School encourages dancers to dream big

The Illawarra's newest dance studio, Dream Big Dancers, differs from others in that it caters specifically to those with disabilities.

The studio, which held its first classes last week, has been set up by Jacinta Pinkster, who is combining her passion for both special needs education and dance.

"I'm a special ed teacher and also I started dancing at the age of four; the Linda Shaw Dance Centre [in Woonona] is where I grew up dancing," she says.

"Dance has been a huge part of my life and I've always had a lot of respect and admiration for my old dance teacher and all the different things that she taught me that I have carried through my life."

A dance program last year for special needs students at Fairy Meadow Demonstration School, where Pinkster teaches, was the catalyst for the new studio.

"What inspired me to start the dance studio was the feedback I got from parents," she says. "They were all really blown away by the huge amount of effort and skill their kids had in getting up and performing."

The new studio is open to people with disabilities of all kinds and has classes for different age groups.

Pinkster says her students at Fairy Meadow Demonstration School responded very positively.

"There have been huge improvements in all areas," she says. "Not only in their physical dance moves and their rhythm but also in their social skills, their self-esteem, their confidence, their ability to work as a team.

"I really believe that dance is one of the most important things for kids with special needs to participate in because it allows them to communicate so freely.

"For special needs kids the No 1 thing we work on is social skills, so for these kids to turn up at a dance lesson every week ... they wear their uniform, they are a part of a team, they are meeting new friends, they are practising all those social skills that they work so hard on."

While it is still early days, Pinkster is ambitious about what her dance students can achieve.

"Our motto is 'Dream Big', so we want to take it as far as we can," she says.

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