The next time you think you can’t do something, think of the story of Jennifer McIntosh. Jennifer, a junior who is disabled, came to KSC from the Crotched Mountain School in Greenfield, NH. She is a person who uses a wheelchair, and uses an ECO augmentative and alternative communication device (an eye-scanning typepad that she affectionately refers to as “Pinky”) to communicate.
Jennifer had helped establish an adaptive dance program while she was at Crotched Mountain, and when she heard about the KSC Theater and Dance Department’s class, Dance as a Way of Knowing, she wanted to sign up. Rather than balk at the seeming impossibility of having such a student in her class, Dance Program Director/TAD and Resident Artist Marcia Murdock saw an opportunity to create a win-win situation. One of her students, Ali Hammel, has created an individualized major for herself that combines psychology and dance, and one of the requirements was that she complete an internship. The internship allowed Ali to work with Jennifer and create a dance performance.
For the very determined Jennifer, there was never any question as to whether she could handle the course. “I was interested in taking Dance as a Way of Knowing because I like to dance and I was interested in taking on the challenge of introducing adaptive dance to the Keene State College campus,” she said. “I had many special interactions with the other students, partly because I relied on them to help me dance and also because they felt comfortable around me. Ali and Marcia were the only teachers, but they did a wonderful job and faced this challenge head on.”
“My career goal is to make dance available for everyone, no matter what their challenge may be,” Ali explained. “Marcia knew this and had meetings with Jennifer and I, along with a few other people, so I could dance with Jennifer throughout the class. I needed to make sure Jennifer was getting everything out of it that she could, making adaptations only when necessary.”
“I cannot express what a success this was, both in terms of Jennifer’s increased range of motion and artistic development, creating duets she performed with Ali Hammell and her final quartet, choreographed and performed with Ali and other classmates,” Marcia Murdock said.
“I learned more than I ever thought I would,” Ali recalled. “I am much more ready to get certified as a dance therapist. Coming to that class every Tuesday and Thursday to see Jennifer so excited and ready to dance was thrilling. From the beginning to the end, I noticed that Jennifer was getting stronger! She was lifting her limbs higher and holding them up longer. I could probably write a book with all that I learned from Jennifer and this class.”
And the result? Check it out on the KSC YouTube channel (featuring Jennifer, Ali, Sarina Kauffman, and Tori Vigorito).
If you’d like to know more about Jennifer, visit her blog.