• Stephen Fowler

Activities for Special Needs Adults | Documentary Film | Ballet Classes

Updated: Jun 9, 2018

Question: What happens when a "fairly strict ballet teacher" opens her studio doors to a group of

A student prepares for class

adults with disabilities?

Answer: Magic

Question: What is the best way to share the benefits of innovative programs for special needs adults with 1) service providers 2) The corporate community ?

Answer: Create a documentary film

In their constant search for innovative activities for special needs adults Thrive Upstate approached the International Ballet Academy of Greenville, SC and, specifically, Lena Forster the director. Would Lena, a classically trained former ballerina, agree to accept a group of clients with intellectual disabilities for ballet training? 

After consideration Ms. Forster accepted the challenge. She nor any of her staff had any personal experience with any kind of special needs adults programs. In fact she had no familial association with the intellectually disabled. She only had her personal ballet training and vast experience as a ballet instructor.

It was agreed that would bring a group of their clients each week to the International Ballet Academy of Greenville.  Lena began by enlisting the support of local volunteers and advanced I B Academy students. Since this was a journey into uncharted territory for students and teachers alike Lena fell back on traditional ballet training techniques for beginners.

Different students had different interests and abilities but the level of interest overall and the enthusiasm shown by the students was remarkable. In contrast to similar classes with conventional students, many of the warm-up and conditioning exercises as well as the ballet moves needed to be re-taught each week. But progress was made.

One of the students who particularly struggled in some aspects of coordinated dance moves loved to be the first in the studio to distribute the mats on the floor for everyone. That became his responsibility. Another student who had shown minimum interest in any of the activities and was not very communicative suddenly opened up and began to mentor a new member of the group. It was astonishing. Even his mother was amazed that he had become so interested and had shown so much progress.

Great story right? But without Sarah Shoemaker, a newbie documentary film maker, this ingenious accomplishment would be a well kept secret. To be sure the story would be told. It would be told over the water cooler at the agencies that provide services. Some of the parents of the students would post the story on their Facebook pages and get a bunch of likes. But the thousands of agencies that might find use in knowing about this program wouldn't. 

It turns out that there is a benefit of the documentary film that no one at the International Ballet Academy of Greenville or Thrive Upstate ever expected. This film entitled Invitation to the Dance illustrates  some of the most timely concepts being promoted in the business world and in the transportation industry. These are the concepts of team building activities and Crew Resource Management. This film illustrates those concepts in a charming way  that will keep associates awake during class.

Human Resources professionals are you sometimes tasked to present a class to new hire associates or continuation training to veteran colleagues? This off the shelf tool can make such a task easy to accomplish. A facilitator's guide can be purchased / leased along with the film. For that special group, let us organize an address by the filmmaker or IB Greenville staff who participate in this program.

Special needs service providers are encouraged to contact us to screen the film. If decision makers need evidence that this program works, the film is a convincing tool.

The students in this film will break your heart and heal your soul. They speak the truth and their enthusiasm for ballet, their teachers and their group is inspiring.

As of this writing the ballet training continues each Thursday morning.

Note: Thrive Upstate is the largest and oldest provider of services to people with disabilities in Greenville County, aged birth through end of life. Thrive Upstate currently offers a wide variety of services at low or no cost to families and individuals.

Phone for a consultation and pricing. 615-522-2939

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© 2018 by Invitation to the Dance Film