By Kaitlyn Mazzilli
My childhood bedroom did not have beautiful hardwood floors or a ballet barré. It was a small, carpeted room that transformed the day my older sister hung her mirror in our shared closet. All I needed to do was open the closet door and voilà, I had my very own dance studio. It was magic. I must have listened to Michael Jackson’s Man in the Mirror a million times while twirling around my bedroom, and I will never forget his message, “If you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and then make a change.” I could feel a change in myself each time I danced, and decided I was going to embody this message in my life. I was determined to manifest joy through dance, and invite others to change in the world along with me.
My family could not afford dance lessons in my early years, but when my sister was the stage manager at Weymouth High School, she brought me along to drama rehearsals. I fell in love with the world of performing arts, and started singing and dancing in summer musical reviews. I met dancer Jeanne Cheverie Norton who invited me to come dance with her at Center Stage Dance Studio. She even created a payment plan so my family could afford it.
My first dance class took place at age 12. I was beyond excited! I could not wait to start training to make my dance dreams a reality. At my first class however, I realized that many of the other students had been taking lessons since they were three years old, and I had a LOT of catching up to do. I worked hard to become a skillful dancing artist, but always felt sad when I saw dancers upset and discouraged when they made mistakes. My heart broke when I witnessed individuals excluded from dance teams. At this point in my life, I decided I wanted to become a dance/movement therapist to ensure I had the skills necessary to bring the joy of dancing to ALL people, regardless of their age or ability, including those with limited financial resources.
Extensive training is required to become a dance/movement therapist, but I welcomed the challenge. I earned bachelor’s degrees in Theater & Dance and Psychology at Trinity College in 2011, and a master’s degree in dance/movement therapy and mental health counseling at Lesley University in 2014. After more than 3,000 hours in clinical training, I am now a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Registered Dance/Movement Therapist.
I joined South Shore Conservatory’s faculty in 2017 to develop an Adaptive Dance Program in the Creative Arts Therapies Department. After completing the Boston Ballet Adaptive Dance Teacher Training, I felt inspired to bring Adaptive Dance to the South Shore community. Adaptive Dance invites children and teens with and without special needs to dance together in an inclusive, welcoming setting. Students can express themselves freely, dancing to beloved popular music with a range of fun props including rainbow parachutes, ribbons, and scarves. In addition to providing physical exercise and creative expression, Adaptive Dance encourages social skills such as teamwork, friendship, and supports self-esteem. Classes are adapted to meet the individual needs of each student including those with physical, cognitive, and emotional disabilities such as Autism Spectrum Disorder and Down syndrome.
The fall session of Adaptive Dance starts the week of September 10. To learn more about Adaptive Dance visit https://sscmusic.org/dance-therapy/ or find South Shore Conservatory on Facebook.
Kaitlyn Mazzilli is a Registered Dance/Movement Therapist, Licensed Mental Health Counselor, and South Shore Conservatory’s Adaptive Dance and Drama Teacher.