More than 60 consumers from Nebraska and Iowa participated in “Across the Floor” this spring. Pictured from left to right (sitting) Vodec consumer Denzel, Dr. Stephanie Goodrich and Vodec consumer John; (standing) Vodec consumers Thomas, Michael and Lynette.

They started with sunglasses, scarves and drumsticks. Ten weeks later, then ended with attitude, new social skills and different ways to bust a move.

More than 60 consumers from Vodec’s Council Bluffs, Omaha and Urbandale development centers participated in the “Across the Floor” pilot – a new movement program developed by WhyArts, a local arts nonprofit. The kicker…it was all done virtually.

 All 10 sessions of the adaptive dance-based curriculum were taught via Zoom. Vodec day services staff helped consumers participate from each Vodec development center they attend.  Each session focused on a new dance and a new social skill. In addition to learning a variety of line dances set to different eras of music, participants learned about relationship building, setting expectations, party planning, dining etiquette and personal hygiene, including clothes and hair.

“Each week, the consumers’ excitement and confidence levels grew,” said Stephanie Goodrich, a Vodec special education consultant. “They wanted to come up to the camera and show off their moves, answer the social skills questions and participate in role-play scenarios. Initially, we weren’t sure how the consumers would respond to this curriculum since it was being offered virtually for the first time. Fortunately, with the support and encouragement of Vodec staff, it was a success!”

The final session included a public performance in June at Omaha’s Turner Park hosted by Gotta Be Me, an Omaha nonprofit dedicated to promoting the inclusion of adults with disabilities into community life.

WhyArts Program Director Kim Clark-Kaczmarek said the next step for “Across the Floor” is to offer it in person.

“When you dance with a partner, you are learning a whole other skill set – how you ask someone to dance, how you touch hands appropriately, how you exhibit teamwork and respect,” Clark-Kaczmarek said. “These are the key elements to the social-emotional connections we make when interacting with others.”

The pilot program was funded by grants from the Lincoln Financial Foundation, the Omaha School Foundation and the Omaha Community Foundation’s Community Enrichment Fund. For more information about “Across the Floor,” email kim.ck@whyartsinc.org.

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