By Rachel Barnes, Patch
The lead-up to a big performance is always nerve-wracking for any performer.
The documentary “Everybody Dance” by South Bay producer and director Dan Watt showcases the journeys of six kids with different disabilities as they prepare for a dance recital with their Agoura Hills dance studio “Ballet For All Kids.”
“These kids changed my life and outlook towards disabilities and if in some way this movie can do the same for someone else, any support and awareness we can bring to it will be a win for so many,” Watt said. “Hearing these stories told by the kids and parents themselves is a humbling experience and I am honored they let me.”
Watt said he got his inspiration to make the film from his past experience as a dancer and wanted to help answer a question that has always weighed on his mind: what did people who studied dancing, singing, music or theater do with the lessons they learned in class if they didn’t make a career out of it?
About 18 years ago Watt was a dance teacher and go the opportunity to teach his friend’s two daughters who have autism, and he said his teaching methods barely differed for the girls and they were a pleasure to teach. When Watt met Bonnie Schlacte, the founder of “Ballet for all Kids,” he knew he wanted to tell the story of her classes.
“There are kids in there that are typical, have Down syndrome, autism, cerebral palsy, anyone and everyone is welcomed in that studio, and I thought her methods and her ideologies and the stories needed to be told,” Watt said.
The goal of this film is to raise awareness and offer insight to those who might come in contact with someone with differing abilities, Watt said. The producer said that he hopes people will come away from the film with more compassion, understanding and kindness when meeting a child with disabilities.
For Watt, every day he went to observe Schlacte’s class was an amazing opportunity to witness the way dance could reach every child. Watt mentioned the methods Schlacte used to teach one child named Maddie, who has Down syndrome, helped positively impact her school and home lives.
Through positive reinforcement and gentle discipline, Schlacte and Maddie’s parents and teachers were able to apply the techniques used in her ballet class to make her everyday life easier and happier.
“I thought that was just absolutely amazing,” Watt said. “The goal of my movie was to see how you can apply different the things you learn by studying art in everyday life. That was an example that Bonnie had created just for Maddie.”