locker room

December 16, 2010


By Matt Miller


Just dance


In just its second year, Dance Without Limits is tapping to a new beat


Monika Peltz has made it her mission to bring the gift of dance to a group of children who are often overlooked — the disabled. Peltz, who created Dance Without Limits last year, is working to empower, teach, build, heal and inspire those involved with the program.

“This program is based on the premise that all children should dance,” said Peltz, program coordinator for Dance Without Limits. “The program was inspired by a friend, and that image is becoming a reality. The community has caught on, and that’s makes all the difference.”

Approximately 20 children participate in the Dance Without Limits, which is part of the Ballet Des Moines. The nonprofit began in 2002 and is focused on re-establishing a professional ballet company in central Iowa. The program is offered twice a year — two, 10-week sessions — for children ages 4 to 6 and 7 to 10. One session was held Sept. 25 through Dec. 5, while the second session will be held Feb. 13 to April 10, 2011. Classes are held at the School of Classical Ballet and Dance, 1721 25th St.

“I love that Ballet Des Moines gives the children the opportunity to dance,” said Rachel Gross, executive director of Ballet Des Moines. “In the same way, it’s great to see the community become involved and grasp dance. It’s rewarding, and easy to see that dance does touch all lives.”

Children from across the metro with cognitive and physical disabilities attend the sessions. Peltz says it’s a wide range of disabilities including autism, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, along with sensory disorders and more.

Like most dance routines, Dance Without Limits curriculum builds on each other each week. Peltz says this is vital to the success of the program and is easier to remember with the repetition.

“We always start with the fuzzy mats with the same exercises,” Peltz said. “The kids have to know what they’re going to be doing each week — it just makes it easier on everyone.”

Then at the end of the 10-week session, the children perform for family and friends. Also Ballet II, another part of the Ballet Des Moines, gives a performance.

“The kids absolutely love when Ballet II performs,” Peltz said. “It really gives them inspiration to get up on stage and show off what they have also learned.”

While Peltz has a mighty task of instructing the children each session, she says she wouldn’t be able to do without the 40-some volunteers — high school through adult — who give their time.

“The volunteers are really extraordinary, and we couldn’t do this without their help,” Peltz said. “They put in a lot of time for these children, and it’s always a benefit for the children to work regularly with people the know, too.”

Dance Without Limits has experienced so much success in such a small time, both Gross and Peltz hope to expand the program to at-risk teenagers in 2011.

“Plans are just now coming together, but we want to provide a safe class and something we can offer students in the afternoons,” Gross said. “We’re definitely excited.”

In the meantime, Gross and Peltz say they are pleased with where the program is now.

“We’ve found a home here to let these kids be how they are and what they like,” Peltz said. “I’m so excited that we’re able to tie that to Des Moines. The kids love it.”

Gross agrees.

“This isn’t a class where you feel sorry for these kids,” she said. “You get to see how they’re learning and take on new challenges.” CV


caption: The next 10-week session of Dance Without Limits will be held in February 2011. Photo courtesy of Ann Ungs


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