There is a new documentary premiering Monday, October 26 on HBO, titled “How To Dance” follows a group of young people in Columbus, Ohio as they prepare for their first formal dance, with the encouragement of their psychologist Emilio Amigo. The film tracks all of the reparations leading to the big day, from learning dance moves to buying dresses to practicing social skills.
The film highlights a program run by Dr. Emilio Amigo, who has been teaching social skills and the accompanying behaviors expected for over 20 years. He has chosen this group of teen girls as they prepare for the social challenges of attending a dance from choosing dresses and hair styles, to getting used to someone putting their hand on her shoulder and actually dancing. Where do you look with your eyes? How far apart do you stand? What do you do if someone wants to dance with you but you don’t want to with them? What do you talk about the next day at school? These are all scenarios that are practiced in the social skills group.
This film comes just in time as a large number of young adults have begun the transition from high school into the world of college, work and the community. Many of whom will be living in apartments and houses of their own, using the very same social skills taught by programs such as those run by Dr. Amigo.
However, there are not enough of these programs for this large number of young adults with autism like Marideth, 16, Caroline, 19, and Jessica, 22. This, coupled with other symptoms of autism, can have serious ramifications for young adults. Eighty-one percent of people with autism between high school and their early 20s have never lived independently; 68 percent have never lived apart from their parents; 64 percent have had no education after high school; and 42 percent aren’t employed, according to the 2015 National Autism Indicators Report published by Drexel University’s A.J. Drexel Autism Institute.
The documentary “How to Dance in Ohio” focuses on three Columbus, Ohio women with autism who work with a psychologist for 12 weeks leading up to a spring formal.
Neil Genzlinger of the NY Times offers, “Yes, the film pays off in smile-inducing images once the dance arrives, but getting there means, for the viewer, confronting hard-to-think-about questions involving what happens to young people with disabilities once they age out of the school system and what society’s obligations to them are.”
HBO picked up the film just prior to its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in January. “How to Dance in Ohio” will debut on the cable channel Oct. 26 at 9 p.m. ET.