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"Mills' Magnificent Movers"-- Dance Residency for Physically Challenged Students

First Year - June 2001
On the stage of the Bethlehem Rose Garden Children's Festival, on the first of June, 2001, seven physically disabled students from East Hills Middle School swayed, bounced and twirled as part of a dance/movement performance presented for their parents and children attending the festival. Billed as "Mighty Mills and the Magnificent Movers", the troupe was dressed in tropical attire and created a "Jumpin' Jungle", complete with a giant bird (teacher Dan Mills), hula dancers and a child-eating alligator (14-year old Daniel Brosman.) Also appearing on stage as swaying palm trees and general roustabouts were teachers Sandy Rogers and Debbie Morley. This presentation was the culmination of a 10 day in-class Artist (contd.)

Newspaper Article:
"Magnificent Movers Move Children at Rose Garden: Bethlehem Festival has youngsters dancing away from walkers, wheelchairs"
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multiple intelligence photo: Douglas Benedict, The Morning Call

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Residency led by Dancer/Choreographer Barbara Pearson. The project was funded by the Rose Garden Festival and by Just Born, Inc. The Physical Support classroom is a program of Colonial Intermediate Unit #20 in the Bethlehem Area School District.

As part of the performance, children from the audience, taking their cues from the maraca shaking "Movers", joined a conga line, which included wheelchairs and walkers as well as students dancing independently. Observing this interaction, Festival President Jeanette McDonald said, "Barbara realized our goal, which was to present high-spirited, low-mobility children as role models for other children. Involving a non-traditional class in the art of dance expands everyone's conception of what is possible when children and teachers work creatively."

The festival presentation was the outcome of ten active classroom sessions with Artist-in-Residence Barbara Pearson. Mrs. Pearson worked with Mr. Mills' Physical Support Class on basic dance and movement skills, including warm-ups, physical gesture, fine and gross motor skills, moving and stopping to musical cues, and leading and following group movement. The exercises were designed to (contd.)
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encourage each student to express her/himself emotionally and physically with whatever abilities he/she has.

The three classroom teachers, Mr. Mills, Mrs. Rogers and Mrs. Morley, worked closely with Mrs. Pearson, coaching the students and facilitating the process. Unique ways were found to include everyone, including the teachers, parents, and regular ed students in the action. "This was a model collaboration," said Ms. Pearson. "The teachers were supportive, enthusiastic, and completely involved in the entire process. They were open and adventurous and wanted to challenge and encourage the students. They even put on hula skirts and were part of the dance."

To prepare for the festival performance, a group of regular education music students came to the dress rehearsal as a trial audience. The interaction between the regular ed students and the disabled performers sparked an idea for the future - that of creating a performance involving the disabled and non-disabled together. This would lead toward a greater awareness of students with disabilities and of the value of creating exciting activities for inclusion.

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multiple intelligence photo: Douglas Benedict, The Morning Call

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Second Year - Spring 2002

In the spring of 2002 Barbara Pearson, "The Dance Lady", once again worked with Dan Mills' Physical Support class, "Mills' Magnificent Movers", to produce a program called "Freewheeling in Our Wheeling Chairs". This year's program was funded by the Pennsylvania Youth Theatre of Bethlehem, as part of their Pegasus Project. An added goal for this project was to involve regular education students in a way that would support the physically disabled, as well as give the regular ed students a chance to interact with these students in a new and more positive way. This was accomplished by having the Harmonium Choir, a choir of about 40 students led by Jen Volpato, accompany them by singing an original song, "Free Wheelin' in My Wheelin' Chair," (from the musical "Disabled Empowered and Proud" by Leslie Fanelli of Theatre in Motion) to accompany the performance. Several of the choir members also helped with props, and by partnering with the disabled students. The performance was also expanded by performing in the East Hills Middle School auditorium in front of several 6th and 7th grade classes and a host of teachers, parents, therapists and others.
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This time wheelchair-bound students donning colorful tie-dyed t-shirts motored, wheeled or were pushed in choreographed loops in time with the rap and tune of "Free Wheelin'". From their chairs the dancers played ball, acted out an auto race, manipulated a parachute, and danced and sang. Several members of the choir acted as "cheerleaders and traffic cops". Dan Mills made a grand entrance wheelin' on a rolling stool and his associate teachers, Mrs. Rogers and Mrs. Morley, performed a kick line.

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