Dance troupe teaches that all are special - Catholic Courier

Dance troupe teaches that all are special

ROCHESTER — Four-year-old Gabriel Taylor couldn’t stay seated on the floor as he watched The ARC of Monroe County’s “A Moving Experience” dance troupe perform.

Instead, he spontaneously jumped up and ran over, joining the dancers in sweeping arm motions. As the song ended, he stood hand-in-hand with one of the dancers.

“I never danced before,” Gabriel said after the performance.

The dance troupe featured developmentally disabled performers showing off their abilities, such as twirling in wheelchairs to music. The dancers performed at the Cathedral Community’s vacation Bible school, which will continue from 5:45 to 8 p.m. July 14-18 at Sacred Heart Cathedral, 296 Flower City Park. Spots for walk-ins still are available. Contact Marianne Himmelsbach at 585-254-3221, ext. 108, or mhimmelsbach@dor.org.

Also during the Bible school, visual artists from The ARC of Monroe County’s Community Arts Connection put together an exhibit called “Soul Impressions” that will be on display through July 18 in the cathedral’s narthex.

Himmelsbach, the Cathedral Community’s faith-formation administrator, said she hopes the community’s first-time partnership with The ARC of Monroe County artists and performers will be able to continue.

“It took us two years to get the art show, and it fits in perfectly with the vacation Bible school,” said Himmelsbach, who noted that many of the paintings feature religious subject matter.

Both the art exhibit and the dance performance were designed to go along with the Bible school’s theme, “God made you special, and He loves you very much.” She said the theme was inspired by a video from the Christian cartoon series “VeggieTales.” In the video, a cartoon character called a Snoodle has trouble fitting in, until the creator of the Snoodles teaches it that it is special. During the Bible school, students had the chance to make their own Snoodles out of sand-filled balloons.

Himmelsbach said she hopes to give the dancers other chances to share with the Cathedral Community their message of being special, such as during religious-education classes or a liturgical-dance performance. The performers and the students cheered loudly when she mentioned the possibility of another performance.

“It’s a lot of fun going to schools and dancing with these gorgeous kids,” Albert Colaiaco, a dancer and a painter with the Community Arts Connection, said after the performance.

“It’s fun, and I enjoy it,” said dancer Patty VanSavage.

Some of the vacation Bible schoolers also share the performers’ love of dancing. Eight-year-old Ralph Burgio said he dances at home.

“I like dancing because there’s a lot of movement,” he said.

Susan Ware, the artistic director of ARC of Monroe County’s Community Arts Connection, which includes “A Moving Experience,” said she tries to work with dancers’ different abilities to create moves that are simple, heartfelt and expressive.

“The message of the dance troupe is that we really have more in common as human beings than sets us apart from each other, and we don’t always recognize that,” Ware said.

During 2007, the troupe brought that message to 20 schools and more than 5,000 students. Ware noted that for many young people, it might be their first experience spending time with people with developmental disabilities.

“My hope is they will be able to grow up and help to create a world that’s ready to embrace people like my dancers,” she said.

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