Students participating at Out Loud Dance studio:
Newswise — Movement is a form of communication. For Courtney Kalaher, using that movement to create relationships and community among people with disabilities is critical.
Kalaher joined the Postsecondary Access and Training in Human Services (PATHS) Program in 2014. She brought her skills in dance and developed the Communication Through Movement course. Through the course, students develop paths of inquiry and response approaches to learning and cognitive development.
“Movement is such a powerful form of communication. We thought we could take these different settings that one might go through throughout their day – professional, peers, family – and then talk about how we interact with one another,” said Kalaher. “The goal is to help develop skills to recognize and understand nonverbal cues in everyday social interactions.”
Kalaher has also partnered with faculty in the Dance Science Program. Each semester, dance pedagogy students work with the PATHS students on a performance for the end of the semester. Kalaher points to the importance of future dance teachers working with all types of students in their teacher preparation.
After seeing the successes with the PATHS students both in class and in their own lives after they graduated, Kalaher wanted to take this concept to younger students.
In early 2017, she formed the Out Loud Dance Studio in Houston. Twice each week, students in the area come together to laugh, play and express themselves through movement.
“I wanted to have something where students with and without disabilities – siblings, friends, kids that went to school together – could go and share in dance and have that sense of community in a safe and inclusive environment.”
Kalaher takes pride in knowing that for two hours every week, these children can let down their guard in and safe and inclusive environment – that no matter where they all come from, they can all come together and share in the joy of dance.
“It’s important to foster that independence and creative thinking. It’s been amazing watching some of them come out of their shell. They come in the first couple of weeks and have a hard time interacting with one another or separating from mom, but they grow week by week,” she explained. “You see the students really latching onto each other and having a good time with one another and creating something really special.”
Kalaher hopes to have Out Loud Dance established as a nonprofit in early 2018.