• Today is: Thursday, May 23, 2019
Kristine Sorensen
May23/ 2019

A local dance company is collaborating with the Western Pennsylvania School for the Deaf in Edgewood teaching the students dance, and the children who are deaf or hard of hearing are even able to feel the music, with the help of special technology.  Professional dancers from Attack Theatre, a dance company celebrating 25 years in Pittsburgh next year, work with 9,000 students and teachers around the region every year in outreach programs, but this partnership is unique.

     Attack Theatre co-founder, Michele de la Reza, teaches a class for preschoolers at WPSD.  Her passion for dance is evident in every muscle of her body and face.  The three and 4-year-olds jump, shake and crawl backward, stretching their bodies and their minds.

    De la Reza says dance is a natural extension of sign language, which becomes clear when you see the teachers sign, using their whole bodies and facial expressions.  De la Reza says, “The deaf community’s whole language is rooted in physicality, and our creative language really is rooted in physicality, so let’s investigate where the connections can be.”

    KDKA’s Kristine Sorensen connected with the kids when they picked a picture of a body part and then moved her body in different directions.   Together, they created a dance, communicating through movement and touch when they couldn’t talk.

     De la Reza went on to say, “Another thing that we really wanted to focus on with these kids is how to physically express not only their ideas and their emotions but also a sense of vibration and sound.”  That’s when they brought in the University of Pittsburgh, whose engineering students created special backpacks, that look like monkies, that the children can wear on their backs to feel the vibrations of the music.

     De la Reza instructs the children using sign language, which she continues to learn.  “On – dance.  Off – freeze,” she tells them.  Then, they dance to the music or the vibrations.

     Christie Homell, a WPSD preschool teacher who’s deaf, says through a sign language interpreter that she loves to dance and so do the kids she teaches.   “When you feel the vibration, it does make your body move a little bit,” Homell says.  “You can tell once you put the monkey on, their facial expression shows and their body moves to beats, rhythms, whether it’s fast or slow.”

     De la Reza choreographs for specific vibrations from the music.  She makes strong and heavy movement for the low, bass beats and soft and light movements for the fluttering vibrations.  Homell explains how the students feel with the backpacks on, “They don’t ever say, ‘I can’t.  I can’t do it.’  I see them and how many times they’re signing (to say), ‘I feel that. I feel that, Christy. I feel that. Maybe I can’t hear it, but I feel it.”

     Attack Theatre works with all ages of students at WPSD, including middle and high school students, who have even performed with the professional dancers.

     It’s the universal language of dance, connecting deaf and hearing people of all ages.

The Western Pennsylvania School for the Deaf

Kristine Sorensen
May23/ 2019

A local dance company is collaborating with the Western Pennsylvania School for the Deaf in Edgewood teaching the students dance, and the children who are deaf or hard of hearing are even able to feel the music, with the help of special technology.  Professional dancers from Attack Theatre, a dance company celebrating 25 years in Pittsburgh next year, work with 9,000 students and teachers around the region every year in outreach programs, but this partnership is unique.

Attack Theatre co-founder, Michele de la Reza, teaches a class for preschoolers at WPSD.  Her passion for dance is evident in every muscle of her body and face.  The three and 4-year-olds jump, shake and crawl backwards, stretching their bodies and their minds.

De la Reza says dance is a natural extension of sign language, which becomes clear when you see the teachers sign, using their whole bodies and facial expressions.  De la Reza says, “The deaf community’s whole language is rooted in physicality, and our creative language really is rooted in physicality, so let’s investigate where the connections can be.”

KDKA’s Kristine Sorensen connected with the kids when they picked a picture of a body part and then moved her body in different directions.   Together, they created a dance, communicating through movement and touch when they couldn’t talk.

De la Reza went on to say, “Another thing that we really wanted to focus on with these kids is how to physically express not only their ideas and their emotions, but also a sense of vibration and sound.”  That’s when they brought in the University of Pittsburgh, whose engineering students created special backpacks, that look like monkeys, that the children can wear on their backs to feel the vibrations of the music.

De la Reza instructs the children using sign language, which she continues to learn.  “On – dance.  Off – freeze,” she tells them.  Then, they dance to the music, or the vibrations.

Christie Homell, a WPSD preschool teacher who’s deaf, says through a sign language interpreter that she loves to dance and so do the kids she teaches.   “When you feel the vibration, it does make your body move a little bit,” Homell says.  “You can tell once you put the monkey on, their facial expression shows and their body moves to beats, rhythms, whether it’s fast or slow.”

De la Reza choreographs for specific vibrations from the music.  She makes strong and heavy movement for the low, bass beats and soft and light movements for the fluttering vibrations.  Homell explains how the students feel with the backpacks on, “They don’t ever say, ‘I can’t.  I can’t do it.’  I see them and how many times they’re signing (to say), ‘I feel that. I feel that, Christy. I feel that. Maybe I can’t hear it, but I feel it.”

Attack Theatre works with all ages of students at WPSD, including middle and high school students, who have even performed with the professional dancers.

It’s the universal language of dance, connecting deaf and hearing people of all ages.

The Western Pennsylvania School for the Deaf

Kidcast checks up on personal parenting goals for 2019

Kristine Sorensen
May22/ 2019

How are you doing with your goals for 2019 or the New Year’s resolutions you made for yourself or your family? Kristine Sorensen checks back in with her parenting goals for the year and how this series of Kidcasts featuring advice from other local parents has helped her with many of them. Learn how these tips can help you and your kids, too!

Kidcast: Top events this week

Kristine Sorensen
May22/ 2019

Take a break from your own gardening and let the kids discover the gardens at Phipps! They have a great lineup of activities for the little ones this weekend and I’ll share more about that, plus Open Streets and an Eric Carle exhibit in today’s Kidcast Event Guide!   Then tell me what you’re planning to do with your kids this long holiday weekend.

 

My Favorite Pittsburgh Thing To Do With Kids: Melanie Marie Boyer of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce

fave thing
Sally Quinn
May21/ 2019

Melanie Marie Boyer and her husband head an international family. Melanie is a Columbian/American citizen, born and raised in Pittsburgh. Joel, an artist and illustrator, was born and raised in Canada.

As director of development at the Pittsburgh Metropolitan Area Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Melanie’s heritage and love of family play a big part in her favorite Pittsburgh thing to do with kids.

“We love to attend the Latin American Cultural Union Festival,” says Melanie, mom to Dawson, 6, and 1-year-old Brody.  “This is a community event that celebrates Latinx cultures from around the world, right here in Pittsburgh. There is something for everyone at this event. Dawson especially enjoys dancing with the performances on the main stage.”

Between face painting, whacking pinatas and making crafts, they love browsing through the handmade toys and artisan products.

“After working up a good appetite singing, dancing and chatting, we descend on the food vendor area,” she says. “Here, delicious dishes from many countries and Hispanic cultures are featured.”

As soon as the April festival ends, the Gibsonia family begins counting down the days until the next Latin American Caribbean Festival, which is free and open to the public. (Other fun Hispanic happenings include the Pittsburgh Taco Fest on June 1 at Highmark Stadium and the Latino Picnic on Sept. 29 in Schenley Park.)

“This event is very special to us because we get to celebrate our Hispanic heritage and have a whole day of fun from morning until night,” Melanie says. “Family is the foundation of everything in our lives. Our family is our primary community and the first community that our children know. It is the example children use when learning to interact with the world and develop their values and goals and teach them about their heritage.”

She counts herself fortunate to have a supportive and active family at hand. On at least a weekly basis, for example,  Dawson and Brody spend time with their Pappy, Abue and Tio Sean. Even their Tia Hannah, who lives in Colombia, calls the boys to video chat several times a week.

“As a mom, I finally know what is meant by the phrase ‘it takes a village,’ ” Melanie says. “Life can be chaotic, stressful and even downright hard, but with a great family by your side, you can truly accomplish anything.”