Dance teacher helps mainstream special needs youngsters

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Mary Tiras leads a group of joyous preschoolers at Our Savior Lutheran School. (Photo by Betsy Denson)

Mary Tiras leads a group of joyous preschoolers at Our Savior Lutheran School. (Photo by Betsy Denson)

by Betsy Denson
betsy@theleadernews.com

Early in her career as a dance teacher, Mary Tiras worked for Houston ISD teaching creative movement at Travis Elementary. She says the experience of seeing special needs children mainstreamed into the regular classrooms was one that stayed with her.  

“It was amazing,” she said. “The children, not being separated, were kind, loving and supportive of each other.”

Some of these children also enrolled in Tiras’ after school dance classes. “One little girl with Down’s Syndrome danced and performed with me for six years,” she said.

With a degree in dance from the University of Houston and three years as a professional dancer in Japan under her belt, Tiras says she’s been dancing for most of her life.

This background – as well as Tiras’ current involvement in a leadership program – was the impetus for DanceReach 2013, a dance workshop to be held at Our Savior Lutheran School from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Oct. 5. During the event, special needs and non-special needs children will learn some dance basics and then develop them in workshops before performing as a group for parents and community members.

Tiras has already begun recruiting children to take part. Since 1995, through her business Creative Motion, she’s been offering afternoon dance education programs at area schools. Currently she teaches at Durham Elementary, Oak Forest Elementary, Travis Elementary, Our Savior Lutheran and Johnson Memorial School.

She also rents studio space for her teen modern jazz class and her ladies tap class which has participants in their 20s all the way up to 70 years of age.

As for her newest venture, Tiras hopes for big participation, and also that it might become an annual event. “It is very important to me to make a difference in the lives of children – all children – and dance is a universal language,” said Tiras. “I feel that DanceReach 2013 will give every child and adult participating the opportunity to make a difference in our community, and experience joy, compassion and accomplishment.”

The event will be free for the children and Tiras, along with co-leader Tonia Whitney, are actively looking for sponsors to offset the cost of lunch and T-shirts.

For more information, or to become a sponsor, contact Tiras at 713-557-1290 or mary@creativemotion.com. The event is also on Facebook at DanceReach 2013.

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