Krysta Shaw-Stearns & The Red Bluff Performing Arts Centre: A Center for Expression, For Everyone

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Everyone deserves a creative outlet and a form of expression that brings people together. Whether dancing and performing are passions or just hobbies, the Red Bluff Performing Arts Centre is a place for anyone in the community, including people with developmental and physical disabilities.

As the owner and director of the recently opened Red Bluff Performing Arts Centre, Redding native Krysta Shaw-Stearns is combining her passion for dance, and her experience in working with students with disabilities, to create two new programs.

Krysta transformed the idea of owning a performing arts center into a reality as the center grew from one student to thirty in less than a year. The inclusive environment makes the center stand out. Krysta teaches a wide variety of students, from ages 3 to 93, and all levels of ability are welcome.

In addition to working with her current students, Krysta is teaming up with local elementary schools to create special dance events that will include physical education classes for kids with developmental, hearing and physical disabilities – she hopes to set up a consistent program and place for them. She’s also working to create a class for adults, in partnership with North Valley Services, an agency in Red Bluff that provides support and programs for people with disabilities.

Dance can be a powerful form of expression for someone with a disability, Krysta says, especially if the person is nonverbal or only partially verbal. “Movement is a powerful way they can express themselves. When people are offered that opportunity, 90% of the time it lights up their day. They’re just so happy and alive in that moment.”

Working to help people with disabilities and the world of performing arts have been two constants in Krysta’s life from a young age. She started as a volunteer in second grade in a special education class, and eventually turned her skill with American Sign Language into a position as an interpreter with Enterprise High School in Redding. Krysta has always been the type of person who will say “hi” to anyone, always striving to make everyone feel comfortable and included.

“Working with special needs has always been a comfort zone for me. I relate to people really easily. It doesn’t matter how different they are … I don’t view them as very different. I just view them as people who enjoy things, and we can always find something to relate on,” Krysta says. “For me, dance and movement have always been a big part of that sharing and communication.”

Krysta was introduced to and unexpectedly fell in love with dance after becoming a cheerleader in high school. In choosing to focus more on dance instead of cheerleading, she discovered a musical program through her high school’s choir that developed and fueled her passion. With 13-hour school days and her involvement in full-scale musicals, this program became Krysta’s life.

Dancing became more than a passion – it was the outlet and form of expression that she needed. When deciding what to study in college, Krysta chose to major in musical theater at San Jose State, and later used her knowledge and enthusiasm to open the performing arts center.

“I’ve basically been building my whole life to be able to do this for kids, to give them a similar experience to the all-consuming and awesome experience I had, and to give them confidence,” Krysta says. “I really enjoy seeing the satisfaction on my students’ faces. They’re feeling the same thing I did – and still am – and they’re just happy.”

Krysta has taught students with many different types of disabilities when working with local elementary schools. Red Bluff’s William Metteer Elementary school recently hosted a dance class with Krysta when she came to visit the two special education classes. Paula Reider, who teaches kindergarten through 2nd grade, joined in with her class of 40 students.

“Krysta broke all the steps down so my kids could learn them, and I learned them too. It was fabulous, just absolutely fabulous,” Paula says. “Even students that have a hard time following directions were following her. She was amazing.”

“They had so much fun!” Krysta says. “Not everybody was doing it to the same level, but at the same time they were all involved, and that was the most important part. Everybody felt like they were there together and being successful.”

With her passion for dance and helping people with disabilities, Krysta’s main goal is to develop the center and create a place for kids to feel safe and happy. Learning to dance not only provides an outlet for expression, but also builds skills and a sense of community, especially when students work toward a common goal. Being a part of a bigger production is being a part of a team.

“Kids learn that it’s not just about them. They have to help their fellow students learn so that everybody can succeed,” says Krysta. “That’s my overarching goal – to create functional members of society and the community through dance, and to also give them an outlet.”

The Red Bluff Performing Arts Centre is located at 1325 Vista Way in Red Bluff. To find out more or to contact Krysta, visit http://www.redbluffperformingartscentre.com, call (530) 255-4180, or email redbluffpac@live.com.  

James O'Hagan
About James O'Hagan

Originally from the U.K., James O'Hagan grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and is currently a senior at Chico State. He has a passion for writing about subjects that are not often discussed, especially the many types of diversity in our society. 

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