Individuals participating in CFS programs recently had the opportunity to work with the Keoni Movement Arts’ Creative Learning Grant to learn new ways to express themselves artistically through dance over 10 sessions. At the workshop series’ finale at Keoni Mover Arts’ studio near NYC’s theatre district, Founder and President Paul Keoni Chun and CFS participants showed a group of family, friends, and DSPs some of what they’ve been working on together.
Participants danced with Paul and teacher Pacho to music handpicked by them, including songs by Usher and Whitney Houston. They all had a chance to show the group how music made them want to move, and together, did “the Julio,” “the Kevin,” “the Ana,” or “the Sabel” – representing their own artistic expression of the music through dance.
Starting in chairs and ending in a group choreographed routine, the participants went through four different teaching methodologies specialized for accessibility. “We have two basic goals,” said Paul. “We want to teach dance, a classical and structured artform, in an accessible way, and practice choreography.”
One of the methods had participants paired up with Paul and teacher Pacho, following their lead. Then, they switched, with participants leading the instructors. This method helped teach connection, encouraged creativity, and is central to the democratic teaching method practiced at Keoni Movement Arts. “The democratic teaching method is so important because if you teach from a top-down approach, you don’t see what they can do,” said Paul.
At the end, it was time for a choregraphed dance that featured many of the moves showcased by CFS participants throughout the workshop. “You want to encourage creativity, but you also want to teach them how to dance together as a group,” Paul explained. “We want to incorporate what they can do into our final choreography. I’ve done this for many years, and I know that they have as much to teach us as we have to teach them. They often surprise us with what they can do. It helps them to feel empowered.”
Keoni Movement Arts is a 501c3 nonprofit whose mission is to make yoga, dance, and gymnastics accessible to everyone in the greater NYC area. Their vision is an inclusive world of empowered individuals with strong bodies, minds, and spirits, who are connected to the community. They focus on working with three targeted populations: people with disabilities and special needs; seniors with mobility issues; and low-income children.