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Using Music & Movement for Students with Cognitive Disabilities: A Conversation with Mary Ann Holmes

Image of Mary Ann Holmes, wearing a green v-neck shirt, posing against a brick wall.

Since the age of 3, dance has been a major focus of Mary Ann's life. A graduate of Westfield State University, Mary Ann continued her studies in dance while obtaining a bachelor's degree in Elementary Education. Not long after, she earned a Master's degree in Special Education. Finding out about BHMA six years ago came as "a big surprise" for Mary Ann, who never thought she'd find a place where she could combine all of her interests, passions, and talents. “It was amazing when I walked through the door” says Holmes, who began at BHMA teaching one private lesson per week but has since grown the Music & Movement program to include many more individual lessons and classes including dance ensemble, yoga, musical theater, and Zumba.

It’s clear when speaking with Mary Ann that she feels strongly about the innumerable benefits of fitness through dance and arts therapy; “these classes function as an outlet. I see huge gains in confidence and physical, emotional and mental well-being.” Her classes are designed with expression and healing in mind. She uses movement to activate and train the brain while incorporating a variety of physical motor skills that boost coordination and spacial awareness. Beyond the scientific benefits, Holmes says, “seeing students enjoy themselves and do something that feels great— learning, laughing, and having fun is the best part of my job.”

Mary Ann continues to pursue opportunities to learn more about different types of movement and body mechanics. She attends workshops and conferences throughout the year and currently holds certifications in Aerobics, Pilates, Kripalu Yoga, Zumba, and Shake Your Soul. Mary Ann is also a Licensed Director & Instructor for Music Together for Families, and has been a Reiki Master practitioner for over 8 years. Most recently, Mary Ann has been choreographing some of the Pioneer Valley's hit musicals including: Jesus Christ Superstar, Wizard of Oz, Bye Bye Birdie, Hairspray, Annie, Fiddler on the Roof, Les Miserables, Anne of Green Gables, and coming January 2016 - Mary Poppins!

Both at BHMA and at her private studio (The Holmes Studio of Dance, Music & Wellness), Mary Ann works to promote and instill confidence, perseverance and respect for one’s self and others. BHMA is fortunate to have such a knowledgeable and dedicated instructor!


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