Dancer: Sean Rowley; choreography: Michelle Silagy © Jae Yang

Sean Rowley is one of the dancers in our regular Young Dancers’ Program (YDP) class called Creative Movement Made for Me (CMMM). This is a weekly class, now going into its seventh year, for young dancers of mixed abilities. It was initiated by the Director of our YDP, Michelle Silagy, who has a longstanding interest in dance for all ages and all abilities. In 2015, Michelle became one of only 10 individuals world-wide who are trained at the Master level with DanceAbility International. The DanceAbility method connects people with and without disabilities through dance and movement improvisation. Founder Alito Alessi is a world leader in the field and was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship for his contributions to increasing diversity in dance.

We Dance program, June 2017 © Lisa Fleischmann

As part of our YDP, Michelle teaches the CMMM classes for young people with mixed abilities, and she recruits students from our Professional Training Program as assistants. These integrated creative movement classes address needs not easily met by a standard dance class. They provide opportunities for need-specific young movers with diverse learning styles. Started as a pilot project, CMMM is now solidly entrenched in the School’s curriculum. Sean Rowley, a 33-year-old adult, has been an enthusiastic participant in these classes since September 2016, and has been acting as an assistant and role model for the younger dancers for the whole time. In doing so, he has made a significant and most welcome contribution to the program.

The School has also recently developed a pilot dance project, We Dance, in partnership with the Teacher Training Program at Canada’s National Ballet School (NBS). This class is open to youth and adults aged 16+ with mixed abilities, and celebrates inclusive dance practices with differently abled movers. NBS is fully accessible, and our partnership helps us to complement the offerings in our home building, while we address our own accessibility issues at 80 Winchester St.

CMMM and We Dance are both largely built upon DanceAbility Methodology. The School is very proud of both these programs. The investment and commitment by Michelle to this work puts her and the School at the forefront of a new field of movement research and training.

Sean has been participating in the CMMM classes with great keenness and commitment for the past year; he also took part in our inaugural We Dance program, which took place at NBS last spring, and again in the second series this past June. Sean is a delightful young man, with an infectious optimism and a warm smile. He radiates his enjoyment of all the exercises and movement tasks that Michelle sets in her classes, and he clearly delights in interacting with his fellow classmates and the assistants.

We Dance program, June 2017 © Lisa Fleischmann

This summer, we spoke with Sean about his experiences in both CMMM and We Dance:

How did you come to start dancing?
“Oh wow – that’s hard to remember – I think I was very small.  Mom says I was dancing in her tummy.  We always have music in the house.”

What do you enjoy about the CMMM classes?
“To be with other people, to learn new dance moves and listen to the drums.  The teamwork – motivating others to move.”

What do you enjoy about the We Dance classes?
“I love them. It’s so much fun – to exercise with the music.  I love to learn, and I like being with other people. I especially enjoy big movements. I learn lots – Michelle is a great teacher!”

Do you enjoy dancing to live music/drums?
“Yes, I do. Stich, the drummer, makes voices, whistles, and sounds with the drums that make me want to move.”

Do you enjoy dancing with partners and groups of people in class?
“Yes, I enjoy dancing with partners and groups.  It is different than dancing alone because you need to:

  •     have eye-contact
  •     practise
  •     practise the same thing (as your partner/group)
  •     co-operate
  •     be willing.”

We Dance program, June 2017 © Lisa Fleischmann

Do you enjoy meeting and dancing with dancers in The School of Toronto Dance Theatre community?
“Yes, I do enjoy meeting and dancing with others from the School’s Community.  I enjoy talking with them, watching how they move – it makes me happy to be there.”

Sean has not only been dancing in our two programs, but he also enjoys taking karate classes. As well, he has taken Bollywood dance classes with the inspiring instructor Lopa Sarkar, when she was teaching in Toronto. Sean’s father was of Indian descent, and he clearly appreciates his Indian heritage. Sean visited Mumbai as a child – he says he enjoyed being in India (though it was very hot!).

Sean is a valued participant in both our CMMM and We Dance programs. His dance awareness, skill, energy, and enthusiasm have added immeasurably to the positive dynamics in the studio. He clearly relishes the time he spends in these classes, and after a break in the summer, he looks forward to resuming them in the fall.

Thank you, Sean, and have a wonderful summer!