Ballet class impacts children’s lives

Laura+Escobar+teaches+ballet+children+with+special+needs.+This+activity+has+allowed+for+chidren+to+improve+their+quality+of+life+and+advance+in+their+health.++

Michaela Roman

Laura Escobar teaches ballet children with special needs. This activity has allowed for chidren to improve their quality of life and advance in their health.

Kimberly Valle, Staff Reporter

Dancing ballet since the age of seven, senior dance major Laura Escobar has used passion to benefit children with special needs. She discovered how light movements can advance health and overall quality of life for her senior
capstone project.

“The kids are really happy, the parents say they love to come,” Escobar said. “They enjoy it and I can see it in them. They are learning little things.”

Her interest in the subject matter began as Escobar first researched on how ballet impacts the development of children with Down syndrome.  She realized there are many things that benefit them physically, mentally and emotionally.

“It helps them be more self-aware, be more expressive, gives them more sense of accomplishment and helps their self-esteem,” Escobar said.

Escobar’s ballet class is made up of seven children and a percussionist who helps the children repond better to the music. Their joints and ligaments are loose, therefore Escobar tries not to do flexibility exercises within the class. Every movement is tailored so that they can all perform together without any difficulties.

Jordan Simmons, occupational therapist assistant student, helps the children stay focused on the direction of the class. Simmons coordinates the children into every movement that Escobar is teaching them.

“We’re just trying to help facilitate normal movement. In this class, we’re letting them all move together—we’re trying to get them to move period,” Simmons said. “We have seen many improvements in students. For a while they were all not wanting to participate, and now they are getting along better and participating more. They’re getting the hang of it.”

Simmons places a red tape on their right foot and a blue one on their left. This way they are aware of the direction they should take.

“They follow directions, but trying to get them to participate is where we were having the most trouble—to stay on task and participate,” Simmons said.

Parents of the children are delighted about the ballet class where their children can interact.

Crystal Arsobela, UTEP alumni,  takes her 8-year-old son to Escobar’s ballet classes and has seen an improvement in her child.

“It was kind of a hard decision because he’s a male, but we decided to do it,” Arsobela said. “He loves to dance. He doesn’t speak because he has a speech delay. He’s usually upset when he doesn’t want to do something, but as he arrives here, he does his own thing and he doesn’t get upset.”

There is a recital on the last day of classes, for parents to witness what their children have learned and how it has helped them be open
and expressive.

“My goal is to hook them up with ballet and that they like it,” Escobar said. “It’s hard to learn a lot of ballet, but it’s disciplined and it’s a form of art.”

Escobar hopes to expand these classes until next semester with the help of a therapist and parents.

“There is a waiting list for people who want to do more. They don’t want to stop. If parents want to keep bringing their children, then we will continue,” Escobar said.

Kimberly Valle may be reached at [email protected]