It was a simple question, really. “Are there dance classes for people with developmental disabilities?”
Karen Medina has spent over 40 years in dance. She owned a large competitive dance studio and received phone calls asking the same question, over and over. That one simple question that kept popping up and her reaction of, “Why not?” eventually led Ms. Medina to leave competitive dance and open iDance—Adaptive Performing Arts and Fitness Center.
Everyone deserves to dance
During those years of competitive dance, Ms. Medina saw the negative effects it could have on families and kids. When she opened iDance, however, it brought the focus back to dance. “It’s not about a trophy. It’s about a high-five,” said Ms. Medina. “People were seeing I was happier.”
Ms. Medina doesn’t like to say developmental disabilities; but rather, “all abilities.” At iDance, it is all inclusive. “There’s a big difference between being ‘invited’ and being ‘included’,” she said when referencing trying to dance at other studios. At iDance, she tells them they are not dancers, but rather they are performers, and they are learning to be the best ones they can be with the abilities that they have.
As things progressed in the studio, she became aware that, though the students enjoyed the movement of dance, they didn’t always enjoy learning routines. That lead to iFit, and adding an adaptive fitness center.
Ms. Medina has moved her location six times to accommodate the growth of programs since opening iDance 15 years ago. Last year they added a second location and began using a room at the Bowling Green Community Center for dance classes as well.
Just step forward
Ms. Medina continued seeing other needs of her students. She learned that many of them would graduate high school and then maybe get a job or take part in a day program. The younger kids had many activities, but she said if you’re over 24 years old or so, there are not many options.
So iDance grew yet again. They added fitness classes such as drumming cardio. iSing was started to teach vocal skills they would need for performing as well as stage presence and oral motor skills. Students have even learned the National Anthem, among other songs, in sign language to perform around town including at a Mud Hens baseball game.
In time, iConnect day program was developed and provides many activities for adults with developmental disabilities. This program is far reaching and includes activities that focus on nutrition, art, team building, volunteering around town at places such as the art museum, Toledo GROWS, and so much more.
This program gives their clients tools to help them make better decisions at home, or maybe assist with skills that may help them become more employable. They even offer weekly computer classes at the local library.
Ms. Medina has continued to see the growth and enthusiasm of those taking part in the various classes and programs but also noticed the negative impact of unreliable transportation for the clients and students. Many times they would arrive late, or miss a class completely. The solution? IDance APAC began providing their own transportation for many students.
All of this has been quite a shift from what Ms. Medina had done for so many years of her life. She will tell you that she hasn’t asked for any of this; she simply stepped forward. And that has become her motto: “Just step forward.”
iJump to begin for the younger set
For many reasons, the center has had difficulties maintaining consistency with attendance for the children. The classes are designed for progressive learning, and it is very beneficial if they can attend at least weekly.
In the near future, they are going to offer six weeks of iJump on a trial basis and see how it goes. iJump is for children ages 6-11 and concentrates on adaptive movement, gymnastic therapies, timing and teamwork. If interested, contact the center soon.
For more information on iDance Adaptive Performing Arts and Fitness Center, you can check out their website at idanceapac.org or contact them directly at 419-309-1610.