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Reveling in the possibilities

(L-R): Lily Bjorkland, Shelley Long and Alison Nakata in a Revelada class. Revelada will offer special needs students, typically functioning students and adults alike a means toward self-expression through music and art.  - Courtesy of Shelley Long
(L-R): Lily Bjorkland, Shelley Long and Alison Nakata in a Revelada class. Revelada will offer special needs students, typically functioning students and adults alike a means toward self-expression through music and art.
— image credit: Courtesy of Shelley Long

t New series of classes aims to free creativity in all ages, abilities.

Revelation, reveling, “Revelada.” The last doesn’t appear in an English-language dictionary, but it has a certain ring to it.

“Art, music and motion all colliding together,” Shelley Long said. “It’s amazing.”

A new effort devised by Long, Revelada comprises a group of music and art enrichment classes directed at a range of students including special needs clients, those with typical functioning, and adults. She’ll introduce the program at a three-part launch event on Aug. 8 at the Creativity Center.

Long has parlayed her degree in speech pathology and audiology into music and art therapy, which she has woven through many of her instructional endeavors. They’ve included work as a para-educator working with special needs students in the Bainbridge Island School District, as well as teaching jobs with the Bainbridge Island Metro Park and Recreation District, Bainbridge Performing Arts and the Creativity Center.

She’s also the program coordinator at Stephens House, the working center of the Bainbridge Island Special Needs Foundation.

It was at a camp Long ran for developmentally delayed students two years ago that she first began experimenting with how music, rhythm, dance and visual art could be used in sequence with astounding results.

Long always began her classes with a “brain dance” involving cross-lateral movement, tactile maneuvers and breathing exercises, all formulated to integrate the body and brain hemispheres.

“I do it in such a fun way that they don’t even know why they’re doing it, they just know they’re having a good time doing it,” she said.

Next came music stimulation, which could include anything from rock to classical to world music or standalone drums.

The style of music stimulus mapped to whatever art project Long had devised for a given class. Sometimes she put students together to make a collaborative painting. Other times, she encouraged them to apply paint rhythmically, inspired by the beat.

Often they employed adaptive techniques, using forks, hands and whatever other tools best mapped to their physical and cognitive abilities.

“It’s just intuitive,” Long said of her choices. “Getting inside the heads of my students, and (determining) what’s going to make them succeed.”

The combination of activities, she discovered, brought people out of their shells physically, increased concentration, generated joy, and prompted the creation of striking visual art.

So with Revelada, Long has taken the successful elements of her classes to create a standalone educational and artistic entity.

“The concepts... have collided. It’s a culmination of everything I’ve been doing for the past decade,” she said.

Revelada’s launch next week will consist of three workshops at the island’s Creativity Center, one for teachers, parents and other adults interested in applying the technique; a second for kids ages 7-12 with typical functioning; and a third for developmentally delayed students ages 16 and over.

Unlike her regular classes, the launch will feature live music. The first kids’ workshop will feature a live drummer playing a drum kit and a djembe. Then world renowned pianist Thollem McDonas will join the developmentally delayed students, and also be the featured performer at a reception that evening at Island Music Guild.

Future Revelada classes, which attendees can register for at the launch, will be ongoing. Meanwhile, Long is thinking ahead toward new applications of her technique. She’s already scheduled workshops with corporate groups interested in team building. She’s also thinking about Revelada’s use among seniors with memory loss, and other organizations interested in helping their clients through life’s transitions.

“You know what I really believe, is that we all have limitations,” she said. “If we can have any experience that is met with energy and support, and move with it... what you find out is that we’re all in the middle of it.

“I’m starting to see my own imitations as potential.”

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Revel in it

Revelada’s launch will take place throughout the day on Aug. 8 at the Creativity Center, with a reception and performance by pianist Thollem McDonas at 6:30 p.m. that evening at Island Music Guild. For details, see www.revelada.net.

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