Written by Vilona Trachtenberg

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, as of July 1,2017, 258,612 people lived in Buffalo, NY. Between 2012 and 2016, 12.8% or approximately 33,000 people under the age of 65 live with a disability. 160 of these people are enrolled in a dance studio that caters to people with special needs. That’s where Danceability comes in.

Danceability began to enrich the lives of many special needs dancers upon its inception in 2007. Co-founders Robin Bishop and Christine Dwyer, both having human services backgrounds, decided they wanted to act on their dream of serving the special needs community in the way they were passionate about – dance and fitness.

Just like other dance studios in the area, the students at Danceability attend dance class weekly, and then perform in an annual recital in May. The difference is that students are paired one-on-one with dedicated volunteers for the duration of the dance year, and dance with them on stage at the annual recital. The dancers learn multiple genres of dance including jazz, hip hop, tap, and fitness, and are taught by instructors. Ages three and up are welcome to join, and there is even a dancer in his 70s who comes back to Danceability every year.

Lindsay Regan is a dance student who has been a dancer at Danceability since the very beginning, and it has had a profound impact on her life.

From the moment she stepped into the dance studio at the age of 18, Lindsay’s mother Terry said Lindsay absolutely loved it, and still loves it 11 years later. She immediately formed a bond with the other students in the class, and found lifelong friends. Lindsay became friends with one of the other girls in the class, Jamie, and to this day, they have sleepovers at each other’s houses every Monday after dance class.

Previously, Lindsay had danced at a dance studio with typical kids. The students were kind to Lindsay, but she didn’t have a group of people that she could relate to. She hadn’t found her tribe yet.

Danceability changed that, and exposed Lindsay to many experiences. Aside from the friends she sees on a weekly basis in the dance studio, Lindsay loves the opportunity to perform at Hunter’s Day of Hope, her experiences meeting Jim Kelly, and performing in the annual recital to songs like Madonna’s “Vogue,” and Beyonce’s “Single Ladies.” She loves the costumes she gets to wear, and everything that comes with the performance. Lindsay gets to do this with her longtime dance voluneer, also named Lindsay.

“She has just come such a long way.” said Terry. “She started out shy being on stage and was star struck being out there. Now, she goes up there and is excited.” 

Lindsay gets so excited for the annual recital that she even creates invitations for people to come join her, and support her in the activity she loves to do. Every year around Halloween time, the classes learn dances to Halloween-themed songs, and Lindsay gets especially excited every year to dance to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.”

Lindsay isn’t the only member of her family who values being at Danceability weekly. Her sisters, Darcy and Terese, have both been classroom volunteers for many years, and enjoy seeing the progression and happiness in the dancers in their classes.

Terry also realizes her own benefits from Danceability. Terry is able to see her daughter living her passions, and she has also found her own group of parents to talk to there. The parents form their own kind of support group, and console each other when they worry about similar things.

“It’s not going to be a typical life,” said Terry. “But it will be a beautiful life.” 

Word spread to the community about the immediate benefits and life changing experiences that Danceability offered to students. So much so that a waiting list had been formed, and Robin who is the executive director, knew that Danceability had to move to a larger space. To be able to provide even more dancers the opportunity to dance, Danceability has just moved its home into a 5,000-square-foot building complete with three dance studios, a sensory waiting room, a community room, and a costume room. Because of the successes over the years, now, Danceability is able to enroll over 160 dancers, have 100 volunteers, have one full-time staff member, two part time office staff, and nine part-time paid dance instructors.

Danceability is still looking for classroom volunteers to join the dancers in weekly class sessions. Danceability is also holding a capital campaign to raise much needed funds for the new dance studio.

More information can be found: http://danceabilityinc.com/

Danceability is also hosting a grand opening party at the new studio on Friday, November 16 from 6-8 p.m. at 2365 George Urban Boulevard in Depew.