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How South Sound Dance creates inclusivity for all

Jhere’s a reason why inclusivity is such a hot topic in today’s world. No matter your background, we all want to feel accepted, seen and heard. And when it comes to creative outlets, feeling like part of the family is especially important. Not only does it help in skill advancement, but it also helps promote self-growth. This is why the Southern sound dance (SSD) prides itself on creating a culture of inclusion for students and parents. Their core values ​​of family, connection, empowerment, growth, passion and creativity shine through in their vision and program. When they say “Dancing is for everyone”, they really mean it.

South Sound Dance added a special dance for boys in the shows to make their male dancers feel like they have a place in the dance world no matter what. Photo Courtesy: Southern Sound Dance

At South Sound Dance, everyone is welcome

Through the use of gender-neutral, inclusive, and culturally sensitive language, teachers help all students and family structures feel welcome. The administrative team strives to know the families beyond their role as parents, and the students understand what is expected of them in the studio. Respect their peers regardless of differences in education, expression, culture, ethnicity, gender, sexuality or any other aspect.

Instructors prioritize connection with their students and do not see dance as a separate, enclosed part of life. They understand that personal life and school stressors can impact practice. This is why there is always room in the class to discuss needs and difficulties. Each staff has their own way of connecting with students, and whether they are clumsy or more technical, they always have an encouraging and supportive attitude. Staff conduct ongoing inclusivity training to ensure all students feel safe and respected.

Dance classes at Tumwater confirm important life lessons

Body image is one of the ways instructors drive inclusivity at home. They affirm with students of all age groups that there is no one way to have a “dancer’s body”. South Sound Dance leaves behind old-fashioned ideas, encouraging students’ unique strengths and abilities. It doesn’t matter how you look or how you compare to others. This is why SSD chooses to have a dress code that serves as a benchmark for all students. As Anna, the instructor, explains: “We want to improve wherever we are. That’s the fun part – we find out what our body and brain can do. [We] start at this young age, helping them see that they don’t need to be like everyone else in the room.

Instructor Pamela adds, “Dancing is obviously visual, but that’s not all.

A student teaching assistant leads South Sound Dance's Tiny Tutus class for 3-4 year olds.
South Sound Dance is creating a non-profit organization to bring the power of dance to as many young people as possible in the Greater Olympia area. They aim to work in schools and provide more financial assistance options for families. Photo Courtesy: Southern Sound Dance

Their diverse staff shows students that all body types, personality types, skin colors, genders, and sexual orientations are beautiful. South Sound Dance celebrates diversity in all aspects of identity. “Having teachers who are authentic themselves allows our students to have the space to be authentic themselves, even if they are not quite sure who it is. They are able to explore and understand that,” Anna shares. Students can let their guard down and feel safe to explore how they express themselves.

Self-expression is incorporated into classes through improvisation and free dance. For little ones, that might mean getting fairy wings and a wand to play with. For older students, this may mean creating individual dance pieces to tell their story. Composition is a popular course among older dancers who want to play with their creativity. With so many dance types, instructors also find it essential to address the culturally accurate history and origins of the different dances so that students understand their meaning.

Dance studios can be considered competition venues, but not South Sound Dance. “I’ve been to class before and they’re doing a floor exercise and clapping and cheering each other on and that’s something they do. Especially if someone’s struggling they’ll rally around each other saying ‘You understood !’ Anna shares. She adds that SSD students can be competitive in a fun way during competitions, but each student focuses on their own efforts and supporting their peers in classes. “It’s great that they’re starting to understand that not everyone will be in the same place technically and that they celebrate everyone’s successes.” It’s definitely refreshing to hear this contrasting perspective with more standardized metrics in school gym classes. Exercise doesn’t equal anxiety!

Dance lessons for children with special needs

CEO and Artistic Director Hannah leads students on stage before a recital
CEO and Artistic Director Hannah gets students excited before the recital! Photo Courtesy: Southern Sound Dance

South Sound Dance knows that every student has different needs. This is why they have expanded their offer to offer a sensory adaptive dance class, “aimed at dancers with physical, developmental or cognitive needs (ex: autism spectrum disorder, sensory processing disorder, Down syndrome, etc.) who would benefit from a course with a more flexible curriculum and sensitive sensory experience. They recognize that traditional classrooms have a lot to do, with loud music, bright lights and lots of students. In their sensory adaptation classes, the lights are dimmer, the music is quieter, and there’s more open dance time. They received feedback from the community that there were not enough classes like this for families with children with special needs who wanted to participate in these activities. South Sound Dance believes that dance is for everyone and is passionate about providing space for all children in their studio. This is a new course with a tentative schedule.

For more information on this class or others, visit the South Sound Dance website and reach out to them wonderful team. They offer classes for little kids to adult adults, ranging from jazz, ballet, tap, contemporary, hip-hop, acro, musical theater, and more!

Southern sound dance
5739 Littlerock Road SW, Suite 107, Tumwater
360.918.2171

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