The Adapted Dance Process Planning, Partnering, and Performing: Dance Allows Persons of All Abilities to Experience a Feeling of Wholeness and a Sense of Community

By Block, Betty A.; Johnson, Peggy V. | JOPERD--The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance, February 2011 | Go to article overview

The Adapted Dance Process Planning, Partnering, and Performing: Dance Allows Persons of All Abilities to Experience a Feeling of Wholeness and a Sense of Community


Block, Betty A., Johnson, Peggy V., JOPERD--The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance


The dance process involves meeting psychological, social, and physical needs at multiple levels. Historically, many cultures danced to express emotion and used the body to connect with others by moving together to music and sounds; this is no different in the 21st century (Block & Kissell, 2001; Levy, 1992). As true artists, dancers know that they can move with confidence and mastery of technique. Performing these practiced skills should result in achievement at a personal level and through audience recognition (Dunn & Leitschuh, 2006).

Of particular interest is that dance performances now include persons of various ages, abilities, and exceptional ways of moving. Unique movement abilities have been embraced by the dance world and public as legitimate. Increasing numbers of dance groups are multigenerational (Gilbert, 2006) and include dancers with disabilities who integrate wheelchairs and other assistive devices into their choreography (LaPointe-Crump & Sherrill, 2006). There are also dance companies made up solely of persons with disabilities. This cultural shift in thinking opens the door to another world for dancers with disabilities--a world that used to be dominated by highly skilled, "elite" dancers.

Dynamic, transformative dance allows persons of all abilities to experience the personal growth and feelings of wholeness that come from performing natural movements with skill and grace, as well as the exhilaration and sense of community that come from partnering and performing with others (Dunn & Leitschuh, 2006). If the dance process is planned properly, exceptionally skilled dancers, dancers with average skill, and persons with disabilities can all display their skills in a creative, artistic, and relational manner, both in and outside the classroom. This presents unique opportunities for everyone to experience growth and well-being (Block & Elkins, 2006).

This article describes how to address the affective, cognitive, and psychomotor domains in an inclusive dance class, in order to successfully include students with disabilities. Specific techniques and advantages developed for fully integrating persons with special needs into dance pedagogy should focus on these domains of learning and on how each domain plays a part in the integration process.

Of great importance is the showcasing of dance skills by performing for audiences (Cote, 2006). Dance pedagogy should include some type of performance as an application component, just as sport skills are applied in a game setting. The application phase of learning allows dancers or athletes to apply what they have learned by using their skills in some type of context.

Passion, professionalism, and unity displayed by dancers in a performance are necessary for full integration, whatever the venue. Dance education professionals and physical educators should culminate dance pedagogy units with a performance at an appropriate level. Performances can have varying degrees of production, depending on the needs of the dancers. There are many examples. An in-class demonstration is a perfect first step to prepare for performing in front of an audience. Performances at parent-teacher meetings extend the scope of the audience to a friendly, supportive group. School productions provide an opportunity to perform for peers, while community-wide performances can be a more formal way to showcase talent. All these can be staged in the familiar classroom setting or on a lighted stage.

The Affective Domain

The program should begin with the techniques and advantages of the affective domain of learning, as it is the domain that most benefits persons with disabilities. Individualized education programs (IEPs) for persons with disabilities usually include goals related to normalization and socialization. These goals can be reached through dance.

Normalization. Block (2008) defined normalization as "a process of accepting people who are different than other citizens--as they are--disabilities and all, into a group. …

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