While teaching dance in rural New Mexico schools, Michaela Knox noticed the classes offered students with disabilities the opportunity to shine.
“Whatever choice they make with their bodies is going to be right,” she said.
After moving to Durango, she started Spark Dance Program, a Durango nonprofit, in April 2016. It offers an after-school program at the Smiley Building and started offering classes in three schools last fall. The organization served 85 students during its first year.
It also offered classes for adults through Community Connections, a nonprofit that serves adults with development and intellectual disabilities.
Children of mixed abilities participated in the after-school class and classes at Animas Valley, Park and Riverview elementary schools, and it helped build friendships among the special education and general education students, she said.
Having success in dance class also gave children greater confidence in other classes, she said.
“Sometimes for children who aren’t necessarily thriving academically, it’s an amazing thing for them to have success,” Knox said.
General education students get to be leaders and mentors in the classes, she said. To accommodate the range of abilities among dancers, Knox lets the children create their own moves, which become the foundation of the choreography for the dances, she said.
Knox is planning to expand the program into eight to 10 schools in La Plata and Montezuma counties.
To support its programs in the schools, the group is aiming to raise $10,000 by September, and it is accepting donations on its website, sparkdanceprogram.org, Knox said.
The after-school group with Spark Dance will be featured during the Durango Dance Recital at 6:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the Fort Lewis College Community Concert Hall, 1000 Rim Drive.
To purchase tickets, visit www.durangoconcerts.tix.com.
The spelling of Makayla Bogan’s name was corrected in a caption.