Adapting exercises can help children who might have mobility limitations fully participate in dance. In acknowledging diversity in any classroom, it is important to recognise that all students differ in movement style and flexibility. The goals for a class should consider a child’s bodily understanding and abilities, rather than focussing solely on outward aesthetics. Questions such as the following may help you understand how your students are finding the movements:
‘how did you feel?’;
‘why or when did that work, or not work for you?’;
‘where in your body, or in the exercise did you feel you succeeded in the task?’
Providing a space for discussion allows all students to have a more integrative approach to their bodies and to dance. This furthers social cohesion, creativity in the environment and allows learning from other people.
Keep the emphasis on having your students portray the ‘essence’ of a movement, rather than an ‘exact reproduction’.
If a child is struggling to complete an exercise the way you have originally explained, ask them how *they* think they can be successful in the task. You can also partner them up with a buddy to help them in this process.
The majority of ballet exercises come with a French translation, which, when its meaning is acknowledged, can be adapted to be applied to other areas of a student’s body. For example, the plie – to bend – can be applied by bending through the arms for someone who uses a wheelchair, with resistance that would usually exist between the feet and the floor be implied between the hands and a wall.
For example, instead of focussing on the specific and correct grasping of a ‘fondus’ or ‘ronds de jambe’ exercise at the barre, praise your students for any grasped awareness of the principles fundamental to ballet – such as, correct posture or weight placement. Other ballet principles could include coordination, control, line, spatial awareness and dynamics. If a child has movement difficulties limited to one side of their body, an application of this could be to adjust their weight against a wall as an aide, or with a partner. Ballet steps can be altered and made more suitable when we think creatively.
Remember, help make the world fit for all kids by making dance inclusive.