Through music and movement, students with disabilities learn life skills

Grand Rapids Ballet sponsors Lincoln School program

Teacher Karen Saunders shares palms with student Milen Whiteley
Student Dankeith White and substitute teacher Kara Martin hold the ribbons of the maypole

At Lincoln School, students with autism, multiple impairments and cognitive disorders learn through movement, music and story thanks to a partnership with Grand Rapids Ballet. Attila Mosolygo, the ballet’s school director and junior company artistic director, leads groups of students in a weekly creative movements class, where they enact scenes from stories such as “Alice in Wonderland” with musical accompaniment. They use their hands and bodies to mimic actions such as the rabbit running and Alice sipping the “Drink Me” bottle. Other sessions focus on different themes, such as a fan dance based on an ancient Chinese love song.

Begun in 2013 with a mini-grant from the Grand Rapids Foundation — with advice from American Dance Therapist Carol Kahn, music therapist Franciscan Sister Mary Margaret Delaski and speech pathologist Anne Aurand — the adaptive dance program helps students learn communication, social and life skills.

Ballet artist Attila Mosolygo mimics eating a cake in a scene from “Alice in Wonderland”

Students from young teens to age 26 take the multi-discipline class at Lincoln School, a center-based program run by Grand Rapids Public Schools for all Kent ISD school districts.

“Dance is rich in language and movement, and when you combine language, movement and music you get results,” said Lincoln School teacher Brian Stoffer. “We’ve seen it!”

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Lincoln School and other center-based programs

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