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As a ballet teacher adjusting to the startling new world we are living in with Covid-19, I keep thinking of my dance students and the worry they must feel adapting to this stressful situation. Being stuck at home can be frustrating and scary, particularly when your ballet studio feels like a second home. I wanted to share my own experience dancing in isolation as a teenager, and what I learned from it. Hopefully my story will help buoy your spirits for the better days ahead.

When I was a senior in high school, a professional ballet career was all I wanted in my life. While training at an intensive ballet program in Virginia, I was so focused on getting a job that when I came down with an illness (chronic mononucleosis), I refused to stop dancing. Unfortunately, this caused me to become even sicker. I eventually had to fly home to Florida, where I was required to rest for several weeks. This period of home isolation felt torturous at the time, but I learned important lessons that later made my professional career much more rewarding.

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"In part, I became a teacher because I felt the need to help others dance," says Slattery (center in all black). "Working on this project has been so fulfilling, and I look forward to it each week." Photo courtesy of Orlando Ballet

A year ago, Orlando Ballet School offered a weekend workshop called "Come Dance With Us." The pilot program was designed for children with physical special needs and disabilities, such as cerebral palsy, hydrocephalus, brittle bone disease and a variety of conditions that require children to wear braces or use walkers and wheelchairs.

The workshop was such a positive experience that the school expanded it to 10 weeks. Recently, I was given the opportunity to teach within the program. To my surprise, the students were capable of participating in ways I wouldn't have expected.

In a short time, I've been so impressed with the children's ability to modify movement, not to mention the joy and incredible spirit the students bring to class each week. It has been an extremely valuable experience for me as a teacher, and I have learned a great deal working with these inspiring kids.

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