There is a reason why inclusivity is 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 aid in skill advancement, it also helps promote self-growth. That is why the South Sound Dance (SSD) team prides itself on creating a culture of inclusivity for students and parents alike. Their core values of Family, Connection, Empowerment, Growth, Passion and Creativity show through their outlook and curriculum. When they say “Dance is for Everyone,” they mean it.

young boy dancing at South Sound Dance
South Sound Dance added special boys’ dance in shows to make their male dancers feel like they have a place in the dance world, no matter what anybody says. Photo courtesy: South Sound Dance

At South Sound Dance, Everyone is Welcome

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

Instructors prioritize connecting with their students and don’t see dance as a separate, boxed-in part of life. They understand that personal lives and school stressors may bleed into practice. This is why there is always space in the classroom for discussion around needs and struggles. Each staff has their own way of connecting with students, and whether goofy or more technical, they always hold an encouraging and supportive attitude. Staff continually hold training around inclusivity to ensure all students feel safe and respected.

Dance Lessons in Tumwater Affirm Important Life Lessons

One way that instructors drive home inclusivity is with body image. They affirm with students of all age groups is 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. The significance does not lie in your appearance or how you compare to others. That is why SSD chooses to have a dress code that serves as a baseline for all students. As instructor Anna shares, “We want to improve ourselves from wherever we’re at. That’s the fun part – we find out what our bodies and brains can do. [We] start from that young age, helping them see that they don’t need to be like everyone else in the room.”

Instructor Pamela adds, “Dance is obviously visual, but that’s not all of it.”

A student assistant teacher leads South Sound Dance's Tiny Tutus class for 3-4 year olds.
South Sound Dance is in the process of starting a nonprofit to bring the power of dance to as many of the Greater Olympia area’s youth as possible. They aim to work through schools and offer more financial aid options for families. Photo courtesy: South 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 their authentic selves allows our students the space to be their authentic selves even if they are not quite sure who that is. They are able to explore and figure that out,” shares Anna. Students can let their guard down and feel safe to explore how they express themselves.

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

Dance studios may be thought of as competitive places, but not South Sound Dance. “I’ve walked into classes before and they’re doing an exercise across the floor, clapping and cheering for each other, and that’s something they just do. Especially if someone is struggling, they’ll rally around each other like ‘You got this!’” Anna shares. She adds that SSD students can be playfully competitive during competitions, but each student focuses on pushing themselves and supporting their peers in classes. “It’s great that they’re starting to understand not everyone will be at the same place technically and they’re celebrating each other’s successes.” Contrasting this outlook with more standardized metrics in school gym classes is undoubtedly refreshing to hear. Exercise does not have to equal anxiety!

Dance Lessons for Kids with Special Needs

CEO and Artistic Director Hannah directing students on the stage before a recital
CEO and Artistic Director Hannah gets students excited pre-recital! Photo courtesy: South Sound Dance

South Sound Dance knows that every student has different needs. This is why they expanded their offerings to provide a sensory adaptive dance class, “catered to dancers with physical, developmental or cognitive needs (ex: Autism Spectrum Disorder, Sensory Processing Disorder, Down Syndrome etc.) that would benefit from a class with a more flexible curriculum and a sensory sensitive experience.” They recognize that traditional classes have a lot going on, with loud music, bright lights and many students. In their sensory adaptive classes, the lights are dimmer, the music is quieter, and there is more open dance time. They received feedback from the community that there were not enough classes like this for families with special needs children who want to participate in these activities. South Sound Dance believes dance is for everyone, and are passionate about providing space for all kids in their studio. This is a new class with a tentative schedule.

For more information on this class or any others, visit the South Sound Dance website and reach out to their wonderful team. They provide classes for little kids to grown adults, ranging from Jazz, Ballet, Tap, Contemporary, Hip Hop, to Acro, Musical Theater, and more!

South Sound Dance
5739 Littlerock Road SW, Suite 107, Tumwater


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