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December 27, 2016 > Sit it out or dance? Dance!

Sit it out or dance? Dance!

By Linda-Robin Craig

For many kids, the first consistent away-from-home experience is not kindergarten or day care, it is a dance class. Its where they first build a circle of friends, discover behaviors resulting in discipline and reward; they learn to line up, laugh together, wear and care for special clothes, and take a bow while the audience wildly applauds their efforts.

Norlyn Asprec was a kid who grew up in Tri-City area dance studios. Her good friends, Sarita and Alicia Trujillo, were right there with her. When the three girls became high school seniors and found themselves aged out of regular studio training and on to college and careers, they were each determined to never give up dance.

Today, there is a different kind of dance studio in the Tri-Cities. TruDance in Union City is a non-traditional, family-friendly, more inclusive approach to learning and perfecting dance basics and technique, including Adaptive Dance/Movement (ADM) taught by Asprec.

When I was searching for educational programs I found Dance/Movement Therapy (DMT), which intertwined both my interest in counseling and psychology with dance, said Asprec. It provides a non-verbal outlet for addressing an individualÕs emotional, cognitive, physical, and social needs.

Asprec, who is now the Director of Marketing & Outreach at Health Professions Education Foundation in Sacramento, knew she wanted to be involved in counseling that in some way included dance. At Drexel University in Philadelphia, one of only seven approved graduate schools offering a graduate degree in DMT, she found her focus and received an M.A. in Creative Arts Therapy specializing in DMT in 2012.

DMT began through the work of Marian Chace in 1942 at Saint Elizabeths Hospital in Washington, D.C., where patients participated in her dance classes. Psychiatrists discovered that their patients benefited from Chaces dance classes. Just over twenty years later, in 1966, the American Dance Therapy Association (ADTA) was founded with Chace as their first president. The purpose of the ADTA, says Asprec, is to establish, maintain, and support the highest standards of professional identity and competence among DMT by promoting education, training, practice, and research.

Sarita Trujillo, with numerous dance awards behind her, was teaching dance and choreographing by the time she was 14. At California State University, East Bay she received a degree in kinesiology with a minor in dance, and has been teaching physical education at the middle school level for over ten years. Her sister, Alicia Trujillo Miranda, was a very shy little girl. She was enrolled in dance classes, with her sister lending courage, where she developed much-needed confidence and a life-long love of dance. She also began teaching dance at 14, and has continued to do so through college and adulthood, only taking breaks to have two little girls, who both take classes at TruDance and perform in competitions. MirandaÕs choreography has won several awards, and she also teaches world history and ethnic studies at the high school level in Fremont.

In 2011, the Trujillo sisters opened their own dance studio, TruDance in Union City, giving students a high level of dance education and technique as well as a safe and positive environment. When Asprec wanted to teach adaptive dance, she reunited with her old friends and found a warm welcome at TruDance.

Student Ellissa Wood, a senior this year at Irvington High School with her own special needs, said, ÒTruDance is fantastic. Not only did I discover that I could have Ms. Norlyn as mentor for my Quest Project, which deals with the lack of funds and support for kids with special needs, but I also love having a dance teacher who teaches history. Ms. Alicia told us about Germany during World War II and how money was devalued. I think it gave us the winning edge when we performed her choreography to ÔMoneyÕ from Cabaret.Ó

Adaptive dance is a creative movement class. Regardless of the physical and cognitive needs of the dancer, the class is inclusive, so kids ages four to eight can join and dance together. Students not only learn basic jazz and tap technique, but can also participate in improvisational dance and the year-end recital. Students have fun dancing and interacting with their peers in a supportive, small group environment (eight to 10 students per class).

ÒTo be clear,Ó said Asprec, Òeven though my background is in DMT, which has been categorized as a form of psychotherapy, my classes are not therapy sessions. They are dance classes designed for students with special needs. I believe that dance is an important tool for health and well-being as well as creative expression. Dance is for everyone.Ó

A mother, watching on one of the monitors in the lobby of the studio as her kid danced, enthused, ÒMy son loves Miss Norlyn's class! He's always loved music and dance, but just can't handle the structure of a standard dance class. I looked for other adaptive programs, but couldn't find any in the area. Miss Norlyn does a wonderful job of adapting the class to her students' needs and adjusting on the fly. My son and I are both so grateful to TruDance for offering this inclusive opportunity to the community."

New classes begin the first week of January. According to the Trujillo sistersÕ dance mom, Barbara, now their office manager and go-to-gal for any questions, ÒWe never charge for dropping in to check things out. Stay for class, join in or just watch, the first day is always free. Those interested can enroll in class online.Ó

Adaptive Dance/Movement Classes
Saturday, Jan 7
2:15 p.m. Ð 3:15 p.m.
2829 Whipple Rd, Union City
(510) 441-8400
First Class: Free, $95 for 6-week session (sibling discount)

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