Ballet For All Kids Performs The Littlest Star This November with Mallory Lewis and Lamb Chop Lending a Hand

Agoura Hills CA – Ballet for All Kids (BFAK), a non-profit rare dance experience that offers classical ballet training to all children (and adults) including those with special needs, is performing in a recital of “The Littlest Star” an original ballet production on Sunday, November 19, 2017, 2:30 p.m. at the Agoura Hills High School Center for the Performing Arts, located at 28545 W. Driver Avenue, Agoura Hills, CA  91301. littlest star flyer with details

The philosophy behind the teaching of BFAK is to embrace each student’s particular circumstances, honor their abilities and disabilities, and celebrate their exceptional uniqueness.

This year’s production will have Mallory Lewis and Lamb Chop to help tell the story, which is an original ballet based on winter fairytales written especially for Ballet for All Kids.  Mallory Lewis, daughter of the beloved Shari Lewis, has carried on in her mother’s footsteps and continues to entertain children of all ages with her sidekick Lamb Chop.

“We are so extremely honored to have Mallory Lewis and Lamb Chop join us this year for the ballet.  Our students love then both and the feeling is mutual,” Says Bonnie Schlachte, the Director and Founder of Ballet For All Kids.

Last year, the students of Ballet for All Kids performed the Nutcracker to rave reviews, and a sold-out crowd – ushering in a new winter tradition.

“Putting on the ballet performance is a monumental task from lighting design to costume fittings and over a hundred student volunteers from schools across the San Fernando Valley and Thousand Oaks, who give extra support to those children with special needs that might require help performing in front of a live audience,” states Ms. Schlachte.

Ballet for All Kids mission is to provide classical ballet education to all children, regardless of ability.  Students learn techniques through a specialized methodology designed to use their unique abilities as a springboard to learning ballet.

They are located in Agoura Hills and Encino.  For further information or to order tickets visit www.balletforallkids.org or call:  805-524-5503.

 

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Bonnie Schlachte, Founder and Director of BFAK

Bonnie Schlachte, Founder and Director of BF 

Note to media:  Bonnie Schlachte. Mallory Lewis and Lamb Chop are available for interview.  Contact Rhonda Rees PR at 818-325-2089 or RReesPR@aol.com to make the arrangements. 


 

 

BALLET FOR ALL KIDS SPECIAL NEEDS DANCE INSTRUCTION MOVES TO A NEW FACILITY IN AGOURA HILLS

BFAK students learning fine motor skills and Porta Bras

BFAK students learning fine motor skills from Director, Bonnie Schlachte

Agoura Hills, CA – Ballet for All Kids (BFAK), a rare dance experience that offers classical ballet training to all children and adults including those with special needs, is relocating from Westlake Village to a new facility on August 1st, 2016.  The studio address is at 30315 Canwood Street, Unit # 11, Agoura Hills, CA 91301.

According to Director Bonnie Schlachte, “We are so excited to finally have a permanent home.  This means we will be able to provide additional dance classes that are inclusive of all children.”  She continues, “The new move will also give us a space to practice our performances like the Nutcracker, which we plan to hold in November over at the Madrid theatre in Canoga Park.”

The non-profit organization is seeking donations to help cover costs for various renovations, and for a parent lounge that needs paint, furniture, and computers.  For more information go to:  https://www.gofundme.com/bfaknewstudio.

The philosophy behind the BFAK teaching is to embrace each student’s particular circumstances, honor their abilities and disabilities, and celebrate their exceptional uniqueness.  It is the original ballet therapy, successfully teaching children and adults with all abilities and special needs including:  Autism, learning and emotional developmental disabilities such as behavioral issues, ADHD, anxiety disorders, neurological difficulties, or those that are hearing impaired, blind or non-ambulatory.  Students come from all over the Los Angeles and Ventura County areas to participate in their classes, with over 100 volunteers from both public and private schools.  See video: https://vimeo.com/53311846.

BFAK Director, Bonnie Schlachte, leads students in stretching exercises

BFAK students participating in stretching exercises

“Having our own space means that we will be able to maximize the benefits of classical ballet training to children with special needs.  Our new facility is designed to limit distractions and sensory overload, and will help to control the noise levels and visual stimuli, so that children will be able to get the most out of a classical dance education,” states Schlachte.

The new facility will offer an expanded class schedule to include ballet, tap, and jazz, belly dancing, contemporary, and more.  Additional classes are also held at the Los Angeles Ballet Academy.

For further information contact Ballet for All Kids at 30315 Canwood Street, Unit # 11, Agoura Hills, CA  91301.  Phone: 805-524-5503.  Website:  http://balletforallkids.com/  Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Ballet-For-All-Kids-The-Schlachte-Method-123007087732886/?fref=ts.

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Bonnie Schlachte, Founder and Director of BFAK

Bonnie Schlachte, Founder and Director of BFAK

Note to Media:  BFAK Director Bonnie Schlachte is available for interview.  Contact Rhonda Rees PR at: 818-325-2089 to make the arrangements.

FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER CHILDREN WITH SPECIAL NEEDS WILL BE PERFORMING A FULL-LENGTH BALLET

PRESS RELEASE

BFAK students and volunteers rehearse “capturing the wolf" in the ballet Peter and the Wolf

BFAK students and volunteers rehearse “capturing the wolf” in the ballet Peter and the Wolf

BFAK students play the role of the duck “swimming on the pond” in rehearsals of Peter and the Wolf.

BFAK students play the role of the duck “swimming on the pond” in rehearsals of Peter and the Wolf

BFAK students dance like “Birdie” during rehearsals of Peter and the Wolf.

BFAK students dance like “Birdie” during rehearsals of Peter and the Wolf.

Agoura Hills, CA – Ballet For All Kids (BFAK), a rare dance experience that offers classical ballet training to all children (and adults) including those with special needs, is holding a recital including a first-of-its-kind full-length ballet of “Peter and the Wolf” on Saturday, May 14, 2016, 7:00 p.m. at the Performing Arts Education Center in Agoura Hills, located at 28545 W. Driver Avenue.

The philosophy behind the teaching is to embrace each student’s particular circumstances, honor their abilities and disabilities, and celebrate their exceptional uniqueness.  This is the first time that the public will have a chance to see these incredible and inspiring students in action in a full-length ballet production.

The non-profit BFAK method is an original ballet therapy, successfully teaching children and adults with all abilities and special needs including:  Autism, learning and emotional developmental disabilities such as behavioral issues, ADHD, anxiety disorders, neurological difficulties, or those that are hearing impaired, blind or immobile.  Students come from all over the Los Angeles and Ventura County areas to participate in their classes, with over 100 volunteers from both public and private schools.  See video: https://vimeo.com/53311846

According to Bonnie Schlachte Director, “I truly believe that our program enriches the community and creates a completely inclusive environment that is unique to the world.  When our students move, they are dancers – not just children with special needs.  As our parents watch their children dance, they get to experience the pride of parenthood.”

The program teaches classical ballet using the Schlachte Method – an approach developed to assist all students in the study, technique and discipline of ballet.  It encompasses various styles of learning including visual, auditory and vestibular balance coordination, while at the same time, fosters emotional intelligence.  As a result, they come away with greater self-confidence, stronger friendships, better self-discipline, and an increased joy for the movement of dance.

Ballet For All Kids is the only studio in the world that offers classical ballet training to all children, facilitating a voluntary outreach and advocacy program.  Parents also report that BFAK has provided many positive experiences for their offspring, including increased socialization skills, better focus and concentration in the classroom, and decreased inappropriate behaviors.  Also, students come away with better physical and occupational therapeutic benefits, as well as an overall increase in confidence and poise.  In addition to offering ballet, BFAK also teaches jazz, tap and belly dancing classes.

For further information about BFAK’s “Peter and the Wolf” performance, or to order tickets contact info@balletforallkids.com.   Ballet For All Kids, is located at: 2282 Townsgate Road, Westlake Village, CA  91361.   Phone:  805-524-5503.  A second location is at:  16422 Ventura Blvd., Encino, CA  91436.   Website:  http://balletforallkids.com/  Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Ballet-For-All-Kids-The-Schlachte-Method-123007087732886/?fref=ts.

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Bonnie Schlachte, Founder and Director of BFAK

Bonnie Schlachte, Founder and Director of BFAK

NOTE TO MEDIA:  BFAK Director Bonnie Schlachte is available for interview from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. on May 14th during the dress rehearsal prior to the show.  Contact Rhonda Rees PR at:
818-325-2089 to make the arrangements.

New York City and Ballet For All Kids

We are so excited to be expanding to New York City!  Ballet For All Kids is the only studio that welcomes children of ALL abilities and disabilities.  Until now, we have only been able to be in the Los Angeles area.  One of our lovely teachers, Rebecca, is now attending NYU and is offering classes in Manhattan.  We are so thrilled to be able to offer classes to children with special needs in the NYC area! NYC Classes

What You Expect Is What You Get

There was a study in which a group of students were tested and then grouped accordingly in gifted and remedial groups.  The teachers were told which group was gifted and which group was remedial.  At the end of the school year, the gifted group, as expected, got above average grades; whereas, the remedial group received average to below average grades.  Only then was it reveled that the “gifted” kids were really the remedial kids and that the “remedial” kids actually were the ones that tested as gifted.  The study was conducted to see if the expectations of the teachers really influenced the student’s performance.  Obviously, expectations make a huge difference in the outcome.

In my years of teaching, I too have noticed a similar phenomenon – whatever is expected of the student in terms of learning or in terms of behavior is usually exactly what you get.  I have had people comment that they cannot believe the progress that students achieve through Ballet For All Kids – both in terms of behaviors and in terms of ballet technique.  When students come into the classroom, they are in a ballet class (not a dance program for children with special needs) and are expected to follow all of the rules and etiquette of any ballet class.  In ballet, you are to come to class prepared, listen and focus on the teacher’s instructions, try your best, and behave with grace and decorum.  Ballet teachers expect that their students will try their best to have correct technique and will demonstrate the self- discipline to keep practicing and perfecting the technique in class.

So when kids, regardless of their abilities or disabilities, come into a Ballet For All Kids class they tend to conform to the expectations.  Our students really become quite amazing dancers.  Often people will comment that they cannot tell which of our students are disabled and which of our students are typical.  We also get comments from other ballet teachers that our students have great technique.  Many of our students will transition into a typical ballet setting quite easily and end up being extremely successful.

The first thing we tell our new volunteers is to expect the best from all of the kids.  Do not let a student get away with poor technique or behavior just because they are disabled.  The results again have been quite amazing.  We have children with Cerebral Palsy completing ballet technique all the while improving their Range of Motion, balance, motor planning and coordination.  Some of our students who are on the Autism Spectrum and have ADHD remain focused, calm, and are incredible attentive during class – this improvement in ballet class affecting positively in their school classrooms and at home.

Our expectation of our students to do their best is a huge key to our success – you really do get what you expect!

Boys and Ballet – lt’s a guy thing

Often I have parents express concerns about their boys taking ballet. They believe that ballet is a girl thing! That only girls can get true benefits, social skills and solid friendships from a ballet class. That only sissy boys take ballet.

I’m here to tell you though that nothing could be further from the truth.

One only needs to look at ballet masters like Baryshnikov to know that ballet is anything but a girl thing. Ballet dancers are athletes and are often in better physical condition than most professional sportsmen. In fact, many professional athletes take ballet to help with flexibility and overall conditioning – NFL players like Donovin Darius, Herschel Walker and Willie Gault, to name a few. Lynn Swann took ballet and yoga as training workouts to prepare for his games. Some entire college and pro football teams endorse taking ballet as a way to gain flexibility, speed and balance. Many NFL teams are adding ballet, Pilates, and yoga to their strengthening regimens. Ballet is assisting athletes in other sports as well. Michael Beasley of the NBA started taking ballet to improve his flexibility. And even Major League Baseball catcher, Mike Piazza is taking a role in the Miami Ballet. He reportedly wants to help ballet’s image with sports fans.

The benefits of ballet outweigh the stereotype of ‘men in ballet’. So when thinking of putting your son into a ballet class, especially a BFAK class, you need to look at it more from a therapeutic and beneficial point of view rather than a more stereotypical one. In the end, we are judged by the character of our being and the quality of our actions, not the often arbitrary norms and rules of society.

So if your son wants to dance but you are afraid of what people might think or say, just Google NFL and ballet. See for yourself that your son will be dancing in the company of our society’s paragons of masculinity.

Ballet Therapy — is ballet therapeutic to children with special needs?

Assisting in First Position

The short answer is a resounding YES!

When we think of something as therapeutic, we think of the “something” as being beneficial to the health and well being of the person. We think of it as healing or improving areas that prior to the therapy/treatment were weak or non-functioning.

Ballet has always been known to be beneficial. It increases coordination, physical strength and flexibility. It improves self-confidence, self-esteem, focus and body awareness. When you combine the traditional benefits of ballet with The Schlachte Method™, a method of teaching ballet that gives all children access to learn, ballet therapy is the result.

Now we arrive at the question: how is ballet therapy beneficial to my child?

Ballet as taught through The Schlachte Method™ can assist children in three major areas: Behaviorally, Socially, and Physically.

Behaviorally, ballet helps children self-regulate, improve attention span and listening skills, and decrease inappropriate behaviors.

We’ve had students with Autism or ADHD diagnoses who’ve been unable to focus long enough to learn their academics or to complete simple tasks. However, once they started ballet, their parents have reported an increased interest in reading or that their child is now doing things independently. Once we had a father tell us through tears that his daughter “came in from school the other day, put away her lunchbox, went to her room and got on her ballet clothes. She then put on her ballet DVD and started practicing.” Why is this so amazing? It was the first time in her eight years that she’d done anything without being asked or prompted. Many parents, behaviorist, and teachers comment that once a child starts ballet their focus increases, inappropriate behaviors decrease, and previously stressful situations are now handled with a new level of grace. Another parent told me she loved ballet day because it was the one day her four-year-old twins were calm and listened, and were able to be at home without running all over the place.

Socially, ballet increases self-confidence giving children a context in which to socialize. It improves eye contact and proprioception in relation to others, it increases emotional intelligence, and it assists in learning proper classroom etiquette.

Ballet gives children with special needs a context in which to share and participate in extracurricular activities with a peer group. One parent shared a story about how her daughter, who is autistic and non-verbal, went to a party and brought her ballet DVD from class. Historically, this girl didn’t do well at parties – she would withdraw to “get through” large social gatherings. However, at this party she put on her ballet DVD and started dancing. A couple of other typical kids joined her and the three of them danced together. She loved the party and was included with other children in a way she never had been before. As one of my volunteers with Aspergers stated… “ballet was the one place I could fit in and be with others without worrying that I didn’t know what to do or say.” As with all children, extracurricular activities give children with special needs the ability to meet friends and a place to grow and cultivate those friendships. This holds especially true for children with special needs as their choices in extracurricular activities are limited. As one mother told me, “I love the fact that I can tell my friends and family I’m taking my daughter to ballet – not social skills, or speech therapy or any of the other myriad of other therapies she has to do. I am so proud that she is able to do this and do it well.”

Physically, ballet assists with motor planning, increased coordination in both gross and fine motor skills, balance, working bi and cross laterally, increased strength and flexibility, proprioceptive skills, and body awareness and confidence.

We’ve had children with Cerebral Palsy increase their range of motion, improve their posture and walk better as a result of taking ballet. We’ve had many pediatricians tell parents that their children have greatly improved in their posture (even children with scoliosis), strengthened muscle tone (especially children with Hypotonia) and are stronger and healthier overall after taking ballet classes. I have one student with peripheral neuropathy who has slowly gained greater strength and balance. What I find most remarkable is her increased ability to walk unassisted and to stand (even for a few seconds) without falling over.

The wonderful thing about ballet as taught through The Schlachte Method™ is that it is a physical, occupational, behavioral, and social skills therapy. But to the child, it is just ballet and they LOVE it.

So, yes, ballet is very therapeutic. But more importantly it is a way to help the children express themselves and be part of the larger community of dancers. In class the children are ballet dancers – the therapeutic results are just icing on the cake.

Welcome

This speech was first given at Calabasas High School’s Dance Team Benefit for Ballet For All Kids:

Self-confidence.  Friendship.  Self-discipline.  The pure and simple joy of movement. These are some of the benefits of a classical ballet education.

But many children – children on the Autism Spectrum, children with Learning and Developmental Disabilities, children with Anxiety Disorders, Behavioral issues, and ADHD – cannot succeed in a traditional ballet class setting.

It was with that in mind that Ballet For All Kids was created so that all children, regardless of their abilities or disabilities, could have the opportunity to reap the benefits of a classical ballet education and experience the joy of dance.

I would love to be able to share each and every one of our amazing student’s stories. Each of our kids has been on an incredible journey and has shown so much bravery and determination that it leaves me breathless.  The child that stands up from his wheelchair puts his feet in first and attempts a demi plie.  The child with Autism who is terrified of new situations but stands bravely in their first class because they just want to dance like Angelina Ballerina.  The child with developmental delays who works every week for three years and triumphantly now can skip from foot to foot.  These are incredible children and I am continually inspired and uplifted by their spirit and love.

But Ballet For All Kids is more than just its students – it is our wonderful volunteers that make this program work.  Week after week, our volunteers give tirelessly of their time, energy and compassion to our students. Most of my volunteers start helping BFAK because they need the community service hours at their school.  But they keep coming week after week, early on Saturday and Sunday mornings, long after they have finished with their required community service hours – out of pure and simple love for these kids.

The relationships that I have seen develop between our volunteers and our students has reaffirmed my hope and faith in humanity.

Recently, one of my volunteers shared her college essay with me and I would like to share part of it with you:

Maddie has Down Syndrome. Maddie is my inspiration. There is no moment more special or rewarding than the moment Maddie gets a dance step right. When you look into her eyes it is as if you see her heart smiling, and then yours smiles back because you know that you just made the world’s difference to this little girl. Ironically, though, it was really her who did everything for you. Maddie keeps me going when I want to give up; she encourages me to work harder, to be better, and to dream bigger. Maddie has taught me to see life with passion and enthusiasm, to absorb all the good, and fight through all the bad. She has taught me to be kind, to be patient, to be accepting and willing to understand others, but most of all she has taught me to see the world differently. Every Sunday I see Maddie; every Sunday is my favorite day.

I couldn’t agree more.