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‘Don’t Upset the Rhythm’


In order to limber up, the best thing you can do is pretend. Imagine how loose those arms can be when you frantically hop around waving them as a monkey does. Picture how the shoulders and biceps strengthen when feigning an alligator’s chomper snapping over again. Well, on “Movement and Rhythm” days hosted by recreation program Out & About, it’s how you warm-up before the dancing begins.

“Those are some awesome moves you’re busting out,” Lisa Hofmann compliments 16-year-old Chris. Lady Gaga’s “Titanium” plays in the rehearsal room at Grace Studios in Broomfield, and Chris is rocking some signature Michael Jackson moves, rolling an invisible hat down the length of his arm before executing a slick spin.

For the past three years, Hoffman, a certified therapeutic recreation specialist for Out & About, has worked with people who have cognitive and developmental disabilities. She and several other buoyant facilitator are cutting loose today with kids who, like Chris, simply want to have fun. An added benefit is that it helps them focus on teamwork and social skills. Now, we’re about to get a good opportunity. Up next: a game of tag.

Hofmann calls the group to center. Once someone is elected “it,” everyone scurries. Sneakers screech on the wood floor like we’re in a tire factory. One participant has a sensory toy tied around his neck as a therapeutic tool for autism that may help with coordination and other movement activities.
As people are tagged, they join as an amoeba in the middle of the floor, and laugh as they stretch out their hands to tag others. “Attack by the octopuses!” Hoffman shouts. Chris thus far has managed to craftily dodge all of them, until a girl who was putting bunny ears on Hoffman earlier gets him. “Tag,” she says bashfully. “You’re it.”

Chris lifts his wristband—the one he explained is used to help wipe the occasional excess saliva—and peers at it like a watch. “Ah, look at the time,” he says smiling. “It’s Chris’ turn… Time to prepare for war.” He hikes his sweatpants past his belly button. “Steve Urkel in the house!” nudges Matt Mock, a facilitator with a bushy beard comparable to Michael J. Fox’s in Teen Wolf. “Matt is the crazy one,” Chris tells me.

A couple days later, Mock’s moxie is proven during badminton when he does a floor dive to save a birdie. It was part of Out & About’s “Sport and Games” days at the Calvary Bible Church. Chris put it accurately then, yelling, “You are such a daredevil!” Before getting into the badminton, they warmed up on a smaller scale by playing volleyball with balloons, later balancing them on rackets.

When it came to game time, Hofmann tied pink string across two metallic folding chairs at center court as a makeshift net. The match ended with handshakes just in time for some of the group to vanpool back to an Imagine! pick-up sites (the not-for-profit corporation housing Out & About).

Back at Grace Studios, the dance winds down with the Noisettes’ “Don’t Upset the Rhythm.” Hofmann calls everyone to the center again. The lights are dim, and the group lies on their backs. A yogi might call the pose they’re doing shavasana. Much like in yoga, it helps to bring the group inner focus. But this is Out & About, and things shouldn’t be done without channeling imagination. For the ever-cheerful Hofmann, it comes with ease. “In through the nose, out through the mouth” she says. “Like the big, bad wolf.” The relaxation technique takes, and the sense of community is ubiquitous.