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Community Spotlight: Cook Children’s, Adaptive Dance, & A Special Connection

Adaptive Dance students, TBT instructors, and Cook Children's therapists

During a time when collaboration and combined resources are able accomplish significant feats across the community, partnerships matter now more than ever. Texas Ballet Theater (TBT) is fortunate to work alongside some incredible area organizations to bring programs to the region that encompass the talents and interests of youth across the community.

In early 2020, Texas Ballet Theater School proudly unveiled a new addition to the curriculum: Adaptive Dance. TBT’s Adaptive Dance class focused on serving students with Down syndrome. Once instructors completed training, TBT welcomed therapists from Cook Children’s Health System’s Rehabilitative Services to provide valuable insight and recommendations for the program to maximize its impact for students. Although COVID-19 interrupted some these sessions last spring, the program’s pilot run was a success and TBT staff are working toward a program expansion with additional offerings to serve more differently-abled students across North Texas.

The Cook Children’s partnership serves as a unique opportunity to unite the talents of TBT instructors and healthcare workers to develop the next generation of artists. However, sometimes there’s a crossover between organizations through the passions and efforts of shared interests. Upon discovering these, you find a world that’s smaller and more intricately connected than once imagined.

In this case, it’s TBT Company Dancer Paige Nyman. Here is her story:

Every day since the Texas Ballet Theater studios closed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, I have woken up feeling like something is missing. Ballet dancers are known for their physical flexibility, but this season has proven to me that my hyper-mobility is only in my joints and muscles, and severely lacking in my mind. I miss the routine, the sweat, the rehearsals, the learning, and of course, the dancing. But it has given me insight in ways that I never expected.

As I look at the ways that I have had to cope with the drastic change in my schedule and lifestyle, it makes me think of the ways that others deal with these life changing events regularly, specifically the kids at Cook Children’s, because that is another group of people whose faces I miss seeing. I have been volunteering at Cook Children’s for over 3 years now, since April of 2017, and it has been a wonderful and eye-opening experience that has changed my heart and mind in many ways, and has taught me lessons about patience and resilience I didn’t know I needed.

I have always been intrigued by medicine and love working with kids, and so when I found out that Cook Children’s has a volunteer program associated with their Child Life Specialists, I was immediately interested in being a part of it. I had no idea that the meager three hours a week that I was agreeing to would have such a profound impact on my life. My first few weekends in the hospital were filled with the details of proper hygiene and protocol, as well as doing my best not to get lost in that labyrinth of healing. But after I settled in, I realized how much I loved this place and these children.

The mentality of the volunteer office is that each child and family who walks through the doors leaves feeling as if they had been treated in their own home by their own family. That mentality is evidenced everywhere in the way that the staff cares for each patient on both emotional and physical levels. But more than the staff, I have learned from the kids.

The joy with which so many of them enter into battles with disease, be it long or short term, is so inspiring. They face these challenges with such sturdiness, and they don’t allow the war to overwhelm them. They still have all the same inclinations as children who haven’t been in the hospital for weeks on end, with the same desire to play and talk and learn and grow. They have the same needs for human connection and affirmation that are easy to lose sight of when some of their ailments are monumental. But those tiny humans are worth so much, and I have loved having the privilege of learning from them.

And so in the midst of this time when so much has changed, I have been able to look to the example of children to tell me that I don’t have to be overwhelmed, and that I can continue to live with joy, even in the middle of this year of unknown.

Company Dancer Paige Nyman joined Texas Ballet Theater in 2009 after growing up in Kansas City and is beginning her 12th season with TBT.