GREENWOOD — A new nonprofit is getting ready to launch in Johnson County this month, with a goal of bringing high-quality dance enrichment activities to people in our community.
Dance Every Journey prepares to bring the joy of dance to adults of different ages and abilities across the county, starting with seniors in assisted living communities.
Roberta Wong welcomes residents of Demaree Crossing, an assisted living facility in Greenwood, to a special ballet class.
Rather than ballet exercises at the barre, Wong guides the seniors through movements from their seats.
"With the textures of the dance class, you start small, maybe start slow, you get a little faster, so there's tempo changes," said Wong. "Then you get huge movements. That's big stretching through the body that you might not normally do."
She leads the class through exercises: rolling the wrists, shrugging the shoulders, rolling up through the foot and reaching to twist.
The music is an album of Broadway covers by pianist David Plumpton in the United Kingdom that gives the residents a pep in their step.
"Oh, it's been so amazing to watch the residents engage," says Erin Beiriger, Executive Director at Demaree Crossing. "They just shine when the music comes on."
Beiriger says the dance class so far has been amazing for the residents' physical, mental, emotional and social well-being.
"The smiles that you see, the energy," says Beiriger. "It's kind of the talk of the town when it happens every week."
Wong brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the classes she teaches.
She began Ballet at the age of eight, eventually becoming a professional dancer.
A job with Indianapolis Ballet Theatre brought her to Indianapolis many years ago, where she also completed a biology degree at Butler University.
She danced with local company Dance Kaleidoscope and has more than 30 years of teaching under her belt.
She says she currently instructs students ages 9 to 99.
"They are drawn to her," said Beiriger about the residents' reactions to Wong and her class. "And it's really great."
For Dance Every Journey, Wong was able to secure a grant from the Indiana Arts Commission and receive training to design and implement these enrichment programs.
"It gets you moving in different and fun ways," said Wong, who concludes the class with a "reverence" or a special bow or curtsy for each resident. Then, she leads them through an art enrichment activity.
Wong shows the residents a tutu her mother made for her as a young dancer and then hands out brightly colored notecards and pens.
Each resident then writes on the notecard how dance today made them feel, with many writing it made them feel beautiful, good and happy.
"We sometimes hold the pens for them, but the words are their own," said Wong. "It gives them also a little bit of a stake in it."
Dance Every Journey launches officially on February 18 with a dinner and fundraising event at Stone Creek Dining Company in Greenwood.
Wong and other faculty with Stage 1 Dance Academy in Greenwood are leading this effort, which Wong says is a testament of their tradition of providing dance education to generations of dancers of all ages in Johnson County.
The enrichment program with residents of assisted living facilities is just the first pillar to their program. They plan to expand the dance education to veterans, adults with special needs, and more communities of people in Johnson County.
To learn more about the new nonprofit organization and how you can support their efforts, you can visit their website.