Last summer at Camp Ramah New England (CRNE) I set up a dance therapy program for the Tikvah campers, unfortunately the dance therapist who was supposed to run the program had to cancel at the last minute. As a result, I was asked to teach the Tikvah campers a dance to be performed for the entire CRNE community. The experience showed me firsthand the benefits of dance therapy and inspired me to bring dance therapy to the special needs community of Boston through CHEETA (Children Helping Empower Each other Through Art).
Since seeing the smiles on the faces of the Tikvah campers as they learned the dance for their performance, I have wanted to empower more children with dance therapy and today I was given that opportunity at Gateways Access to Jewish Life (jgateways.org, if you are interested or know anyone who may be interested in volunteering, applications for new volunteers come out tomorrow!). This morning as we continued our celebration of Israel’s birthday, Liz Offen, coordinator at Greater Boston Yachad and teacher at Gateways, knowing about my work to start CHEETA in the Fall, asked me to teach an Israeli dance to the students. I chose one of my favorite dance songs from camp, the Miami Boys’ Hinai Matov, and used moves to create a dance that would best fit the students in my classroom. Taking it one step at a time, we learned the dance together making sure everyone knew the steps before moving on to new ones. It was so nice to see the volunteers and the students learning the dance together, interacting in a more casual and high energy way than we usually do in the classroom. Throughout the whole dance, I heard laughter from the students and I saw smiles on the volunteers’ faces as they watched their student follow directions and have fun learning the dance.
Today was prospective volunteer day at Gateways so there were many visitors coming in and out of our classroom while I was teaching the dance. The students were so engaged in learning the dance that they remained calm and focused even with all the visitors. Several of the prospective volunteers said they enjoyed watching the dance program and thought the students looked really happy; it was exciting to hear such positive feedback.
This morning’s experience at Gateways is a great example of the benefits of dance therapy for children with special needs and gives me more inspiration for CHEETA.
Dance, move, and empower,