others have displayed heightened sensibilities.
Gabriella said she gains a great deal out of running the class. “I get pure joy seeing these children and what they have accomplished,” she said with tears in her eyes.
“It is emotional to see how far they have come — it is amazing.”
Gabriella's inherent caring and non-judgmental nature are among the strengths that endear her students to her.
“I think I am a kind and genuine person. One of the students, Michelle, I have grown up with and I have that connection to her.
“Also, with the loss of my brother, it has given me an insight into how to act and react around these children and not to be afraid to give them a hug, not to be afraid to just be with them and allow them to be themselves because outside they are not really allowed to react how they want. Here, they can be themselves and have fun.”
Para'Ouette takes place every Saturday in the Bermuda High School gymnasium in Pembroke for free and is open to all.
• For more information contact Andrea Lopes, administrative director for the Somerset School of Dance by calling 292-0446 or e-mailing email@example.com