Let’s Dance

Les Grands Ballets gives back

By Natallia Staravoitava

Move to the right, move to the left. Don’t be shy! Each of us started dancing at a very young age. Actually, you weren’t even born yet as you grooved to the beat in your mama’s belly. “People are often shy because they think they can’t dance since they are not dancers, but everybody is a dancer. You look into the history of humankind and we have always danced, so it is somewhere within us,” says Amy Éloïse Mailloux, acting manager of the National Centre for Dance Therapy (NCDT).

Les Grands Ballets Canadiens, Montreal’s world-renowned ballet company for over 60 years, decided they wanted to make a bigger impact on the community. So in 2013, they created the NCDT with a mission to improve people’s health through dance movement therapy and adapted dance classes. “Dance therapy is based on clinical research, strong knowledge of dance, movement, psychology and therapy,” explains Miss Mailloux. The NCDT works together with dance professors, including former dancers from Les Grands Ballets, and highly trained dance therapists with health-related experience.

The centre offers a variety of specialized dance classes for children and adults with autism, Down syndrome, Parkinson’s disease, and other intellectual or physical disabilities, as well as dance therapy for clients over 50. Classes include ballet, creative dance and hip-hop styles. “It is not because you are in a wheelchair, have some disease, or think you are too old… It is never too late to dance. You just have to find a safe, comfortable space to do it,” states Miss Mailloux.

Just ask world-famous B-boy and NCDT teacher Luca “Lazylegz” Patuelli. Born with Arthrogryposis, a neuromuscular disorder affecting the bones and joints of the body, Patuelli underwent 16 surgeries to support his legs, hips, spine, and shoulders. Confined to crutches, he developed a unique style of breakdancing, taking advantage of his upper body strength and using his crutches as extensions of his arms. Patuelli has become an advocate for inclusion and integration, a leader for both dancers and those living with special needs.

Dancing not only helps with mobility, flexibility, balance, and muscle strength, it also has a positive impact on the mind. “The seniors that come here say that our classes give them space to express themselves and their creativity. For some, classes serve as a support group,” asserts Miss Mailloux. “After attending a dance class, one participant said that although she just turned 86, she feels like a 20-year-old,” she continues. Little humans also enjoy dance classes. “The youngest participant we’ve had was only four. Parents say that after class, their children are more creative, open, confident and communicate better. We also teach autistic children to try to use dance and music to identify emotions, explore the feeling of touch, and enhance their communication.”

The NCDT also has ongoing projects in collaboration with hospitals, schools, and community centres, focussed on helping people with other conditions such as depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and chronic pain. The centre has expanded beyond city limits, now teaching classes in Beloeil, with plans to offer classes in the West Island, Terrebonne, Quebec City and Gatineau.

“People feel good when they watch or practice dance. It can be for everybody, it is just a matter of trying,” concludes Miss Mailloux.

Check out the NCDT’s dance classes online at grandsballets.com/en/national-centre-for-dance-therapy or call 514-849-0269.


Fall 2019, Vol 11 N°4

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