The Musical Theater Project Demonstrates the Value of Building Evaluation into Programs from Day One

One girl and two boys growl like tigers while wearing smock-style costumes.

Students participate in a Kids Love Musicals! residency. Photo credit: Heather Meeker

When leaders at the Musical Theater Project in Northeast Ohio decided they wanted to expand their Kids Love Musicals! residency program to serve students with disabilities, they were deliberate in their planning. They sought out resources and expertise from peer arts organizations already working with students with disabilities, and they attended professional development sessions on arts and special education topics. As they laid out their expansion plan, they identified program assessment as a priority and sought to include comprehensive evaluation strategies as a part of the new residencies.

With this in mind, Heather Meeker, Executive Director of the Musical Theater Project (TMTP), connected with leaders at the Schubert Center for Child Studies at Case Western Reserve University (CWRU), located nearby in Cleveland, Ohio. “CWRU is interested in being deeply involved in their community, so developing a mutually beneficial research project was of great interest to them,” says Meeker.

The Schubert Center introduced Meeker to psychology professor Sandra Russ and doctoral student Olena Zyga, who agreed to work with TMTP to assess the new residencies. TMTP agreed to support the academics’ work by raising money to pay for student researchers and faculty time, and Meeker says funders have been especially interested in supporting this collaborative assessment.

The Kids Love Musicals! residencies for children with disabilities aim to teach social skills and emotional understanding through the stories and characters from classic American musicals such as The Wizard of Oz, The Jungle Book, and You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown. The multi-year evaluation project with the Schubert Center seeks to better understand if engaging in the residency program impacted participants’ socioemotional skills, including the ability to make eye contact, engage with others, take turns appropriately, and demonstrate emotional understanding. A secondary goal is to understand whether gains seen during the residency program extend to other environments.

Russ and Zyga created a custom measurement scale for the program, using their expertise in the fields of psychology and play. TMTP initiated their new residencies for students with disabilities, collecting multiple forms of data throughout. Residency sessions were videotaped across multiple school sites and to include a range of student ages and ability levels; the videos were then coded and scored according to the measurement scale. Teachers were also asked to report on the same variables that were being coded in each session for every student, both before the residency program began and after it had finished.

Analysis of the first round of data, which specifically focused on The Wizard of Oz residency, suggests that students who participated in the Kids Love Musicals! program did make gains in eye contact, turn taking, engagement, and symbolic flexibility. These results were recently published in the Journal of Intellectual Disabilities. Meeker is thrilled that their collaboration with the Schubert Center led to the research being shared broadly, both through journal publication and in various conference presentations by her and Zyga.

Four children stand in front of two adults, all wearing curly gold ribbon on their heads and making roaring faces.

Teaching artists work with students in the Kids Love Musicals! residencies. Photo credit: Heather Meeker

The research collaboration between TMTP and the Schubert Center continues post-report publication, including a new round of data collection focused on identifying if similar gains are seen across curriculums presented to students. Specifically, they are asking if children made the same gains while learning The Jungle Book as made while learning The Wizard of Oz. Analysis of this data is currently underway, with initial results suggesting that curriculum differences do not significantly impact the student outcomes. A final phase of data collection, completed at the end of the 2016-2017 academic year, focused on comparing the active residency period with a pre-residency control period.

Given the success of their collaboration with the Schubert Center, Meeker encourages organizations interested in conducting robust program evaluations to consider partnering with a college or university in their own community. “If a project can be designed with the idea that both the organization and university students can benefit from it, a collaboration can really be a win-win situation,” she says.

Of course, Meeker also warns of the hard work and complications that come with conducting a large-scale assessment. She explains, “We had to make peace with the fact that we would not get 100% compliance from teachers in our data collection efforts, and that not all of the data we worked so hard to collect would ultimately be used in the study. We also did not anticipate the delays that sometimes come with working with a university, like waiting for internal review board approvals for everything from project proposals to parent permission forms.”

But the reward for that hard work is great, Meeker says, as their research has clarified so much for TMTP about the program internally. She concludes, “If you are constantly looking to improve your work, then thorough evaluation is crucial. This project has empowered us to do even more with our programming.”


10 Tips on How to Get the Most Out of the LEAD® Conference

LEAD 3 photosThe 17th annual Leadership Exchange in Arts and Disability (LEAD®) Conference is just a few weeks away! Whether you’re attending for the 1st or 17th time, you’ll want to get the most out of your time at the conference.

Here are tips from past participants on how to make the most of your time at LEADⓇ: 

  1. What to pack: Business cards, collateral from your organization, device chargers, light layers, comfy shoes, an open mind, and a willingness to learn. The conference hotel has an outdoor pool and 24 hour fitness center, if you want to pack swimming or work out attire.
  2. What to wear: Business casual, with an emphasis on casual. Some people choose to dress up a little for the Opening Night Party and LEAD® Awards Evening. Remember that you’ll be in Texas in August, but also inside an air conditioned building for most of the day and it can get cold.
  3. Plan your day in advance. Review the schedule and plan out which sessions you want to attend. Find the schedule online, in the conference app, or pick up a printed agenda at the registration table.
  4. But also be flexible. If a session you originally picked isn’t what you expected, quietly slip out and join another. It’s ok to switch sessions. It’s also ok to skip sessions. There’s a lot to take in and your brain might need a rest.
  5. Meet people in other fields. If you work in museums, make friends with theater people and vice versa. We all have a lot to learn from each other and our accessibility experiences and challenges may be similar.
  6. Don’t be afraid to ask questions! There is a good chance someone else has been through a similar situation or is pondering the same question as you. Ask a presenter, a LEADⓇ staff member, or a frequent-attender wearing a “Tipster” button (these folks have been coming for a while and can answer a lot of questions about making the most of the conference).
  7. Take notes. Everyone has a different style that works best for them (you’ll see laptops, tablets, notepads, journals, etc); there is a lot of information to absorb. Taking notes – whether extensively or in shorthand – will give you a reference when you get home.
  8. Attend affinity groups at the end of each day. Discuss what you’ve learned so far, ask questions, and connect with others.  
  9. Engage on social media. Hear what others have to share about sessions and meet people you already follow online. Use #kclead for conference updates and to connect with other attendees. Or follow LEAD on Twitter and Instagram.
  10. Engage in person. Try to talk to as many new people as possible! It helps to know that we’re not alone in trying to make the arts more accessible. Past attendees have commented that meeting new people they can connect with after the conference helps them meet their accessibility goals throughout the year.

Using Art Education Effectively with Students who have Experienced Trauma

A photo of a woman with long, brown hair and dark rimmed glasses, wearing a short sleeved lavender shirt and chunky beaded necklace.

Donalyn Heise

In over 30 years of teaching visual art classes in K-12 settings, one student from early in Donalyn Heise’s career continues to drive her work. “This student made the top grade in every art assignment I gave, but I failed him as a teacher because I had no idea he was flunking out of school,” says Heise. She later learned that the student’s sister had committed suicide, and that he seldom attended classes or handed in assignments outside of art. This experience drove Heise to focus her own pedagogy on what she calls a “resilience framework,” using art education as a platform to help students thrive.

Many children experience psychological trauma, to include natural or environmental disasters, domestic or societal violence, bullying, homelessness, human trafficking, or rejection of sexual identity. Heise cites research by William Steele (2002), who found that youth who experience trauma may have emotional, mental, behavioral, and physical challenges that make them less likely to succeed in school.

Inspired by her early-career experience, Heise began to search for ways to use art education to help students who have experienced trauma thrive. She focused her classes not on the students’ trauma, but on ways to strengthen their resilience. Heise is quick to point out that her work is not art therapy, but teaching the content of the art project along with mastery of the technique. She explains, “We can teach landscape, shading, other artistic techniques along with how to use art to be a student’s visual voice.”

35 paper quilts are lined up together in 4 rows (3 rows of 9, 1 row of 8). The quilts are many colors, but mostly blue, yellow, pink, purple, and orange.

A display of paper quilts created in one of Donalyn Heise’s art classes.

One visual art activity Heise uses within her resilience framework is making paper quilts. In the lesson, students draw or paint 3”x3” paper squares while listening to different pieces of music. They discuss repetition in terms of the quilt patterns, and also reflect on the things in our lives that need to be repeated and those which do not.

After creating many squares, the students exchange them with their classmates; the squares which are exchanged form the outside border of each person’s quilt. For their center square, Heise asks students to think about a challenging time in their life (but not to draw it or say it aloud), then tells them to draw their source of strength in that challenging time. “Their strength is at the center of the quilt, and they are surrounded by their community, through the classmates’ squares,” she says, adding that the quilts can be brought together for a large display, but can also be taken apart so that students can take their individual quilt home.

Heise emphasizes the importance of trying to structure one’s art education practice to reach every student, regardless of his or her ability level or personal experience. One method she suggests is to offer many choice-based adaptations in the art classroom, and to offer the adaptations to every student. “I recommend having all the students try out adaptive tools, then allow them to opt in or out of using them. The same goes for other types of scaffolds: I make sure they are offered to every student. This helps reduce judgments and blurs the lines of disability,” says Heise.

Ultimately, Heise aims to help students feel safe and successful in the routines and materials found in the visual art classroom. She says, “By teaching flexibility, mastery of something, and a vision of the future throughout our art lessons, we help students articulate and celebrate their strengths and points of joy.” Through the resilience framework, Heise hopes to teach students both artistic technique and the valuable, intangible properties of the arts.


Donalyn Heise will co-present a session entitled “Using Art to Reach Students Who Have Experienced Trauma” with Adrienne D. Hunter and Beverley Holden Johns at the 2017 VSA Intersections: Art and Special Education Conference.

Five Activities to Help Students Build Empathy Through the Arts

By Miko Lee and Suzanne Joyal, Youth in Arts

The arts are a great way to help students with and without disabilities learn more about their own feelings and the emotions of others. We like combining a visual arts lesson on photography or portraiture with an opportunity to build empathy by making “Emotional Trading Cards,” which feature students expressing their emotions. The activities listed below offer ways to extend the visual art-making experience for students.

1. Look in a mirror: how does a SAD mouth look? What about HAPPY eyes, a SCARED nose, or ANGRY eyebrows? Now try to draw what you see.

2. Draw your face two times showing two different feelings. What is the difference? Did you draw the eyes or the mouths differently? How so?

3. Draw a picture of a time when you were SURPRISED. What happened that surprised you?

4. Draw lines that show FEELINGS: happy, sad, surprised, angry, scared, etc. How does your hand move when you think about things that make you feel each emotion?

5. How does the color RED make you feel? What about ORANGE? YELLOW? BLUE?


The Youth in Arts logo, a black square with the letters YiA in red and white.Youth in Arts provides students in the North San Francisco Bay Area with high-quality experiences and instruction in the visual and performing arts, directly serving over 20,000 pre-K–12 students annually. Miko Lee is executive director of Youth in Arts, and Suzanne Joyal is the organization’s visual arts director.

Intersections Preview: Examining Blackness, Disability, and Higher Education with Presenter Adrianna Matthews

A photograph of a woman with shoulder length, straight dark hair and a sleeveless purple top, resting her head on her left hand.

Adrianna Matthews

Adrianna Matthews has done a lot of self-discovery in graduate school, and she is ready to share what she has learned with educators and peers. A student at the University of Texas at Austin’s MFA program in Drama and Theatre for Youth and Communities, Matthews used a research assignment as an opportunity to address her experience as a black student with three disabilities. The resulting performative essay, from which she will present an excerpt at the 2017 VSA Intersections: Arts and Special Education Conference, both examines her journey and provides facts and tips for educators on how to effectively engage minority students with disabilities.

Matthews decided to research the topic of blackness, disability, and education after facing issues of exclusion, discrimination, and systematic oppression in her graduate program. Her background as a playwright, actress, and educator inspired her decision to turn the research paper into what she calls a “performative, musical essay.” The one-woman piece features three characters: Black Graduate Student, the protagonist; Research, who provides facts and insight throughout; and Avatar for Black Graduate Student, the protagonist’s alter ego.

The essay was created for Matthews’ Performing Blackness class, where it was enthusiastically received by her peers and professor. “The class was blown away by the structure of my research presentation and the content,” says Matthews, continuing, “…many of them were surprised to learn I have invisible disabilities, or that I experience struggles because of my blackness. The positive feedback I received really boosted my confidence as a scholar and artist.”

Attendees at her Intersections session will see part of her performance piece and will also participate in what Matthews hopes will be an active dialogue on what people with disabilities experience in higher education settings, what black students experience, and what it may mean when students have both of those identity markers. She plans to explore questions like, how does white privilege play a role in disability discrimination? How does blackness play a role in school curriculum? And how does one’s cultural upbringing shape the way they identify with class and difference?

Matthews will also share suggestions for educators on working with students of color with disabilities. She strongly advises organizations and schools to provide training opportunities for educators on engaging and understanding student identity markers. “I love using drama strategies in community-building workshops to help build a better understanding of individuals,” recommends Matthews, adding, “Performing arts exercises can help a teacher and student build a relationship in a way they could not in a normal academic setting.”


Adrianna Matthews will present “ Blackness, Disability, and Higher Education” at the 2017 VSA Intersections: Arts and Special Education Conference on Sunday, August 6, 2017, at 3:15 p.m.

5 Reasons to Attend the 2017 VSA Intersections Conference

There are lots of reasons to attend the Kennedy Center’s VSA Intersections: Arts and Special Education Conference. Here are a few of our favorites:

1. Brand New Content

We have tons of new sessions that you won’t want to miss! Here is sampling of what we have planned:

  • It Takes a Village: Inclusive Community Music Programming
  • Teaching Students with Disabilities Using Puppets
  • Blackness, Disability, and Higher Education
  • Using Art to Reach Students Who Have Experienced Trauma
  • The Power Of West African Drumming For Students With Disabilities
  • What’s New? A Fresh Look At Paraprofessionals And Peers As Support For Students With Disabilities

Browse the full schedule here.

Close up of microphone in concert hall or conference room

2. Keynote Speaker: Antoine Hunter

The Keynote address will challenge attendees to question how teacher perception of disability affects student expectations and to envision a classroom environment in which every student is empowered to achieve at high levels. In this address, Mr. Antoine Hunter—an award-winning African-American Deaf producer, choreographer, film/theater actor, dancer, dance instructor, model, poet, speaker, mentor, Deaf advocate, and the 2017 King of San Francisco Carnaval—will offer perspective from his own experiences as a Deaf artist and provide insights into how those experiences have shaped his current teaching practice.

Antione Hunter 33 cropped

3. Get Inspired Before the New Year Begins

It’s the beginning of summer break and you just want to lay at the pool, spend time with your family, and rest your mind before the new school year begins. We know it’s hard to think ahead to the end of summer. But the VSA Intersections Conference is a great way to get re-energized and inspired, so you can bring new creative ideas to the 2017-2018 year.

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4. Grow Your Peer and Resources Network

Meet experts and newcomers to the field and grow your relationships with other educators passionate about arts education for students with disabilities. Everyone conference is a different experience and there are plenty of opportunities to mingle with other participants.

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5. Explore all that Austin has to Offer

A change of location can inspire you to think differently. Join us in Texas and explore all the art and creativity that it’s capital city has to offer. During the conference, you’ll hear from Austin-based arts organizations such as MINDPOP and VSA Texas.

Austin skyline low

We hope you’ll be able to join us as we dig deeper into the critical relationship of arts and education through new content, an amazing keynote speaker, and plenty of learning and fun.  The 2017 VSA Intersections: Arts and Special Education Conference is taking place August 6-7, 2017 in Austin, Texas. Register by June 30 for the lowest rate.

VSA Intersections is a Jean Kennedy Smith Arts and Disability Program.

10 Great Reasons to Attend the LEAD® Conference

Thinking about attending the annual Leadership Exchange in Arts and Disability (LEAD®) Conference? Here are the top 10 reasons why it’s a smart choice for professional development for arts administrators of every level.  

  1. Access to ideas. Tap into the collective “brain trust” of arts administrators from museums, theaters, parks, zoos, libraries, and other cultural venues.


  2. Become indispensable to your organization. What you’ll take away from LEAD® will show current and future employers that you’re knowledgeable and dedicated to inclusion and accessibility in the arts. Plainly put, it’s a great resume builder.


  3. Networking. Connect with arts managers from around the world who have similar passions and knowledge of accessibility.

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  4. One-of-a-kind professional development. No other conference focuses on accessibility in cultural venues like LEAD® does. The conference provides an intimate, rich atmosphere, where arts professionals of all levels can learn and share what they know.


  5. Experiential opportunities. LEAD® provides the opportunity to experience accessibility services and programs. Through our pre-conference Capacity Building Workshops and optional performances with accessibility services, you can see access in action!


  6. Access to experts. The Kennedy Center engages leading thinkers in the field to present at the conference. And after the event, attendees are invited to join an exclusive listserv to continue the conversation and ask questions.


  7. Straight from the source. Get ADA and accessibility law information directly from the Department of Justice.


  8. Practical information. You’ll bring ideas and practices to your organization that can be implemented right away.


  9. Something for everyone. LEAD® has sessions and workshops for beginners and the more experienced. It doesn’t matter what your background or knowledge level is – we have sessions for you.


  10. Registration candy. Say hello to the staff and help yourself to our always-stocked registration candy basket. If this doesn’t sell you on attending, we don’t know what will…


Austin Educators Make Creative Movement Accessible to All Students

In Austin, Texas (U.S.), the Creative Learning Initiative seeks to provide a quality arts-rich education for every child, as well as professional development and ongoing support for teachers in arts-based instruction strategies. This work is made possible through a collaboration between MINDPOP, the Austin Independent School District, the city of Austin, and over 50 arts and cultural organizations, foundations, and philanthropists. Krissie Marty and Silva Laukkanen, two Austin-based dance educators, have created a series of movement strategies for the Creative Learning Initiative, along with adaptations so those strategies can be successfully implemented in every classroom and with every student.

Photo of a woman standing in a grassy field wearing a polka dot top.

Krissie Marty

Marty is Director of Education at Forklift Danceworks, a dance company in Austin that makes dances for the masses. She worked in collaboration with MINDPOP to create a series of movement-based creative teaching strategies for the Creative Learning Initiative (CLI) with an eye towards what would be successful in all grade levels and learning stages, from early education through secondary education. Laukkanen, a master teaching artist with VSA Texas and Forklift Danceworks, then worked with Marty to adapt the strategies for different populations, specifically looking at the special education classroom.

Marty calls one of the strategies “Idea and Movement,” in which students are challenged to make movements based on ideas. “This can easily connect movement to a curriculum source,” says Marty. From there, students can take a series of movements and build a phrase, adding their movements together.

Another CLI movement strategy is called “Pathways,” or “Draw Map Move.” Students and teachers make a drawing of their planned movement on paper, then put it in action in the classroom. Marty says this strategy not only encourages gross motor movement in students, but also allows flexibility for educators to incorporate movement in whatever space is available. She says, “Not everyone has access to a dance studio, but that does not mean they cannot use movement in the classroom.”

A woman with short reddish hair wearing a dark shirt.

Silva Laukkanen

In the CLI professional development trainings, Laukkanen works with teachers to brainstorm ways to make the movement strategies work for every student. For instance, she says “Draw Map Move” can be adapted for students who are blind or have low vision by putting rope at waist height and tape patterns on the floor from one end of the room to another for students to follow. She has also put ropes inside of long foam pool noodles so students can experience moving independently in both straight and curvy lines.

Laukkanen offers teachers myriad ways to adapt the strategies, from incorporating props and visual aids to chopping the lessons into smaller segments. She encourages educators to pay very close attention to their students, including those who are non-ambulatory, to recognize any independent movement they make. “Even the smallest independent movement can be a reaction to something, which can then turn into even more creative movement,” says Laukkanen. She adds that allowing students to move as much as they are able is valuable for those with and without disabilities.

Both Laukkanen and Marty emphasize the importance of giving students choices in the movement exercises. “The strategies are designed to allow students to initiate movement and express their ideas and interpretations of curriculum,” explains Marty.

When Marty and Laukkanen train teachers on the CLI movement strategies, they are struck by how excited the educators are to put the strategies into practice immediately. “They feel like they can do this right now,” says Marty, continuing, “…all they need are their students’ bodies!” Laukkanen says the special education teachers she works with express both excitement and relief in the professional development sessions, since the movement strategies are designed to be so accessible.

Laukkanen and Marty will present a session on the Movement Strategies of Austin’s Creative Learning Initiative at the 2017 VSA Intersections: Arts and Special Education Conference, August 6-7, 2017, in Austin, Texas. The session will include opportunities for attendees to learn about the movement strategies, experience them through movement exercises, and ask questions about adapting them for use in their own classrooms.

Check out Silva Laukkanen’s tips for teaching creative movement and dance to students with disabilities, posted on the VSA blog in October 2016.

Promising Practices in Inclusive Dance Education at Australia’s Restless Dance Theatre

A dancer leaps across a dark stage while three other performers, all wearing red, watch.

Dancers Chris Dyke, Lorcan Hopper, Josh Campton, and Michael Hodyl of Restless Dance Theatre performs in Touched, a piece developed by the company’s Youth Ensemble. Photo: Andy Rasheed

Restless Dance Theatre describes its inclusive work as being “informed by disability.” The dance company, based in Adelaide, Australia, creates new works with its youth and senior ensembles, and conducts dance workshops for young people with and without disabilities. We spoke with Artistic Manager Roz Hervey about what makes Restless’ dance education programs work well for all students.

VSA and Accessibility: Can you cite some specific ways you adapt your Restless Central and Links workshops for students with disabilities?

Roz Hervey: We approach our workshops as we would approach our performances. Restless has developed a way of working where participants are given a series of creative challenges and asked to respond in movement. For example, we might ask two people to choose different ways to wrap themself around their partner’s body; the partner responds by removing him or herself from the wrap. Dance sequences are then built up from their responses. This produces unique, distinctive, and very striking dance through a process that nurtures the creative voices of the dancers.

Access requirements are built into the planning of the workshops. For example, when working with the South Australian School for Vision Impaired, the workshop used tactile props and a tactile border to define the space. We also engaged an audio describer to work with the creative team.

Your website specifically mentions that the youth ensemble and workshops are open to both students with and without disabilities. Can you talk a bit about the importance of the inclusive dance environment?

We embrace diversity and create an inclusive environment to be able to create real raw and uninhibited dance theatre. We don’t focus on people’s disability; instead, we highlight each individual’s unique personality and movement vocabulary.

How does Restless prepare their teachers for working in inclusive settings?

Every few years we run a Dot to Dot tutor training program (resource available online). Our tutors have usually started their journey with the company as one of our ensemble members, or have assisted our artistic director in the rehearsal room making a work. In all our workshops, we have a lead tutor, a senior tutor, and a tutor with disability. New tutors gain experience working with the lead tutor and eventually go on to lead workshops themselves. We encourage potential tutors to attend our Central workshop to gain knowledge about the company’s working methods.

Do you have any recommendations for arts organizations that want to make their education programming more inclusive of students with disabilities?

We would encourage organizations to have people with disabilities as part of planning sessions. Don’t be scared! Just ensure there is a positive and safe environment for everyone.

To learn more about Restless Dance Theatre, visit its website or follow the company on Facebook.

Five Tips for Creating an Inclusive Dance Experience

By Portia Abernathy, M.Ed., M.A.

Creating an environment for high-quality, inclusive dance education requires preparation, flexibility, and creativity. These tips for creating an inclusive dance experience aim to help educators offer excellent arts learning opportunities to every student.

  1. Shift Your Mindset – When working with inclusive populations, it is important to remember that the unique needs of our students are not barriers. Our students don’t need to change who they are, how they learn, or how they communicate to participate in dance. It is up to us to creatively adjust how we teach, what we teach, and where we teach to make sure all students can access our instruction and meaningfully participate in the dance experience.


  1. Use Inclusive Language – The words we use matter and set the tone for our instruction, programs, and institutions. It is best to use language that is inclusive, strengths-based, emotionally neutral, and that places the individual before his/her disability, label, or diagnoses.


  1. Conduct Intake Interviews – Each dancer you work with will have unique needs. Conducting intake interviews with all new students and families will help you get a sense of who they are, how they move, how they learn, and what they need before you start dancing together. Make sure to ask about communication, behavior, physical, and sensory needs as well as preferences, motivators, and interests.


  1. Make Time for Free Dance – It may sound like all fun and games, but including free dance time in each class can be very meaningful. Free dance time allows students to apply and demonstrate what they have learned in an authentic and personal way. Free dance can promote choice, independence, self-expression, creativity, and artistry. It can also help build audience skills and empathy while students wait for their turn to dance.


  1. Incorporate Props – Props can be very useful for creating structure and making movement accessible for all dancers.

Chairs: Seated formations can be containing and grounding for students; seated exercises can help build strength while avoiding fatigue, and chairs can help create a sense of inclusion and equity for dancers who use wheel chairs or mobility devices.

Rubber Floor markers: Star or circle shaped floor markers can help identify assigned places, formations, pathways to travel along, and can help make movement or music patterns visible for dancers.

Scarves: Scarves can help dancers who are apprehensive to move (sometimes it is easier to move an object instead of your body) and are great for helping students increase the fluidity of their movement.


A picture of Portia Abernathy, a smiling woman with long blonde hair and a blue jacket

Portia Abernathy, M.A., M.Ed., is Assistant Director of Education and Community Initiatives at Boston Ballet, where she oversees accessible and inclusive dance education and professional development programs. A former special education teacher, she is a presenter at the 2017 VSA Intersections: Arts and Special Education Conference.