ARC Industries adults hold hands with Kyla Makovsky during their weekly dance improvisation class. Credit: David Covey

For her senior project, an Ohio State dance student is teaching adults with disabilities to not let their limits hold them back from expressing themselves.

This past summer, Kyla Makovsky, a fourth-year in dance, traveled to Vienna to become a certified teacher for DanceAbility, an integrated dance organization that emphasizes the use of improvisational dance to promote artistic expression and exploration between people with and without disabilities, according to its website.

Makovsky’s interest in the organization stemmed from a past class with dancers with disabilities.

“When I first started with my dance partner, I approached him as a fragile being and underestimated his strength and abilities, but in the end, this experience showed me the potential of a population that is neglected,” Makovsky said.

Seeing the ability in this often overlooked group, Makovsky contacted ARC Industries, a local organization that provides services for adults with developmental disabilities. This led to an opportunity for Makovsky to complete her senior project by having the ARC adults travel to Sullivant Hall weekly for training in dance improvisation.

The collaboration between Makovsky and ARC is helping the organization fulfill one of its purposes. David Covey, dance department professor and Makovsky’s project adviser, said one of ARC’s goals is to integrate clients into the community to “see different parts of the world outside of the center they see every day.”

“It’s good for them to be on campus, see all the students and also dance,” Covey said.

Makovsky’s approach to the class utilizes ideas she learned during her certification process in Austria.

“In the DanceAbility Method, we encompass all ranges of movement to accommodate all the people in the class because we’re not trying to exclude or isolate anyone,” Makovsky said. “Even the smallest movement is beautiful.”

Makovsky said the emphasis on improvisation is important for this group due to their physical and mental barriers. She said she believes improvisation is a great learning tool for the ARC dancers because it allows them to discover new things about their own body since they are not forced to mimic steps that might not be natural to them.

This dance process challenges the ARC adults on more than a physical level.

“[Dancing] really helps with their social skills and any anxieties they may feel because it gets them out of their heads and gets their bodies moving through space,” Covey said.

Makovsky said she makes it a point to get other dance students involved with these lessons. She said when trained dancers are in these similar lessons, they feel the need to limit themselves. However, Makovsky said the ARC students will be better “if the dancers release their entire selves.”

For Makovsky, this project has no ending guidelines or requirements.

“There’s not a final result in this,” she said. “It’s about the progress.”

While the goal is to impact the ARC dancers, Ohio State dancers are impacted as well.

“There’s so much we learn when working with these dancers,” Covey said. “When you reach out to different populations in the community, you realize they have a lot they can teach you.”