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HENNINGER

Abigail Henninger, founder and artistic director if Magnum Opus Ballet

For the sixth year, Cap Times reporters asked several Madisonians to share their "bright ideas" for the new year. We will publish the 2019 edition of Bright Ideas throughout the week and in print on Jan. 2.

Magnum Opus Ballet is partnering with Gigi’s Playhouse, a Down syndrome achievement center in Madison, to start an adaptive dance program. The first five-week session is for dancers 16 and older and starts Jan. 28.

I trained at Boston Ballet to create dance for people with all abilities — people who are autistic, someone who uses a wheelchair and beyond. Ballet class can be extremely strict, so we bring other elements and props, different ways to dance.

I have a real special place in my heart for people with Down syndrome. My sister has Down syndrome; she’s three years younger than me. Growing up, she was able to take some dance classes and that affected her movement ability, her social skills, her motor skills. It’s so much more than dance. That’s really important to us. It’s about improving somebody’s life.

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There are so many achievement programs for younger kids, but as people get older, there’s less and less for them to do. Even with work, it’s hard to find something that stimulates their brain.

The goal is to introduce them to ballet, to expand their movement ability and expand their social skills. This time, we’re treating it as just a dance program class for five weeks. We’re really hoping to get a grant for this, for 2020 spring, to create an entire performance with Gigi’s and Magnum Opus.

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