Changing the Face of Dance

Students with disabilities are welcomed with open arms and encouraged to dance their hearts out at Point Performing Arts’ one-of-a-kind program.

By Michelle Lewis

Oct 2022

Pointe Dance
Photo by Leah StiefermannAssociate teacher Sadie Busch, student Gabbie Steinmeier and owner Trai Hashmi. Purchase Photo

When a mother approached Point Performing Arts (3322 S. Campbell Ave., Suite A & B, Springfield417-885-8010) looking for a dance class for her child with special needs, studio owner Trai Hashmi decided to make a class designed for students with special needs and disabilities. The program started with four students, and Hashmi learned how to make the program work for the students as she went. With a mission of acceptance and love, the Superstars program at Point Performing Arts allows students with disabilities to get involved with the dance community in a welcoming environment. 

Any kind of special need, whether it be physical or cognitive, is welcome at the weekly classes. Students can spend time with teachers and peers who are understanding and accommodating. The pacing of classes is centered around the needs of specific students. This includes creating a safe space for sensory and physical needs. 

Sadie Busch, associate teacher at Point Performing Arts, says students are not limited to Superstars and are welcome to also join other classes at the studio. However, if they aren’t comfortable in other classes, Superstars is there for them. “So Superstars is a place for them to come in and still dance,” Busch says.

The Superstars classes at Point Performing Arts make a real, lasting difference on students. The program offers students a community that isn’t available to them in other spaces. Busch says many parents have mentioned that in school their children with special needs struggle and feel different. At Superstars though, they can find a peer group and feel comfortable with themselves. “They really feel supported and loved here,” says Busch. 

Jennifer Steinmeier has been taking her 14-year-old daughter, Gabbie, to Superstars classes since 2019. She began looking into the class because of Gabbie’s strong love for dance. “We were looking for a program with some longevity for her,” says Steinmeier. “Where she could have fun that’s not so much pressure like some programs we have done before.” 

At Superstars, Gabbie has gained friends in a place that has allowed her confidence to grow. During classes, Gabbie can be seen dancing, laughing and smiling alongside her peers. 

Superstars is unlike any other program locally and nationwide. Many programs are short-term, are for older kids or mainly exist for socializing. At Point Performing Arts, classes are available for students beginning at age three. There is no age cutoff for Superstars students; in fact, the program even hosts a 34-year-old student in one of its classes. Superstars allows students of any age to be taught technical terms for dance moves they do in classes that are year-round. 

Students learn while being active and doing subsidiary forms of physical therapy. “A lot of our students struggle with regular kinds of exercise or sports due to mobility issues or coordination issues,” says Busch. “Coming here is a chance for them to be physically active and improve their health as well.” Each class begins with a stretch and the opportunity for students to catch up with one another. Classes consist of demonstrations, movement and brain breaks.

Families with students interested in joining a Superstars class can contact the studio. Every new student attends a meeting to allow Point Performing Arts to get to know the needs of the individual student. At this meeting, students and teachers can get to know each other. This allows the development of proper accommodations for each student. On their first day of classes, students can jump right into dancing alongside their peers. 

The Superstars program relies on local support through donations and volunteers. Because of this support, the studio can offer the cost of Superstars classes on a sliding scale. This allows any student to join the classes without a financial burden. Hashmi has the goal of growing the Superstars program to a nationwide opportunity for the large number of people with disabilities and special needs who want to be dancers. “I am hoping to make it a huge thing,” says Hashmi. “Not just for our kids but kids everywhere.”