Greenwood resident creates dance class for children with special needs

Writer / Michelle Kaufman
Photographer / Brian Brosmer

Greenwood resident Mackenzie Wissler is combining two of her passions to create a dance class, Everybody Dance Now, designed specifically for children with special needs.

The IUPUI elementary-special education major has been dancing for 18 years, an activity that has given her a feeling of unconditional happiness. She believes kids of all abilities should be able to feel that as well, so she began working on the idea for the class three years ago along with Le Rose Dance Academy owner Amanda Nixon.

Wissler is the first student that Le Rose has collaborated with on a new class, which kicked off in July and will continue throughout the 2017-18 season. Wissler built the curriculum with help from Nixon.

“She’s done a lot of research and work on [the class]. I’m just super proud of her,” Nixon says. “You get so attached to the kids throughout the years and then they graduate from high school, so to see them come back and want to teach what they love and their passion to a younger generation of kids, it really completes the circle.”

As the class developed, Wissler only got more excited when she saw how much potential her class could have. Wissler hand-picked her staff to help lead the class.

“I definitely think that kids of all abilities deserve to have every opportunity, but I think that they do need to be with people who have that extra love and that extra support, Wissler says. “It’s definitely going to be a one-on-one, nurturing environment. We want [the kids] to succeed.”

Wissler has been working with the special needs community since she was in sixth grade. She has participated in Best Buddies and volunteered with Special Olympics. When she graduated high school, a moment solidified her career choice.

“A peer that I had been in classes with since sixth grade, who had special needs, when he graduated and got his diploma the whole gym stood up and gave him a standing ovation,” she says. “I stood up and I had tears in my eyes. I knew that from that day on, I wanted to be a part of a hundred other graduations.”

Everybody Dance Now will give kids the chance to be creative and work on skills such as social interaction, memorization and flexibility. Wissler’s major has helped her with lesson planning for her class, as well as coming up with a specific and repetitive curriculum. Her student teaching experiences have also taught her how to individualize and work with kids one-on-one.

“My love for dance and my love for teaching, and especially working with kids of all abilities, it’s a blessing,” Wissler says. “That’s honestly all I can say. It is the biggest blessing, and I am so blessed to be able to put my favorite things in the whole world together, and I really hope it takes off. It’s a dream come true.”

Everybody Dance Now will be held on Saturdays at Le Rose Dance Academy, 717 Commerce Dr, Franklin, IN 46131. The class runs August to June. Class for ages 3 through 8 will be from 10-10:45 a.m, and 11-11:45 a.m. for ages 9 and older. The class costs $35 per month. For more information, contact Le Rose at 317-738-2188. The dancers will perform at community events and a recital.

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