Winner 2015

How to Dance in Ohio

HBO Documentary Films in association with Gidalya Pictures and Blumhouse Productions

Autism is one of America’s fastest-growing developmental disorders, affecting one in 68 children. How to Dance in Ohio is a window on that world, an intimate portrait of what living with autism is like. Filmmaker Alexandra Shiva found a metaphor and a microcosm in Columbus, Ohio, where Amigo Family Counseling was staging a spring formal for its high-functioning autistic clients. The dance is both reward and life-skills exercise. “For many of them, there’s like a giant wall between them and everybody else,” says Dr. Emilio Amigo. “And the simple task of learning how to say hello, make eye contact, be in a back-and-forth conversation, can be incredibly difficult, if not crippling.” Shiva focuses on three young women, ages 16, 19 and 22, showing them at home with their parents and at the counseling center, where they talk about their fears in group therapy, learn dance steps and, for some, just try to get comfortable touching another person. There are lovely moments in the interactions leading up to and at the dance, but this is not like one of those feel-good features we see at the end of newscasts. The beauty of this quiet film is that it doesn’t patronize its subjects or viewers with easy sentimentality. For illuminating the lives of autistic young people – and social anxieties common to us all – through three delicate profiles, How to Dance in Ohio wins a Peabody Award.


Executive Producers: Sheila Nevins, Jason Blum. Senior Producer: Nancy Abraham. Producers: Alexandra Shiva, Bari Pearlman. Director: Alexandra Shiva. Director of Photography: Laela Kilbourn. Editor: Toby Shimin.