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Dance school offers new ballet class for all abilities | Arts & Culture

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Dance school offers new ballet class for all abilities

A Madison dance school offers a ballet class that is the first of its kind in the area.

Jo Matzner began teaching sitting ballet to children and adults at the Kehl School of Dance on Verona Road in January. 

The class was designed to allow anyone with mobility or health concerns to learn ballet and exercise. It is open to people who use assitive devices, but it is not limited. Students should have upper body mobility.

Seven-year-old Lauren Tierney was one of the newest students over the weekend. Tierney has cerebral palsy and uses crutches to move around, but on Sunday she was excited to get her first pair of ballet slippers.

She said she wanted to take class after a personal care worker showed her some ballet moves.

"In Wisconsin it's a really long winter, so having a range of activities and things that can be done in the winter is great," Lauren's father Adam Tierney said. He said Lauren had built up excitement before the first class.

"Our philosophy is that we just believe everyone should dance if they want to," Matzner said. "It's just taking our normal classes just a step further."

Matzner, a former athlete and dancer, said she wanted to offer the class when she became ill and bed ridden for almost 2 years. When she recovered, she was motivated to help others experience dance.

In the class, students may remain in their wheelchairs or sit on furniture. The dance moves are the same as in the other ballet classes offered, as is the terminology. However, some steps standing dancers do with their feet, sitting dancers do with their arms.

"It's amazing you wouldn't believe that these people, adults and children, had never had a ballet class before," Matzner said.

Mary Gorman, an adult student, used to be a ballroom and folk dancer around Madison. Now wheelchair-bound, she was excited to explore ballet.

"You (are) either focused on dance or you're not on the dance floor: one or the other," Gorman said. "It's a wonderful freeing thing (and) can be very playful too."

Matzner and organizers are gauging interest to determine future classes. The Madison west Kehl dance studio is at 5117 Verona Road. 

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