“Everybody Dance” leads with charm and heart

(News4usonline) – I remember being a child was a wonderful experience that had its own set of challenges and drawbacks that were at times difficult to overcome. As an able-bodied individual, I had issues that stemmed from passing my math class or making the hockey team.

However, my past problems seem minuscule compared to the brave children with disabilities who are showcased in Dan Watt’s documentary, “Everybody Dance,” which premiered at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival.

The film places a spotlight on the children and teens who attend a dance studio called Ballet For All Kids that provides necessary assistance to young individuals with disabilities who have a desire to learn the art form.

The studio is owned and run by Bonnie Schlachte, who wanted to establish a place where any child could feel accepted and safe regardless of ailment or disability condition.

The non-profit program uses The Schlachte Method, created by the owner, which is designed to accommodate all children learning ballet that has shown to also help students to develop new skills and enhance their personal growth.

The main narrative of the documentary surrounds the 14 weeks before a major recital and the stress that accompanies the young dancers and instructors.

While watching the film, I got a sense of pride and joy watching each child prevail in their art form while I cheered for each one to keep succeeding through their rehearsals as they approached closer to the live performance.

In his directorial debut, Watt gives the audience an insight of the lives of children and teens who have neurological or physical disabilities and the struggles each individual goes through based on their unique disability.

The film is not a somber expose, but a celebration of empowerment that derives from each child whose ambition to perform and dance is felt through the screen. You are never meant to feel sorry for the young dancers but be empathetic to their plight while being enamored by their positive attitude towards life and persistent determination.

One notion that seems to be forgotten, that is represented in the film, is that each person with a disability is still a human being with aspirations who want to be treated equally. Throughout the documentary, the audience is introduced to five dancers, all with a different disability that is particular to themselves, and how each overcomes the obstacles bestowed to them before the recital.

The audience is first introduced to Dakota Revel, a 10-year-old who was diagnosed with Hypertonia, a form of cerebral palsy that affects the muscles and nerves on the left side of her body. The intelligent young girl is bilingual and has a passion for the arts.

She proves to be an extremely capable person who can be easily dismissed by society due to her disability. With assistance, she is able to perform the choreography that was taught to her and by the end shows improvement in her leg strength after being a part of the program.

Revel is just one of the five exemplary children that are showcased in the film. The incredible journey of each dancer is an eye-welding experience for any individual who is enthralled by the vigor each child demonstrates regardless of their disability.

However, I would have been more intrigued if the filmmakers were able to examine more of the individual’s life away from the dance studio to really empathize with the importance of the organization.

Although the primary focus of the film are the dance students, it is Ms. Bonnie’s immense heart and her resolve along with her dedication for the children that shines throughout the documentary. Her compassion towards her young dancers is a magnanimous feat that gives hope that humanity is capable of being more sensitive and patient with each other, especially those with special needs.

“Everyone Dance,” is a heartfelt endeavor that shines a light into the lives of the courageous children and teens who use art to help them express themselves when it may be difficult through normal circumstances.