Dance students are feeling the beat in Wheat Ridge

Feel the Beat is for students who are deaf or hard of hearing and with special needs

Posted 9/11/19

It’s not uncommon for 10-year-old Amy Watson of Broomfield to get goofy and dance around the house. Watson, who is autistic and deaf, has been dancing nearly every week for the past three years at …

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Dance students are feeling the beat in Wheat Ridge

Feel the Beat is for students who are deaf or hard of hearing and with special needs

Posted

It’s not uncommon for 10-year-old Amy Watson of Broomfield to get goofy and dance around the house.

Watson, who is autistic and deaf, has been dancing nearly every week for the past three years at Feel the Beat in Wheat Ridge.

“She’s learning to dance, but the focus is more on having fun,” said Amy Watson’s mother Jenny. “Kids just want to have fun (and) I love seeing her have a great time.”

At Feel the Beat, it’s all about overall acceptance, said Jari Majewski, owner and co-founder of the dance studio.

“This is a place where they can feel that belonging and sense of community,” Majewski said.

Feel the Beat, 5451 W. 32nd Ave. in Wheat Ridge, is a dance studio that specializes in providing dance and music accessibility to children who are deaf or hard of hearing and with special needs. The studio is equipped with flooring that has specialized technology to combine vibrations from transducers and pliable material that reverberates with the beat.

“The sounds and music are felt,” Majewski said, “and therefore experienced.”

Feel the Beat received its nonprofit status in May 2017, and in October that year, the studio opened its doors. Since, partnerships with teachers and other academic professionals across the Front Range have formed.

The studio currently has six teachers. All have experience in dance and/or yoga, know sign language and have teaching abilities. Though the classes are taught in a group setting, they are tailored to meet the needs of each individual, Majewski said. The classes are offered weekly, and last 45 minutes to an hour.

Feel the Beat offers eight categories of dance classes, ranging from children’s yoga to ballet.

Amy Watson likes the hip-hop classes because they’re high-energy. Her favorite dance to do is the lawn mower, Jenny Watson said, who was translating her daughter’s answers from sign language as Amy Watson demonstrated the dance during a FaceTime interview with the Golden Transcript. But Amy Watson also enjoys the animal dance, when all the students get to choose the animal they want to portray, her mom added.

“It’s more than just creating an accessible program,” Majewski said. “It’s about providing them with an experience they might otherwise never have.”

Feel the Beat currently has about 350 students. Most of them are children, but the studio offers classes for any age, infant to seniors, and Majewski said. In addition, some of the students do not have a disability — its common for siblings or another family member of the person who is deaf with special needs to join him or her in a class, Majewski said.

“It’s so cool to see the different students helping each other,” Majewski said. New relationships and special bonds form among the students themselves, as well as their parents. “It’s beautiful that community has developed out of this.”

A season goes from September to December, and from January to May. Students perform a holiday show at the end of the first season, and a spring recital at the end of the second season.

Registration can be done per month or per season. However, no student will be turned away, regardless of when they register, Majewski said.

Majewski, 33, has been dancing her whole life and has more than a decade of experience working with children who are deaf and with special needs.

“For me, it’s all about the smiles,” Majewski said. “They (the students) become so proud of themselves and leave with a sense of accomplishment and pride.”

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