The Center for Contemporary Dance in Winter Park is not only a place for dancers to become proficient in their craft; it is also a saving grace for special needs students seeking to enhance life skills and become a part of a team.
The face behind the inspiring team is instructor Dario J. Moore, a Rollins College graduate who has been dancing since he was 17. He explains that dance helps him problem solve, and now he is passing on his education to his hardworking students.
Every Tuesday at 4:30 p.m. Moore enters the class full of joy. The students, who have Down syndrome, autism spectrum disorder and cerebral palsy, radiate their desire to learn and improve their skills. Their faces light up as he enters the room and warmly greets each individual. “The energy in this room is really high – so let’s use it and dance,” he says to his eager students.
An outcome of students putting their whole heart into the class, some have improved coordination skills enough to secure employment. Moore also uses the dance classes to teach general motor skills, memorization, confidence, disciplinary skills, strength and balance for practical purposes in life. By practicing exercises and movements, the students have the opportunity to challenge themselves to strengthen their range of motion. They can break down those mental walls of “I can’t” and turn them into “I can, and I have.”
Farida Roszak, the parent to one of Moore’s students, says, “Dario encourages his students to express their creativity by creating their own moves and dances. Also, he allows students to dance in different ways and at different levels of difficulty depending on their individual needs and abilities. People with disabilities often possess creative gifts that they aren’t able to express until they are put in the right environment and these classes give the perfect place to explore their potential gifts.”
Moore explains that we function in their world, which is not much different than ours, but they’re fighting hard to fit in with the surrounding population. Through his classes, he teaches his students that they are part of a team. “They feel a sense of belonging because they feel someone reaching to them and bringing them along, although they may appear to behave and move in a way that’s different,” Moore says. Dario believes that dance changes the world, because it teaches to embrace one another.
He believes that dance can change the world because its underlying lesson is the importance of embracing one another. “My compassion level has just soared. For me, my spiritual walk in life has deepened thanks to the people in that class,” Moore says. “I understand my connection to something bigger in life thanks to the students. They teach me joy, understanding and patience even in the simplest things. They teach me how to be quiet, with all the noise that’s going on.”