Mare Nostrum Elements: Isaac Iskra
In honor of Autism Acceptance Month, BAC sat down with Mare Nostrum Elements dancer and choreographer Isaac Iskra to talk about his diagnosis, his work, and the way it all comes together when he’s on the stage.
Born and raised in Austin, Iskra was an athlete, playing basketball and tennis, but it wasn’t until he started dancing that he understood movement could be a form of expression. Iskra identifies as “someone on the autism spectrum,” and he specifically connects with the Asperger’s label. He received his diagnosis at the age of 21 when he was at the University of Texas, but Iskra states that as a child he was aware he was different from “what seemed like everybody else.”
He characterizes his autistic behaviors as “slight;” they include making racing sounds when he turns a corner, tapping his chest or blowing air across his knuckles when he’s nervous, or sucking his teeth when he’s feeling aggressive “because Bengal Tigers do that.” But it’s the subtle nature of his behaviors that result in most people not recognizing he’s on the spectrum. Isaac has great fine and gross motor coordination, but he also has had years of sports and dance training. As many individuals on the autism spectrum, Isaac experiences intense sensory stimulation, often when his bare feet touch the wooden floor of a dance studio, which he notes as one of his favorite feelings.
People often note that Iskra is extremely well spoken, which he attributes to his mother and her profession as he was growing up. Isaac’s mother was an English professor who specialized in text analysis, and more specifically, poetic metaphors. He adapted her skills in order to better understand the vagaries of human communication. Individuals with Autism often face difficulties in abstract thinking, but when Iskra is faced with figurative language, he creates subtitles in his head to analyze other’s speech, which helps him formulate correct responses. His time working in the restaurant industry also boosted his communication skills.
Still, it seems dance is Isaac’s preferred method of expression, with his latest choreography portraying the stories of three different people, Iskra and his father, who both have autism, and Steve Jobs, who Iskra believes had ASD. His work explores the struggles of all three individuals, and eventually, what frees them. To receive updates on the showings of Isaac’s depiction of autism through movement, visit Mare Nostrum Elements website or follow them on Instagram @mnelements!
GallopNYC is a non-profit organization which provides therapeutic horseback riding lessons for special needs children. During the Fall and Spring months, the Brooklyn Autism Center visits their stables in Kensington, NY on a weekly basis to participate in their horseback riding lessons taught by a specially trained and certified riding instructor. Check out our photo gallery of our field trips to Gallop!
Theatre Development Fund (TDF)
TDF's Autism Theatre Initiative (ATI) affords people with autism and their families and caretakers an opportunity to experience Broadway shows in a supportive and judgment-free environment. With slight modifications to sound and lighting, reduced ticket prices, and autism specialist staffing at each autism-friendly performance, TDF has pioneered the way for this under-served population.
Shake Shack strives to be the best employers and citizens of each neighborhood they call home. The Brooklyn Autism Center is the chosen charitable partner for the Downtown Brooklyn location which means they donate 5% of sales of their year-round 'concrete shake' to our school. However, they do so much more than give money. Their staff regularly visits our school and students, learning about autism and helping us spread awareness. In addition, 4 of BAC's students are currently interning throught the work week. We love that Shake Shack encourages their employees to get involved in causes in their community via their Shack Gives Back volunteer program and thank them for choosing our school!
The Rite Aid Foundation developed KidCents as a way to do even more to help the kids in the communities they serve. By participating in KidCents, wellness+ with Plenti members can round up every purchase to the nearest dollar. As an official KidCents charity, the Brooklyn Autism Center benefifts from every purchase. Enroll now and designate us as your charity of choice!
The Brooklyn Autism Center is thrilled to be a partner of the Fairway Market Community Partners program. With every dollar spent at Fairway Market, more than 3% in cash of total purchases gets donated back to our school. Bring the power of shopping to our school by making a difference every time you shop at Fairway. Ask us for a card!