My name is Siomara Bridges-Mata. I’m a dance instructor for the Patel Conservatory at the Straz Center. I love what I do at The Straz, and I’m honored to take dance into the community for kids who might not have the opportunity otherwise.
I started dancing at six years old, motivated by what I saw in music videos in the 90s. I would pick up the choreography by watching at home and would share the moves with anybody who wanted to dance, too. When I was able to formally study dance in college, I discovered that my heart is in teaching.
This year, I am leading the Straz Center’s 10-week adaptive dance course for students ages 5 and older with Down Syndrome at Gigi’s Playhouse. The adaptive dance curriculum makes dance classes accessible for individuals with special abilities who benefit from movement but need a different way of learning than a traditional ballet class.
The program has been extremely valuable, providing children of Gigi’s Playhouse with the freedom to express themselves in a class designed specifically for them. Plus, the class gives parents a chance to witness their children blossom in unexpected ways through dance. Some of our Patel ballet students serve as dance mentors at Gigi’s, building life-changing relationships between young people who may never have met.
I am proud to be The Straz’s mission in action. When I tell people about my job, their eyes open wide, and they say, “tell me more about it.” When I explain, people love that we bring arts to the community for everybody.
We’re able to develop ways to get the performing arts to people of all abilities because of people just like you. Our arts education partnerships are 100% donor funded. That means every annual donor plays an important role in the Straz Center’s mission. Each gift creates a tangible good, a meaningful impact for another human being, which only improves our community as a whole.
The Straz is elated to be on the forefront of inclusive arts programs. We want you to become part of the important work we do here. We’ve made a special video just for you about what’s happening at Gigi’s Playhouse, which will be posted on our website in early December.
I’m excited to share this story with you and can’t wait for you to see our video.