Dancing toward Confidence & New Possibilities at Heuser Hearing and Language Academy

by Molly Kays, Louisville Ballet Outreach & Development Coordinator

I unload the trunk of my car, gathering a parachute, rainbow scarves, and portable speaker for what has become my regular Thursday morning routine. As I sign into the front desk at Heuser Hearing and Language Academy, my stomach fills with the best kind of butterflies, ones that reassure how much joy teaching brings me.

When I first started teaching for Louisville Ballet in 2018, Heuser Hearing and Language Academy was one of the first schools I was introduced to as a teaching assistant. I had never primarily worked with students who have hearing impairments and, to be honest, I was a bit nervous and had no idea what to expect. Fast forward to my second year as the lead Louisville Ballet Teaching Artist at Heuser, and it feels like a second home. It’s a testament to how special every person at the school is. The teachers, aides, therapists, and staff extend such a warm and genuine welcome. Our dance classes are successful each week because the staff is involved, encouraging, and excited about what the students gain from movement and dance, and that is when I thrive the most as an educator.

This past school year has brought me a great sense of pride, working with the Louisville Ballet Community Engagement team that is committed to designing movement classes and opportunities for everyBODY, and our relationship with Heuser Hearing is a huge part of that. Through our Mighty Movers program, we provide three classes each week for the duration of the entire school year, which allows every student at Heuser to participate. This program is designed specifically for Pre-K and Kindergarten students, helping them expand their kinesthetic awareness and develop their vestibular system all through movement and play in a structured classroom setting. Movement, especially at a young age, is a necessary part of learning and growing. Movement through play allows students to feel comfortable trying new things. As the weeks progress, participants change tremendously in the way they carry themselves, how they interact with their classmates, and their ability to focus on the task at hand. The bonus as a teacher is the growth I experience during our time together. My teaching becomes more precise and tailored to the class I’m with, allowing me to be present in the moment. Time with the students gives me permission to play like a child again, and through the lens of a child, my mind expands and creates a new sense of awareness and flexibility.

On a Thursday morning in mid-March, so much energy was buzzing and blooming through the dance class. Luke was really starting to get his stride as we skipped in pairs across the floor. Ms. Sydney helped me with our Brain Dance warm up as her students proudly owned their colored spot. Harper June was more confident than ever and had clearly overcome her shyness from the previous year. Ms. Dori’s class was a force to be reckoned with, dancing diagonally every 8 counts like they could do any move in their sleep. By the end of the three back to back classes, I was once again sad to leave those kids but encouraged for what the next week would bring.

Unfortunately, and unknowingly, that was our last time together in dance class. My heart breaks when I think about all the things I still had planned for our spring semester, like bringing dancers to their school to perform and at least 20 more obstacle courses, along with all of the goals that I am positive those students would have met and exceeded beyond my expectations. I am so grateful that I have students and a school that I miss so dearly. When I think about the kiddos moving onto a new school soon, I know our time dancing together has helped shape their confidence and playfulness, as it has mine. I owe so much to Heuser Hearing and Language Academy, Fund for the Arts, and The Arts for Kosair Kids Grant as it has produced some of my proudest teaching moments and some amazingly confident kiddos. Through the arts and through movement lives can truly be changed, and I know mine is daily!