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GiGi's Playhouse: Adaptive Dance in the Community

Dancers of GiGi's Playhouse pose with Brenna Mazzara (kneeling, center) and Destiny Billot (Standing, third from left)

For a local arts company like ours, community outreach involves creating a wide network of like-minded organizations. Earlier this month we shared about our Arts Integration partnership with Anne Arundel County Public Schools, but that's only one facet of BTM's outreach endeavors.


Another significant partnership in our local dance community is with GiGi's Playhouse Annapolis. According to the GiGi's website, their mission is to provide "awareness, education, and celebration of individuals with Down syndrome within the community." For BTM, working with them is a wonderful opportunity to share our love of ballet with a group of students who have limited opportunities to dance.


In the past, many of our GiGi's dancers faced challenges finding adaptive dance classes open to adults. We are proud to offer a weekly class at the Playhouse for students 15+, as well as a monthly class for students under 15 and Adaptive Dance classes as part of our Conservatory.


Our GiGi's Playhouse classes promote self-expression, enhance spatial awareness, improve motor skills and coordination, and foster collaboration. In addition to all of these efforts, we also have some exciting news to share!


Dancers from GiGi's Playhouse will be joining us in our performance for Dinner Under the Stars on Saturday, June 8th. Several students have shared that it is their dream to perform in front of an audience. We hope you'll help us make that dream come true by joining us at this evening of Live Music, Dance, and Downtown Dining.


Weekly Practice

Brenna Mazzara, our Community Engagement Coordinator

Each week, Brenna Mazzara visits GiGi's Playhouse to bring ballet class to our GiGi's Dancers. Brenna has been a part of BTM since 2019 (audience members probably recognize her as Clara from The Nutcracker or Cupid from Don Quixote), and she also serves as our Community Engagement Coordinator. Brenna has developed strong ties with many local organizations, but observing her at GiGi's Playhouse feels deeply personal.


Brenna is an encouraging and personable force in guiding her students through class. Her demeanor shows that she is developing long-term relationships with all of her students--she frequently addresses each dancer by name and always responds to what they bring to class.



Students from GiGi's rehearse for their debut at Dinner Under the Stars on June 8th. Front line (left to right): Reagan, Valerie, and Amanda. Back line: Gennie, Liam, and Zach.


Ballet Benefits

Brenna's goals for the dancers at GiGi's are the same goals shared by all of our dance classes: coordination, fitness, and positive personal experiences.


Coordination: Teaching developmentally appropriate technique challenges GiGi's dancers while protecting them from injury. Whole-body movements in class such as ballet walks, skips, and leaps engage their gross motor control, and more precise movements such as shaping the hands in port de bras exercises or pointing and flexing the feet stimulates their fine motor control.


Fitness: The active nature of dance provides an avenue for physical fitness. Brenna keeps her class moving, which gets everyone's heart rates up. Meanwhile, conditioning exercises like planks and roll-ups develop muscle tone.


Parents report that students who aren't otherwise very active look forward to coming to ballet class. For GiGi's dancers, it's an enjoyable outlet for physical activity.


Positive Experiences: It's important for students in any class to have an affirming experience. At GiGi's, classes show a playful approach to movement that is collaborative and often conversational. Students have opportunities to approach dancing through their own creative interpretation, increasing confidence in their own skin.


Professional Performance

Many of our main-stage performances include mini-shows where schools and community groups are invited to the theater to watch a portion of the show before opening night. Our GiGi's dancers regularly attend these mini-performances. 


The professional dancers love coming out in costume to greet them during intermission as well as inviting them up onstage after the show. Performers like Isaac Martinez and Destiny Billot are familiar faces to GiGi's dancers. They are both frequent visitors to the Playhouse and our GiGi's dancers look forward to seeing them onstage.


Dancers of BTM pose with a guest from GiGi's Playhouse at Nutcracker

During the holiday season, one of our favorite outreach experiences is bringing The Nutcracker to GiGi's Playhouse. Our GiGi's dancers have the special opportunity to see their teacher, Ms. Brenna, dressed in costume alongside her colleagues.


Brenna, dressed in her Merlitons costume, introduces The Nutcracker at GiGi's Playhouse

Brenna introduces them to the other company dancers in attendance, who share with them narrated excerpts from The Nutcracker.


Lauren and Isaac Martinez (left) with Aaron Bauer and Victoria Siracusa perform at GiGi's Playhouse

Once we've finished, it's their turn! GiGi's dancers stand up for an immersive workshop that incorporates music and movement from the performance they just watched.

Whether we are performing for them or dancing with them, our partnership with GiGi's Playhouse is one that means a lot to us. We look forward to seeing this program continue to grow!


To learn more about their programs and to help support their mission, visit GiGi's Playhouse Annapolis. To support these students in their performance debut, please join us at Dinner Under the Stars at 7pm on Saturday, June 8th.

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