Dancers say, “If you have a body, you can dance. It’s more than a platitude for Jasmine Mathew of Jasmine’s Beat. It is his life’s work.
Mathew is a recreation therapist with a background in classical Indian Bharatanatyam dance and Bollywood dance styles. She had always acted and taught dance on the side, but she also found that her clients in therapy, whether in nursing homes, hospitals or special education institutions, also showed an interest in dance. . When she moved to Texas seven years ago, she found little dance for special needs populations and decided to start her own company specializing in combining her professions. Jasmine’s Beat was born.
“Adaptive dance is about creating choreography or movement for people of all disabilities, abilities and ages,” she explains. “Currently what we use is adaptive fusion dancing. It takes choreography based on the foundations of all kinds of dance – ballet, jazz, hip hop, Bollywood, tap and different types of cultural dances.
Based in Frisco, Jasmine’s Beat is a customer driven company. He doesn’t have his own studio, so Jasmine’s Beat has to find partners to organize lessons and performances. Mathew employs seven part-time teachers who teach adaptive dance in nursing homes, hospitals and schools, or they partner with other organizations such as the North Texas Dance Council or Starcatchers, an arts program therapies from North Texas Performing Arts. “We go from place to place to make life easier for this population,” says Mathew. They work with clients ages three to seniors throughout Collin County and beyond.
In addition to teaching students, Mathew provides adaptive dance training to other recreation therapists through day-long, in-person and virtual workshops. These workshops are approved for continuing education units in the field of recreation therapy.
For his own teachers, Mathew asks his trainees to follow a head teacher for a year before they receive their own lessons. “I try to find someone who has experience with this population and/or who has dance experience,” she explains. “You need a certain type of person to have the flexibility to work with the population, who can change the choreography according to the needs of the student.
Although no student is required to perform in public, Jasmine’s Beat offers recitals and other performances to expose the general public to what is possible for those otherwise considered disabled or limited. “As recreational therapists, we want to be able to advocate for them and educate their community,” she says.
A family quickly shares the benefits of the Jasmine’s Beat program. Carolyn Butterfield’s son, Quinn, is a young adult with autism. They discovered Mathew’s work through the Starcatchers program, where Quinn was involved in musical theatre. Butterfield praises Mathew’s ability to challenge performers while keeping it relevant to their abilities. While Quinn had shown an aptitude for singing and memorizing lines, they were surprised at how he adopted Mathew’s choreography. “He blossomed in his confidence,” she says. “It’s something we didn’t know he could do.”
Quinn’s older sister, Melanee, also told a story of Mathew’s effect on the students. Melanee served as an usher for a Starcatchers production of Frozen. Melanee chatted with a family who were there with a little girl in a wheelchair. The girl was a student of Mathew and the mother encouraged the girl to show off some of the moves she learned. Melanee shared how the little girl lit up with excitement, spinning her wheelchair with choreographed arm gestures. “You could just tell she loved life. She felt beautiful, she felt confident.
Despite a busy schedule and fans like the Butterfield family, Mathew is always eager to hear from organizations that might be interested in integrating adaptive dancing on their site. “They can check out our website, where there’s a contact form,” she says. “We usually have a contract, but the first lesson is usually a free trial lesson to see if it’s a good fit for their students.”
The same contact form can be used by anyone interested in donating time and energy to the cause. Mathew says, “We are always looking for helpers and volunteers. Whether in the classroom, at a show, or behind the scenes, volunteers are involved in important, life-changing work.
The Jasmine’s Beat website has listings for classes in North Texas, including in-person and virtual instruction. Upcoming performances are also listed. Collin County residents can probably find something a short drive away.