Euro Roots World Music


Dance for folks with disabilities

Music, Movement, Socialization and more

Our programs are based on the recognition that folks with disabilities have the same interests and desires as everyone else – to enjoy music, to dance, to socialize, to meet new people and share good times with friends, and, simply put, to be part of the world. The fact that structured movement (groups moving in a unified manner in circles and lines to rhythmic music using all of ones limbs, crossing ones midlines, and more) happens to have powerful cognitive and physical benefits is frosting on the cake.

Jutta & the Hi-Dukes leading a circle dance, as seen from overhead, at St. Barthélemy, Switzerland
Dancing at St. Barthélemy, Switzerland, May 2016.

Over the years we have evolved ways of modifying and adjusting our education music and dance programs to meet the particular needs and varying abilities of our audiences. Our years of working with many different communities in Europe and America have taught us how to quickly adapt what we present to the skill levels of the folks in front of us so that everyone gets a chance to enjoy and benefit from dance.

Jutta & the Hi-Dukes workshop at the Pantelimon residence in Bucharest, Romania, May, 2016.
Dance workshop at Pantelimon in Bucharest, Romania, May 2016.

In 2016, Jennifer Lasik of the Evanston Arts Council encouraged the bands core musicians, Jutta Distler and Terran Doehrer, to apply for the E.A.C.s Individual Artist Grant for the 2017 grant year. That grant helped us create a Summer Social Dance program for the Special Needs community of Evanston. The article below expands on that event. In 2018, The E.A.C. doubled the size of the grant and another Evanston institution, the Ridgeville Park District, decided to host the Social Dance, thanks to the work of Program Director Natalie Sallee.

Jutta & the Hi-Dukes (tm) performing as a duet leading a circle dance at ASPIRO in Green Bay, Wisconsin.
A circle dance at ASPIRO in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

We first became aware of how much power the combination of music and dance has after our first performance back in 1995 at a home for folks with developmental needs in Denmark. A teacher sent us drawings that two residents created in their effort to integrate their experience of our presentation.

The assignment drawing
The assignment drawing.

She said we simply had to see what happened as a result of the program. The two residents were in a drawing class with a specific assignment but when the teacher turned her back, they flipped over their paper and drew us instead. Jesper drew very identifiable portraits of us that captured not just our images but our characters, too.

Jesper’s art after a Hi-Dukes program at a special needs residence in Denmark
Jesper’s art after a Hi-Dukes program at a residence in Denmark.

The experience of dancing to our acoustic music also affected the other artist so intensely that it inspired a breakthrough. We were told that for the first time ever he drew stick figures with eyes, mouths, and limbs.

Breakthrough art after a Jutta & the Hi-Dukes program at a special needs residence in Denmark
The other participants breakthrough art.

Organizations in Switzerland eventually heard about what we did at that Danish residence and invited us to come to them, too. Most recently, the folks at Sonnhalde Gempen in Switzerland arranged for us to participate in a week-long annual conference of Special Needs residences and schools in Bucharest held at Pontelimon in May 2016, had us back in May, 2018, and invited us to return in May 2020 as well.

Evanston Round Table article about the Jutta & the Hi-Dukes Special Needs Social Dance program inspired by their work in Romania.
Evanston Round Table article about the Jutta & the Hi-Dukes Special Needs Social Dance program inspired by their volunteer work in Romania.
Casper, a resident of the Hadruplund residence in Denmark whom we have know since 1995.
Casper, a resident of the Hadruplund residence in Denmark whom we have known since 1995.

Folks say…

With the magic of their live music and clear body language, Jutta and Terran connected with the pupils so that everyone could participate in their own individual way, full of enthusiasm, where physical and mental disabilities were, in a way, no longer visible.” Mathias Clauberg of the Gempen School, Switzerland

Terran and Jutta tailored their program to meet the needs of our population. They used a variety of means to get people involved – singing, dancing, playing musical instruments, etc. They adjusted the program along the way so that even those with limited ability were able to participate. You could see that people really felt good about themselves and the success they were able to achieve, not to mention that it was also great physical activity! Would definitely recommend having them back again. The clients are asking if we can have more music brought to ASPIRO!” Linda Blohowiak, Vice President of Programs, ASPIRO, Green Bay, Wisconsin

I thought they were amazing. They got so many people involved at different times and even the ones that weren’t right in the dance were enjoying from their seat. The music was so unique and I saw some individuals that never wish to participate in gym activities involved and having fun. Thank you Jutta and Terran for visiting ASPIRO. It was an experience many will not forget.” Shannon Wescott, Manager of Adult Day Services, ASPIRO

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