Area kids ‘Jump for Joy’ over dance program
Blue Bell area resident Maddie Wingerter loves to dance.
“She loves to dance and sing around the kitchen, so we wanted her to have an opportunity to do that with other kids with similar interests,” said Maddie’s father, Brian Wingerter.
Maddie, along with 10 of her peers, was enrolled in a pilot class for children with Down syndrome this summer.
The program — Jump for Joy — was held at Jane Lopoten’s School of Dance in Lansdale for four weeks, and has led the way to the class being offered full-time as a 33-week program during the school’s regular season.
“This class was the first of its kind that I have taught, and it was the best decision I have ever made,” said studio owner and Jump for Joy co- instructor Jane Lopoten.
According to Lopoten, the idea for the class was started when a member of the Montgomery County Down Syndrome Interest Group, Judy Maggi, approached her.
“[Judy] wanted to know if I offered any classes for children with Down syndrome, and I was very honest with her about my experience,” said Lopoten. “I said I would need at least six students, and a few days later, she had found 10.”
According to Maggi, it seemed as though there weren’t any studios in the area that offered classes for children with Down syndrome.
Maggi, also a mother of a child with Down syndrome, spread the word throughout her interest group.
Once the idea for the class had been formulated, Lopoten asked co-instructor Kristine Izak to help her teach the program.
According to Izak, one of her brothers had been diagnosed with Down syndrome, and she also had experience working with children with disabilities at different camps.
"I have an affinity fro children with special needs, and my other brother works with one of our classmates, so I had special interest in this project,” said Izak.
According to Izak, the classes were not only help- ful in teaching the students dance technique, but also worked on strengthening various skills they may have trouble with mastering.
“My brother [John Izak] also works with children with Down syndrome, so he gave us a lot of tips and exercises to do with the children to help build up their muscle tone and balance,” said Izak.
Some of the physical skills that Lopoten and Izak hoped to strengthen during the program were balance, aerobic movement.
According to Lopoten, many other non-physical skills were worked on throughout the four weekclass.
“We taught them routines that were repetitive to work with their memorization skills as well as worked with the alphabet and their favorite colors,” said Lopoten. “This helped us get to know them, which I think is very important to do as a dance teacher.”
For aid in instructing the classes, three student teachers worked with Izak and Lopoten throughout the program.
“Our student teachers worked with each student, and very often used touch and contact to enforce certain dance concepts, which is often the best way to communicate with a student,” said Izak.
Officially be offered as a 33week long class starting Saturday, Sept. 14. Unlike the pilot program, there will be two classes separated by age.
According to Lopoten, two of the biggest goals for the classes are to have the students perform at a recital at the end of the year as well as be able to move onto tap concepts and practice.
Currently, the classes will offer beginning jazz, ballet and hip hop technique as well as creative movement work.
According to Izak, she and Lopoten are excited to continue this program in their school.
“Every little girl wants to be a ballerina,” said Izak. “I love that now these girls and their parents don’t have to give up on that dream,”
For more information regarding the Jane Lopoten School of Dance or the Jump for Joy program, visit www.janelopotendance.com.
Members and teachers of the summer Jump for Joy class at Jane Lopoten’s School of Dance are shown. Seated from left, Jane Lopoten, Abby McEntee, Lauren Borenstein, Isabelle Maggi, Rebecca Valentine and Kristine Izak. Background, Marissa Chirico, Jeffery Perlmutter, Maddie Wingerter, Dana Borio, Abby Citro, Dana Meoli and Elayna Milano.
Dana Borio, forefront, and other youngsters go through an exercise during Jump for Joy dance class.