Twirling their tutus to strains of "The Nutcracker Suite," three girls mimic first position, plie and arabesque.

Twirling their tutus to strains of "The Nutcracker Suite," three girls mimic first position, plie and arabesque.

In yoga pants and tank tops, the girls' mothers also join in.

This is no ordinary ballet session for beginners, nor "mommy-and-me" class. The program hosted by Ashland Parks and Recreation Department was designed to strengthen the family and draws from the instructor's expertise in counseling and mental health.

"They're working on social skills," says instructor Sarah Avery-Meyers, "feeling more safe and comfortable in their bodies."

Her class is just one form of recreation offered by Dynamic Living, which also provides individual and group counseling, parent education, alternative therapies, in-home assessments and other support services for children and families throughout the Rogue Valley. Launched about a year ago, the organization is headed by Kimberly Eikenberry, a graduate in psychology and counseling from Southern Oregon University.

"It is literally meeting the child where they are because children want to play," says Eikenberry.

Yoga, belly dance, wilderness education and "crazy relays" are other Dynamic Living activities, in addition to parenting classes, under its partnership with Ashland and Medford parks and recreation departments. Sign-ups start this week for its "cartwheel-a-thon," an Aug. 17 fundraiser in Lithia Park for parks and recreation scholarships and to restore the park's Butler-Perozzi Fountain.

"I spent my entire life around kids and families in the outdoors," says Eikenberry, who volunteered at age 12 for Easter Seals, working with children with autism-spectrum disorders.

While suited to those with mental and behavioral disorders or atypical development, Dynamic Living workshops are open to the public, accommodating all children. The girls in Avery-Meyers' class weren't there for any reason but to have fun.

"At home, she's pretty obsessed with ballet and ballerinas," says Amanda Higgins, mother of 4-year-old Cora.

"When she comes home, she's doing all these moves," says Denise Finney, mother of 4-year-old Ava. "Ballet is so different; little girls just seem to love it."

Initially requiring parents to participate with their children, Eikenberry modified the stance when some parents and caregivers said they weren't physically able to join in. Higgins, 31, says she's ready for her daughter to start having her own experiences and learn to follow someone else's lead.

"It's a sense of belonging to the group," says Avery-Meyers.

Kids disconnected from their peers, families and surroundings concerned Eikenberry in the two years she interned at Ashland High School. So did parents "unyieldingly" meeting their children at the adult level, rather than the child's. With early intervention as its goal, Dynamic Living counseling can be as basic as providing a safe place for kids and parents to learn to communicate, she says.

"What is the appropriate way for the parent ... to grow with their child?" asks Eikenberry, a 34-year-old mother of three. "There's no one path for each family."

The Dynamic Living approach, however, enables children to withstand stress and even trauma, says Eikenberry, who works with kids age 2 to 18.

"We basically are building resiliency skills ... to protect the family," she says. "You are creating children that will be so much more successful."

Certified as a parenting counselor by Portland State University, Eikenberry also is Jackson County's co-coordinator for Postpartum Support International and a crisis counselor for Jackson County Mental Health Services.

Eikenberry touts Dynamic Living's services as affordable: Parks and recreation classes cost about $8 apiece, and counseling is priced at $40 per hour, about a third of the typical cost. The group's offices are at 225 E. Main St., Suite 207, Medford.

For more information, see or call 541-499-4739.

Reach reporter Sarah Lemon at 541-776-4487 or