Wisconsin Studio Offers Sitting Ballet Classes for Disabled Students

At the Kehl School of Dance in Madison, Wisconsin, children and adults who use wheelchairs or crutches can enjoy real ballet classes—sitting down. Teacher Jo Matzner came up with the idea after being sick and unable to take regular classes for nearly two years. "Everyone should dance if they want to," she told a local news station. "It's just taking our normal classes a step further."

Seated on cubes or in wheelchairs, dancers take barre, performing port de bras, cambres and other upper-body movements from a typical class. They also do some exercises with their arms that standing dancers do with their legs, including tendus, dégagés and développés.

In the adult classes, where all dancers have wheelchair experience, students perform center exercises and move across the floor. Matzner says they are working on spotting turns in their chairs, too. For the children, however, she’s had to be more adaptable, because dancers’ physical capabilities vary and not all of them know how to operate a wheelchair. For now, she focuses on building young students’ core strength during barre and center exercises. Beyond that, she says, “I’m still trying to decide what I’m going to do. But it seems to be really exciting for everyone who’s participated.”

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