When you first walk into a Propeller Dance class, it looks the same as any other traditional dance class. The room is spacious, there are colourful “dots” on the floor where dancers will sit and gather, and music accompanies the children’s movements.
Yet Propeller’s dance classes are much more than just prescribed steps and choreography. “Members of our teaching staff have a wide range of physical and intellectual abilities… and so do our students,” says teacher Geneviève Sirois-Leclerc. This not only means that children and teachers who use mobility aids dance along with those who don’t, but the entire vocabulary concerning dance and movement is reframed to be more inclusive and integrative so that both those with and without disabilities learn together.
Instead of instructing children to take five steps to the right, teachers will use language such as traveling, rolling, twisting and throwing. “It gives power to the dancer,” says Geneviève, adding, “they take ownership of their own movement and their own body.”
Propeller’s philosophy is that all movement is good movement. “If you can breathe, you can dance,” says teacher Moni Hoffman. That’s not to say that teachers don’t push their students to grow or improve, but there is never a “best” way to get there and the power of possibility is paramount.
Propeller Dance celebrates different abilities and gives children the opportunity to see themselves in role models and to imagine a future in various hobbies or occupations. As a multi-abled young dancer who uses a wheelchair, Moni loves that students can see her in both leadership and professional dance roles.
The classes are open to all children, and this year, have been split into two age groups: one for those 4-7 years old, and a separate class for children 8-12 years old. Accompanied by live musicians, the energy and flow of the class can change to suit any disposition. For young children who are a little nervous, parents or personal support workers are welcome to join in.
“It’s a dance class, but it’s about so much more than dance,” says Moni. Dancing is the common ground and the class becomes a gateway to new ideas and relationships.