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JMU welcomes Blue Apple for international exchange in arts accessibility

james madison university jmuThe James Madison University School of Theatre and Dance in partnership with JMU’s Office of Disability Services and The Arc of Harrisonburg and Rockingham welcomes the award-winning theatre company Blue Apple from Winchester, England, to JMU for a four-day residency from April 11-14.

Blue Apple, who is making its inaugural visit to the United States, supports performers with learning disabilities to develop theatre, dance and film productions that are performed within a variety of large and small scale public venues.

Blue Apple will conduct inclusive dance classes for JMU students and faculty, participants from The Arc, and area youth. Blue Apple company members, five of whom have Down syndrome, will perform a piece with the University of Winchester Dance Department (UW-D) in a performance on Friday, April 13 at 8 p.m. in the Earlynn J. Miller Dance Theatre of the Forbes Center for the Performing Arts. UW-D has partnered with Blue Apple on several projects and hosted JMU’s Virginia Repertory Dance Company for an exchange in Winchester, England, in March.

“UW-D and JMU dance students made a nice connection and are excited about this exchange,” says JMU dance professor Kate Trammell. “Blue Apple is challenging the assumptions that we may have about what people with learning disabilities are capable of, and it is healthy for everyone to gain a wider perspective.”

Senior Kaitlin Pennington, a senior dance major with a concentration in pre-occupational therapy, is a member of Virginia Rep who traveled to England for the exchange. Pennington, who teaches dance classes to adults with developmental disabilities at The Arc, also met with Blue Apple while overseas to plan for the company’s residency at JMU. “I am helping out because I believe in this project,” shares Pennington. “It also gives me an opportunity to further explore the work I would like to do after graduation.” Pennington will graduate in May, as will Meghan Skelly and Madison Orndorff, who assisted Trammell on this large-scale project. Skelly, a health sciences major with a concentration in physical therapy, is a student employee in the Department of Kinesiology, and Orndorff is a social work major completing her field placement with the Office of Disability Studies.

The residency will also feature screenings of the Blue Apple documentaries, Freddie’s Story and Paul’s Story.

Freddie’s Story, which addresses best practices in health care for individuals with disabilities, and Paul’s Story, which addresses disability hate crime, are currently used in training across England. Blue Apple’s touring production of Hamlet became the subject of the Emmy-nominated BBC documentary, Growing Up Down’s, which was recently shown during Disability Awareness Week at JMU.

A full list of residency events is below. All events are free and open to the public.

Blue Apple Full List of Residency Events (Wednesday, April 11 – Saturday, April 14)

April 11 – 7 p.m.
Screening of Freddie’s Story and Paul’s Story
(Thomas Harrison Middle School Auditorium, Harrisonburg, VA)

April 12 – 8:30-9:15 a.m.
Training on inclusive movement practices for students and faculty in dance and theatre education, adapted physical education, exceptional education, occupational therapy, and disability studies
(Forbes Center – EJM Dance Theatre)
Led by Blue Apple dance specialist Caroline Hotchkiss, this class will focus on how to explore quality of movement inclusively and creatively.

April 12 – 9:30-10:30 a.m.
Creative movement class with members of Blue Apple and The Arc
(Forbes Center – EJM Dance Theatre)
Facilitated by Blue Apple dance specialist Caroline Hotchkiss, this class will focus on creating choreography and moving with a mixed-ability group.

April 13 – 9:05-9:55 a.m.
Screening of Paul’s Story (description above) followed by a discussion with Blue Apple company members on civil rights and disabilities
(Maury Hall – Room G001)

April 13 – 8 p.m.
Performance with the Winchester University Dance Department
(Forbes Center – EJM Dance Theatre)
Blue Apple and dancers from Winchester University have collaborated on a piece for this performance.

April 14 – 10-11:30 a.m.
Inclusive dance class for boys and girls ages 4-15
(Forbes Center – Room 1299)
This dance class for area youth with and without disabilities is a collaborative effort between Blue Apple, the School of Theatre and Dance, and JMU’s Overcoming Barriers program, which supports physical activity for area youth with disabilities and is directed by Dr. Thomas Moran of the JMU Department of Kinesiology. Open to children ages 4-15 with and without disabilities and their friends and families. To register, visit

augusta free press
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