How to Dance in Ohio

A first kiss, a first dance. These are the rites of passage of American youth that hold the promise of magic, romance and initiation into adulthood. For kids from all walks of life, these first steps toward intimacy are at once exciting and terrifying. For some teenagers and young adults on the autism spectrum, the transition can be nothing less than paralyzing. In Columbus, Ohio, a group of young people with an array of developmental challenges prepares for an iconic event – a spring formal dance. They spend 12 weeks confronting and practicing their social skills as they prepare for the big event, to be hosted at a local disco. Working with their trusted psychologist, they deconstruct fear and larger-than-life social anxiety one step at a time by picking dates, dresses, and, ultimately, a King and Queen of the Prom. Winner of the 2015 Peabody Award for Documentary Film, HOW TO DANCE IN OHIO is a story of the universal human need to grow, connect and belong as uniquely dramatized by individuals facing the deepest struggle toward social survival.

In HOW TO DANCE IN OHIO, we get to know three girls transitioning into adulthood. The film takes us inside their group therapy sessions, their relationships with their families and their private thoughts as they struggle to understand and navigate the social rules that surround the suspenseful and heightened experience of a first date. Through their stories, and a chorus of other young women and men confronting similar issues, these girls reveal the hard work, perseverance and resilience it takes to be a part of contemporary society, along with the extraordinary challenges of being different. Entertaining, funny and heartbreaking, HOW TO DANCE IN OHIO challenges us to question and celebrate the path to human connection and to rethink the definition of normal.

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Director and Producer
Alexandra Shiva

Bari Pearlman

Executive Producer
Jason Blum

Toby Shimin

Director of Photography
Laela Kilbourn

Bryan Senti


Our award-winning documentary, HOW TO DANCE IN OHIO, was adapted into a Broadway musical and began previews on November 15th, 2023 with an official premiere on December 10th at the Belasco Theater.

The musical previously ran on the Syracuse Stage in 2022, where it was received with great praise. The Post-Standard, a local Syracuse newspaper, described it as “THE MUSICAL YOU’LL TALK ABOUT FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE ”.

Book and lyrics by Rebekah Greer Melocik, music by Jacon Yandura, choreography by Mayte Natalio, and is directed by Sammi Cannold. The cast features Desmond Desmond Edwards, Amelia Fei, Madison Kopec, Liam Pearce, Imani Russell, Conor Tague and Ashley Wool all of whom made their Broadway debut. Also on the cast are Haven Burton and Darlesia Cearcy.

The musical held its final Broadway performance on February 11, 2024.

HTDIO - The Musical Website


"A touching, gentle-hearted look at teenagers on the autistic spectrum preparing for their first formal dance, How to Dance in Ohio offers a refreshingly upbeat, even cheerful look at people and their families coping with the condition...Its engagement with its subjects will help generate understanding and empathy among mainstream viewers, and that can only be a good thing."

— Hollywood Reporter

"There's a great deal of humor in the film, particularly when Shiva turns her lens on those who try to help the autistic kids become more like them, in a sense. But it turns out that these instructors are less self-aware than the kids themselves, who live on the edge of their feelings, their various truths, with such open hearts that sometimes one must turn away from looking at the screen, which is framed by Shiva's moral seriousness and her belief, ultimately, in the world as a better place than most of us will ever know."

— The New Yorker

"More striking is How to Dance in Ohio's ability to get the girls' parents to open up. One of the real treasures of a documentary such as this is how it can soothe another kind of remoteness. A viewer can sense that these folks have waited a long time for someone to come along and ask them about their fascinating kid. They seem grateful to get that chance."

— The Washington Post


Please contact [email protected]


Please contact [email protected]