At CenterPoint Legacy Theatre’s “Friend to Friend” class, special needs students of all ages meet once a week to learn how to channel their natural enthusism into music and dancing. The group’s Christmas performance is set for Dec. 20 at 4:30 p.m. at the theater, and at a recent practice the excitement was already buzzing.
“I love performing,” said Sarah Willard, one of the students. “I love being able to show my family what I can do.”
The class, which has been running for more than four years now, is free for students. Teacher Shelley Davies, the theater’s director of development, and all of the teaching assistants volunteer their time.
“It’s really nice for these families,” said Davies. “They have so many costs, anyway.”
The class runs between 45 minutes and an hour, depending on the students’ energy levels and what is planned for the day. The parents often stick around to watch the students practice.
“Watching these kids and seeing what they can do is just awesome,” said Denise Curtis about her daughter, Courtney. “I enjoy it as much as she does.”
The students have two performances, in June and December, and most of the lessons are combined with rehearsals for these shows.
“They don’t have the opportunity to perform very often,” said Davies. “But when they hear that music, they just light up. They’re so thrilled they get to participate.”
For the students, the reason is simple.
“It (performing) lets us be ourselves,” said Carly Parrish.
It’s the kind of class where many of the students greet each other with a hug, and they’re always happy to partner up for the group routines.
“My favorite thing is seeing my friends,” said Lindsay Campbell, another student.
For the parents, it’s a chance to see their children in a new light.
“It lets him release his creative side,” said Kathy Linford about her son Kory. “He’s quite the little actor.”
Along with group numbers, each student also performs a solo routine at the concert.
“Tyler loves that he gets to do his own performance,” said Samantha Johnson, speaking about her son. “Shelley’s terrific to let them do their own solos.”
Though they’re not paid, the teaching staff consider the class its own reward.
“I love it,” said Rebekah Cutler, one of the assistants. “It’s one of the highlights of my week. It makes me happy to be with such wonderful people.”
The students feel the same way.
This is awesome,” said Parrish. “It’s my favorite part of Friday.”