Coupé Theatre Studio Offers Dance Program for Children with Special Needs

Coupé Theatre Studio Offers Dance Program for Children with Special Needs

The inclusive dance program at Coupé Theatre Studio helps children with special needs build skills.

Coupé Theatre Studio, located in Nanuet, introduced an integrative dance program called Rhythm Works in the fall. Rhythm Works is an inclusive hip-hop dance program open to dancers, ages 7-14, of all levels and abilities. The class is specifically designed for children with special needs, including Down syndrome, autism, and cerebral palsy, to work on different skills such as strength, coordination, and memory.  

Julie McDonald, a Coupé Theatre Studio teacher for the past 15 years, is the instructor for Rhythm Works, and advanced-level dancers assist her in the classes. A former Radio City Rockette, McDonald received her Rhythm Works teaching certification through the world-known business of the same name.

“I learned how to apply fun and functional dance movement to evidence-based practices commonly used in sensory integration, applied behavior analysis therapy, kinesiology, and movement safety to aid in reaching developmental goals,” McDonald says. Because of her training, she is “able to work and communicate with therapists and teachers, and I have an understanding of the different types of challenges,” she says.

The program runs through a 10-week period. It is currently in its second session, and Coupe Theatre Studio plans to offer more sessions in the future. Preregistration is required, McDonald says, so she can create the class routine to her students’ needs accordingly.

McDonald is excited about “opening up a door for all types of children [to] come in and enjoy the world of dance,” she says. “The students are gaining cognitive skills, and they’re getting out, and they’re able to be physically active and practicing social skills.”

Coupé Theatre Studio first opened in 1970 by Diane Coupe’ Frankel in the basement of her West Nyack home after finishing her Broadway career. As the number of students grew, the studio moved to its current location in Nanuet.