Maryland Youth Ballet Soars into the Forefront of Therapeutic Dance for Children

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Maryland Youth Ballet's (http://www.marylandyouthballet.org) "Music & Motion" program is giving physically disabled children the freedom to dance with a state-of-the-art overhead track system designed specifically for their needs. This is a first-of-its-kind application of technology used in health care and rehabilitation settings to give students greater mobility.

Maryland Youth Ballet's (http://www.marylandyouthballet.org) "Music & Motion" program is giving physically disabled children the freedom to dance with a state-of-the-art overhead track system designed specifically for their needs. This is a first-of-its-kind application of technology used in health care and rehabilitation settings to give students greater mobility.

On January 2, 2007, Maryland Youth Ballet (MYB) moved into a brand new facility in Silver Spring, Maryland. The 35-year old dance center provides instruction to all levels of dancers. MYB alumni dance with some of the most prestigious dance companies in the world. MYB will celebrate its new facility at a Grand Opening celebration on March 10, with an open house for the public.

"At MYB, we want everyone to dance. MYB's 'Music & Motion' program gives these children who find walking and basic motor activity a struggle the ability to really soar," said Charlie Barnett, MYB's President. "We are proud to offer this first-of-its-kind therapeutic dance instruction."

At the grand opening of the new facility, the Maryland Youth Ballet will unveil its state-of-the-art overhead track system that allows each physically disabled dancer to stand, walk and dance, with the equipment bearing about 75% of the dancer's weight. The dancers are suspended with the aid of a vest sling and attached to a traverse rail system hung in the ceiling, giving the dancers complete range of motion.

Music & Motion is the innovation of MYB's Jennifer Cox, a 30-year dance professional, and Rebecca Leonard, a licensed physical therapist specializing in pediatric physical therapy. Inspired by her own granddaughter's desire to dance despite disabilities, Cox developed the program in 2004 to allow the children to enjoy the beauty of music and motion, and gain the benefits of the physical therapy. About 15 students have participated in the program to date.

"The most recent research in physical therapy indicates that partial weight bearing therapy is among the most promising in developing large motor skills," said Leonard.

[Editors: View a slide show of MYB Music & Motion dance students at http://www.myb-music-and-motion.info

The "Music & Motion" program offers both physical and mental benefits that far exceed many of the traditional therapies available. The overhead track system gives instructors the opportunity to develop new programs and therapeutic techniques, whereas previous efforts would have been limited to the ability of volunteers who physically supported the children during the classes.

The overhead rail system that supports and allows the dancers the freedom of self-determined movement was designed by Liko Inc. (http://www.liko.com/na), one of the world's leading suppliers of patient lift and transfer solutions, and was installed by Access Aid (http://www.accessaid.com), a Maryland accessibility company.

The Liko Track System was custom designed for the MYB application, and includes six "H" shaped rail systems with a suspension strap and sling vest on each. The system is typically used in healthcare or rehabilitation setting to mobilize patients who otherwise have restricted movement due to medical conditions.

"At Liko we take great pride in designing systems that give patients and caregivers alike, the freedom to move and transfer safely within their home or medical facility," said Gary Nowitz, Vice-President Home Care for Liko North America. "We have designed many systems for physical therapy uses and gait training, but as far as we know, this specific application of our technology is the first of its kind in the world."

For more information on the Music & Motion class or any of the exciting programs at the Maryland Youth Ballet call 301-608-2232 or visit us on the web at http://www.marylandyouthballet.org.

About Maryland Youth Ballet

The Maryland Youth Ballet (http://www.marylandyouthballet.org) is a non-profit organization with a mission to provide the highest caliber of training and performance opportunities to prepare young dancers for a career in the performing arts as well as to provide classes to dancers of all ages and levels in the community. Founded in 1971 by Tensia Fonseca, MYB recently relocated to a new studio in Silver Spring, Maryland. For more information about the MYB or classes please visit: http://www.marylandyouthballet.org or call: 301-608-2232.

MYB alumni have gone on to careers with prominent ballet and dance companies nationally and internationally, with some MYB alumni acknowledged as among the premier dancers in the world. In addition, MYB is active in local community service efforts and in lecture/demonstrations in the Washington metropolitan area.

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BRANDIE GERRISH
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