The Oklahoma Contemporary Arts Center, 3000 General Pershing Blvd. at State Fair Park, will offer a six-week dance program for adults and youth who are blind or visually impaired this spring. Classes start Wednesday and continue through May 1.
Presented by Devon Energy, “Movement Without Limitations” offers participants an opportunity to experiment with creative movement in a safe, fun environment, which serves as a confidence builder.
The program, which began in 2010 as a collaborative effort with the Oklahoma Contemporary Arts Center, the Oklahoma City Ballet and NewView Oklahoma, was inspired by a program London's Royal Ballet has offered for more than two decades.
“I've done this program three or four times now and I've just fallen in love with it,” said Audrey Johnston, instructor for the “Movement Without Limitations” classes. “I don't know how I could dance without vision or with impaired vision but these people have accomplished many of the same things as my students who have no vision problems.”
While dance programs tend to employ a master/apprentice approach, one in which an instructor demonstrates how a step should look or how to bend properly, Johnston has had to modify her teaching method. Working with the visually impaired has forced her to rely more on auditory clues to help her students understand her explanations.
“When we move across the floor, I tell students to face my voice or walk toward my voice,” Johnston said. “It's a different approach because dancers are so used to demonstrating various combinations. It reaffirms what I'm doing with my art and my craft.”
The joy Johnston derives from teaching these classes is obvious from listening to her speak about her students' accomplishments. Her voice takes on a buoyant quality that clearly conveys her pleasure.
“These kids are so independent and don't want to be seen as people who have problems — they just want to fit in,” Johnston said. “It's really nice to see how little fear they have and just go for it. The adults tend to be overachievers. They actually do more than I ask for. But they always leave with smiles on their faces. That's really inspiring.”
Adult sessions will be held from 4:30 to 5:15 p.m. and youth sessions, for students ages 8 to 18, are scheduled from 5:30 to 6:15 p.m.
There is no cost to participate and ballet shoes are provided for first-time students. Youth participants can bring a sighted friend. Adult transportation is provided from NewView Oklahoma to the Oklahoma Contemporary Arts Center.
For more information, call 951-0000 or go to www.oklahomacontemporary.org.